Modern requirements of employers in the field of architectural and civil engineering higher education

Armen Shatvoryan, PhD in Architecture, Associate Professor

Irina Vanyan, PhD in Economics, Associate Professor

In the conditions of accelerating the rhythm of life against the background of increasing the level of accessibility of professional information, as well as the penetration of artificial intelligence into all spheres of life, higher education acquires a particular importance and becomes an integral part of modern society.

Modern society cannot exist without higher education. Theoretical and applied knowledge obtained through higher education is becoming more and more valuable for a person every day. Higher education helps a person to take a worthy place in society. However, it should be emphasized that all of the above is true if we are talking about quality, and not about “any” higher education. The issue of providing society with high-quality higher education has occupied the minds of many theorists and practitioners in the field of higher education over the past decade. This article does not pretend to be a comprehensive review of the works of authors professionally dealing with this issue. The purpose of this article is to highlight the results of a study conducted within the framework of the European Union funded Erasmus+ project on “Transforming Architectural and Civil Engineering Education towards a Sustainable Model” (hereinafter TACEESM), which made it possible to identify the requirements put forward by modern employers operating in the field of architecture and civil engineering in Armenia. The data obtained will allow in the near future to modernize the current curricula in the field of architecture and civil engineering by introducing disciplines that will provide knowledge and skills in alignment with the requirements of employers. This, in turn, in our opinion, will become a reliable basis for improving the quality of higher education in the field of architecture and civil engineering. The methodology of survey includes the steps below:

Step 1. Questionnaire development.
Step 2. Employers sample development.
Step 3. Analysis of data collected.
Step 4. Development of Competences Portfolio

An appropriate Questionnaire was drafted for employers’ survey by the TACEESM team of National University of Architecture and Construction of Armenia (hereinafter NUACA). The Questionnaire was discussed among the NUACA staff specialized in architectural and civil engineering fields. The minor changes have been done after adaptation, and final version of Questionnaire has been approved by the TACEESM project team of NUACA.

The online Questionnaire has been spread by the NUACA team of TACEESM project within the network of employers in the field of architecture and civil engineering. The employers of companies/organizations were informed preliminary about the survey, and the agreement on the engagement in the survey was confirmed by the employers. The data collected through the online survey was analyzed by the NUACA team of the TACEESM project and a report was elaborated. The sample of respondents includes 32 employers, some of which represents the architectural companies and some - civil engineering companies. All of participated companies/organizations are allocated in Armenia.

The majority of respondents (66.7%) believe that architecture/civil engineering education programs provide students with proper preparation for their professional life. 10% of respondents do not agree with this idea, and 13.3% found it difficult to express any opinion. The employers who took part in the survey mentioned that architectural-engineering education is able to fully transfer to the students the knowledge of the history of the fields, theories, technologies, as well as the humanity science (number of notes is 15). It was noted (note number is 12) that architectural / engineering education develops students' creative thinking. Among the excellent traits developed by students in Architecture / Civic Engineering education, employers mentioned digital technologies skills (number of notes is 17), critical thinking (number of notes is 13) and use of criticism (number of notes is 12), work with clients (number of notes is 11) and mediation skills (number of notes is 11). Among the employee’s special skills an ability as a priority the respondents mentioned most frequently responsibility (number of notes is 5), education (note number is 3), honesty (note number is 3), professional skills (note number is 2), commitment to the profession (note number is 2), creative thinking (number of notes is 2), coping with difficulties (number of notes is 2). In the future, among the most popular profiles / professions, employers mentioned all the professions related to IT (number of notes is 5), engineering professions (number of notes is 5).

Employers mentioned most often "Business Mindset and Planning" (note number is 7) and "Entrepreneurship" (note number is 5) among the necessary courses for professionals in line with the requirements of the business sector. 76.7% of employers think that students should gain some work experience during their studies in the field of architecture / engineering internship, 13.3% and 10% think that students should be respectively an unpaid and paid employee outside the curriculum. 30% of employers stated that they cooperate with more than 4 universities, 6.3% with 3 to 4 universities, 50% with 1 to 2 universities. 13.3% of employers stated that they do not cooperate with any university. 90% of employers indicated that their organization is interested in cooperating with universities, 6.3% indicated that they would cooperate, but not now and 3.1% - indicated that they are already cooperating. 76.5% of the representatives of the already cooperating companies mentioned that the cooperation was initiated by the university. 93.3% of employers said they had internship experience, and 82.3% said their organization was interested in offering internships to students. Most employers (number of notes is 11) expect students to become the best professionals of the future (competitive, flexible, market leader). 86.7% of employers stated that they would be interested in hiring university students. All employers mentioned that it would be very helpful to have a database of students looking for job / internship. From the data included in such a database, the employers most often mentioned the following data: Curriculum vitae (CV) (number of notes is 9), data on students' knowledge, skills, experience (learning progress) (number of notes is 8), study grades (number of notes is 4). 90% of employers stated that their organizations would like to collaborate with universities in developing joint projects with a master's thesis. As the most interesting the following topics were mentioned by employers: new technologies in architecture / civil engineering (number of notes is 12), design on unstable soils (number of notes is 10), social innovations and communities (number of notes is 10), bridge design (number of notes is 9), urban renovation (number of notes is 9), architectural design (number of notes is 8), use of new materials (number of notes is 8), energy and environment (number of notes is 8), public spaces (number of notes is 7), and topics related to mobility (number of notes is 7), landscape (number of notes is 5), etc. Employers indicated that they would be interested in other types of collaboration, in particular student entrepreneurship (for example, startups) (number of notes is 16), counseling (students by business professionals) (number of notes is 15), joint implementation of the curriculum (number of notes is 14) , continuing education for business people (number of notes is 14). According to employers, the most important preconditions for cooperation are the ability of staff to work outside the institutional boundaries (number of notes is 23), the existence of mutual obligation (number of notes is 19), willingness to provide resources from both parties (number of notes is 18). Lack of funding was mentioned by employers as the most significant obstacle to cooperation (number of notes is 20). According to employers, the availability of more qualified graduates (number of notes is 18) for business / industry may motivate companies / organizations to cooperate with universities.

The conclusions based on the opinions of employers served as a basis for proposing a Competences Portfolio that includes general and professional competencies for students studying in the fields of architecture / civil engineering at the NUACA. Particularly the following competences are proposed:
General competences:


Professional competences:

PARTNERS

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The European Commission's support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.