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Type: Thesis
Title: Reconciling image with innovative need: how employers determine the ’fit’ of engineering higher degree by research graduates for industry.
Author: Adams, Karen
Issue Date: 2011
School/Discipline: School of Mechanical Engineering
Abstract: A substantial proportion of engineering higher degree by research (HDR) graduates indicate an interest in a career in business and industry. However, little of substance is known about the ways these graduates and the engineering work they perform are perceived and valued by their industry employers. The purpose of this study was to research the beliefs and perceptions of employers of engineering HDR graduates, in order to gain a more complete understanding of how they perceive the abilities developed through higher degree by research study to contribute to the Australian industrial workplace. Constructionist grounded theory methodology was used to explore the perceptions of 22 employers of research masters and PhD engineers in the fields of mechanical and chemical engineering in two major urban settings, both strong manufacturing and science and technology centres in Australia. The participants were located in a range of workplace contexts: consulting engineering firms, manufacturing firms, public utilities and government funded research organisations. The study revealed that the employers viewed their engineering HDR employees with positive regard, but maintained a number of ‘theoretical’ concerns about engineering HDR graduates in general. Their concerns mainly emanated from (a) beliefs about the nature of engineering problem solving and how it contributes to the innovative needs of their workplaces, and (b) beliefs about, or the image of, personal characteristics of engineering HDR graduates. With respect to these latter beliefs, it is argued in this thesis that the employers maintained idiosyncratic, implicit personal theories of engineering HDR graduates. When considering accommodating engineering HDR graduates in the workplace, the employers resolved their concerns by engaging in a process of reconciliation between these two sets of beliefs. The reconciliation process occurred in three stages: establishing innovative context, invoking personal theories and determining workplace fit. The employers were found to accommodate engineering HDR graduates to different extents, depending on the following factors: the value the employers placed on creativity to achieve workplace outcomes; the employers’ tolerance of the perceived personal attributes they associated with engineering HDR graduates; and the perceived costs they perceived to the workplace of engineering HDR graduates who display personal creativity attributes. A decision pathway, or algorithm, is hypothesised in this thesis that illustrates the way these factors are taken into account by the employers. In keeping with grounded theory research practice, each of the stages detailed in the thesis is then shown to elaborate, extend or challenge notions found in extant literature on creative achievement, implicit theories of creative people, and recruitment biases. The findings are also argued to contribute to the literature on HDR graduates’ employability and, in particular, to what is already known from studies of industry collaborative PhD programs.
Advisor: Zander, Anthony Charles
Mullins, Gerald Patrick
Ripper, Margie
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Mechanical Engineering, 2011
Keywords: engineering doctorates; industry fit; innovation; creativity
Provenance: Copyright material removed from digital thesis. See print copy in University of Adelaide Library for full text.
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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