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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


As the final phase of a mixed-methods study that explored the impact of project-based learning (PBL) on alumni of a technology-focused university featuring a project-based curriculum, an external party conducted in-depth interviews with ten engineering employers of alumni to determine how PBL prepares students for the engineering workplace. The employers interviewed ranged from a Fortune 500 multinational conglomerate to a not-for-profit organization and a branch of the U.S. military. This paper discusses qualitative findings from these interviews, contextualized by findings from a recent alumni survey. All employers interviewed indicated that they regularly and actively seek out graduates from this university to hire as employees. While employers noted that graduates from this university possessed especially strong skills in the areas of communication and collaboration—qualities that earlier phases of the study showed were strengthened through participation in PBL—not all of the employers were aware that the graduates had participated in PBL. Employers who were aware that PBL featured prominently at the university perceived the graduates as particularly mature job candidates. They further indicated that it was an asset to hire graduates who already had significant project experience because those graduates brought skills and approaches to their work that enabled them to operate autonomously faster than they would otherwise. While none of the individuals interviewed for this study were alumni of the university, some noted that alumni desire for recruits from their alma mater had significantly and positively impacted hiring practices at their organizations. Findings of the study overall indicate that PBL is beneficial not only to the students who participate in it but to the engineering employers who hire them, as well.

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Copyright 2015, American Society for Engineering Education


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