UConn Program Aims to Improve Engineers’ Communications Skills

Architects and project manager in a video conference meeting with engineer.
An innovative program developed by two UConn researchers aims to help engineers in Connecticut improve their communications game (Getty Images).

A professional education program is being developed at UConn to hone the communication skills of engineers. It’s an interdisciplinary program being coordinated by Rory McGloin, an associate professor in the Department of Communications of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Kylene Perras, the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Professional Education in the School of Engineering.

The program will help engineers and their employers develop a greater overall sense of the value of communications, and increase their ability to tell engaging stories about the impact of their work. It is a non-credit program that will provide customizable training and development opportunities for companies looking for advancement opportunities to offer their employees.

Potential communication weaknesses within firms will be identified, and approaches to overcoming these challenges in the form of more effective communicators is the desired result. A number of approaches will be used, from seminar-style discussions to hands-on activities and workshops.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach for developing communication,” says McGloin. “It is a process, and one that should always be tailored to the needs of the client, just as great communication should always be tailored to the audience for which it is intended.”

The program will be made available to a wide range of engineering firms, especially those in Connecticut with which the School of Engineering has had previous relationships.

We are really hoping to help companies communicate with each other. Not just virtually, which would entail our current situation, but face to face as well. There are a variety of aspects we can help them with.”

“We have a responsibility to our future to help ensure that we are constantly striving to recruit the next generation of great engineers, and a critical part of this process is communication the essence of the engineering process,” says McGloin. “We also need to find ways to ensure we are attracting new and diverse perspectives into the engineering field, but in order to do this we need to ensure our current engineers are experts in telling their story to serve as exceptional role models.”

 

The program will highlight UConn’s ability to design programming that meets the needs of state businesses and promotes their talent.

“We really want to provide a unique service that helps engineers communicate the essence of their work and its value in a more compelling fashion, in a way that allows stakeholders and constituencies to truly understand and value the importance of their work,” says McGloin. “Too often, a great innovation never gets the attention or celebration it deserves because the essence of the narrative is lost in the details of the process.”

UConn has long provided services to help support partners in the engineering sector, but this program is unique because of its interdisciplinary approach to developing the skills and abilities of engineers across the state. The program aims to develop skills that will influence almost every element of the engineers’ day-to-day operations. By committing to embracing a deeper level of communication, it will help to ensure that teams are coordinating in a more effective fashion, that firms are selecting the best channel for their messages, and that innovations are being showcased with an emphasis on what audiences are most interested in learning about.

“I have always approached communication as a process of communication, similar to that of an engineering process; we can analyze each and every element and make both minor and major adjustments in an effort to ensure the process is working just right,” says McGloin.

McGloin has been developing the communication skills from a wide range of individuals for almost 15 years, including such diverse fields as nurses, business owners, entrepreneurs, athletes, and manufactures.

“The process of communication may remain the same, but the approach for developing an individual’s value of communication must always be carefully tailored,” says McGloin, who is the son of an Irish immigrant ironworker. “I watched my father climb and set steel all across Connecticut. I’ve always had a deep appreciation for the whole process of engineering from initial designs to development to execution.”

Companies that are interested in getting involved in the program or learning more about it can visit the School of Engineering Professional Education website or email soeprofed@uconn.edu.