CoP Conference Sheds Light on School-to-Work Transition of Engineers

On Friday, November 11th ILead’s Community of Practice on Engineering Leadership (CoP) took another major step forward, hosting the Third Conference on the Leader Engineer at U of T. More than 70 people attended, including employees of all eight participating companies in addition to students, staff and faculty from U of T Engineering. The focus of the day was the school-to-work transition of engineering graduates, and was organized around two pieces of ILead's current research on this topic. The day began with an overview of ILead by Professor Doug Reeve and a fun interactive activity led by Dr. Robin Sacks.

In the morning, Mike Klassen presented CoP research findings from workplaces on the leadership conceptions and practices among early career engineers. This highlighted the different behaviours that early career engineers exhibit as well as some of the contradictions in how they define leadership and whether or not they see opportunities to practice it. The presentation was followed by a set of case studies of young engineers who faced different leadership challenges in their workplaces. Participants worked in groups to analyze the cases and come up with solutions.

In the afternoon, ILead’s Dr. Serhiy Kovalchuk presented CoP research findings on the role of internships and co-ops in the transition process. This showed the crucial role that these experiences play in developing knowledge and skills that are useful during the transition process. Afterwards, students and employers split into groups to describe the expectations and challenges they had for each other in relation to co-op and internships. They spent time walking around reading and reflecting on each other's comments. Finally, employees returned to their company groups to develop plans and ideas for how to improve the structure of their co-op programs.

The next CoP conference will take place in April 2017, and is exclusive to members. This is a great opportunity for companies to engage their employees, to learn about research as it unfolds, to apply it to engineer recruitment, development and retention, and to connect with talented students.

Those interested in more information should contact Mike Klassen at