Engineers spend years learning the fundamentals and complexities of their craft. They strive to amass knowledge to become experts in their fields and productive in their jobs. Unfortunately, not all engineers are able to apply the majority of what they have learned in their present functions. Most engineers find themselves in jobs that only require a fraction of what they actually know. Owing to this, a significant part of their knowledge becomes unutilized or forgotten, and learning opportunities start to slow down and eventually cease.
Many companies that employ engineers, like manufacturing firms Concepcion Industries or the National Steel Corporation in the Philippines, recognize that one of the foremost motivators of engineers is the prospect of continuous learning. Be it through continuing professional development (CPD) courses or industry-specific seminars and conferences, engineers welcome opportunities to acquire additional knowledge or share their expertise. In line with this, many companies are nowadays discovering the benefits of mentorship, not only to the protégés but also to the mentor engineers.
Mentorship allows experienced engineers to take apprentices under their tutelage, imparting the same knowledge and skills that allowed them to scale the heights of their careers. Through mentorship, protégé engineers can learn about best practices in engineering design, project management and equipment operation & maintenance. They can also learn about professionalism and company culture, which can come handy once they embark on their own engineering careers.
A good illustration of this is Altaaqa Global’s Customer Development Program in Cameroon, where the company mentored the local engineers and technicians. The locals were intensively taught theories on modern engineering best practices and were allowed to assume key roles at the company’s power plant sites. They were also given complete access to on-line learning platforms so they can study or review at their convenience.
As of today, the local engineers and technicians are already operating their city’s power plants and are helping deliver electricity to more than 2,500,000 residents and businesses in their country.
As stated above, mentorship is a two-way street, and the mentor engineers reap as much benefit from it as the mentees. For example, through mentoring budding engineers, more experienced engineers can activate the knowledge and skills that they don’t usually apply at work. They are able to brush up on their skills in essential subjects like Physics, Calculus and Trigonometry and refresh their memory of vital engineering formulas. At times, they also learn from their mentees’ innovative thinking, fresh approaches to old problems and knowledge of updated technologies.
Mentorship also allows both parties to expand their professional networks. Mentors and protégés can introduce each other to their respective networks of engineers or groups of engineering professionals. This can prove beneficial in gaining access to more learning opportunities in the form of industry events and educational seminars, or even to progressive career opportunities.
Mentoring also develops leadership, communication and supervisory skills on the part of the experienced engineers. As technically inclined professionals, most engineers find transitioning to management roles challenging because of the deficiency in key communication and people skills. Mentorship partially bridges this gap by exposing seasoned engineers to select functions relating to people management.
Have you ever tried taking an apprentice under your wings? Tell us your experience.
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