F7-PRO4-1 - Initial Study of Information Literacy Content in Engineering and Technology Job Postings

3. Research Work In Progress
Dave Zwicky1 , Margaret Phillips1, Jing Lu1
1 Purdue University

The goal of this work-in-progress study is to investigate the information literacy needs and expectations of employers who hire new engineering and technology graduates, through content analysis of job postings.  It seeks to answer two questions: (1) Which information sources do employers expect engineering and technology graduates to know and to use on the job and (2) in what ways are new engineering and technology hires expected to interact with information?

Information literacy (IL) is a set of interrelated and interdependent skills, abilities, and practices for gathering, using, managing, and communicating information. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) emphasizes these skills in Criterion 3 of their accreditation standard, and specialist librarians often collaborate with engineering and technology faculty to incorporate this vital IL content into their courses. While work has been done to align IL content with ABET requirements and to determine industry expectations facing graduating students as they enter the workforce, this is the first study examining information literacy through the lens of engineering and engineering technology job postings.

Graduating students often search through job postings to find potential employment.  Employers calibrate their postings to filter for the specific skills and experiences they would like to see in new employees, and often these skills and experiences relate to information.  As a result, these job postings, in aggregate, can give us critical insight into what IL proficiencies would be most valuable for students. This has potential impacts in terms of both policy and instructional practice, as it highlights gaps between engineering and engineering technology information literacy curricula and what graduating students are expected to know and do in the workplace.

A collection of 1502 entry-level job postings aimed at undergraduate engineering and engineering technology students was gathered from a university career center database for the time period May 2017 to May 2018. Three researchers coded a sample of the job postings to calibrate and to develop a code book consisting of the types of information mentioned (journal articles, laws and regulations, technical requirements and specifications, product literature, technical reports, patents, and technical standards and codes) and specific ways of interacting with information (gathering, learning, evaluating, using, managing, creating, and communicating). Next, each researcher utilized NVivo to analyze a subset of the postings using the code book.  The researchers will conduct additional analysis in order to make sure the data is reliably coded, but some trends are already obvious.

Preliminary results suggest that employers often place their emphasis on different sources of information than those traditionally emphasized in academic settings.  Job postings that deal with information sources list experience with standards and codes, both in general and citing specific organizations or documents, as the most common information source requirement. In contrast, journal articles and conference proceedings, often the focus of IL instruction, are barely mentioned in this data set. These findings indicate the need for a new approach to information literacy by engineering educators and librarians to better align with workplace information use.