Social Skills: A Key Factor for Engineering Students to Develop Interpersonal Skills

Lopes, D. C., Gerolamo, M. C., Del Prette, Z. A. P., Musetti, M. A., & Del Prette, A. (2015). Social skills: A key factor of engineering students to develop interpersonal skills. International Journal of Engineering Education, 31(1), 405-413.

The development of interpersonal skills during a student’s undergraduate course is critical because the more developed the social skills the more chances to satisfactorily deal with the demands of different environments and interlocutors. That being the case the university should include interpersonal development as part of its academic goals. Some universities try to achieve those objectives through ‘‘junior’’ enterprises, continuing education programs, university-industry outreach programs and so on. Therefore, this paper describes a successful experience conducted in the university for developing engineering students’ interpersonal skills. Two different strategies were adopted to promote the Engineering students’ development of interpersonal skills: the PRODIP (Interpersonal Professional Development Program) and academic disciplines focusing on social skills and leadership. The PRODIP program had the participation of 41 engineering students in one of its four consecutive annual editions. The students’ social skills were assessed before, during, and after the end of the program, and also three months after (follow-up). The program, which lasted four months, was composed of 15 weekly sessions that included intervention and theoretical aspects related to the practical training of successful social interactions. The participants in PRODIP improved their social skills after the program was implemented and this improvement continued over time (follow-up). The social skills course was applied in two ways, the first one, a brief format, was offered to 29 students, with three four-hour meetings each and addressed topics such as communication, assertiveness and working skills. The second one in a larger format, was offered to 40 students, it consisted of 15 lessons of two hours each. The participants reported the importance of social skills as a prerequisite for teamwork and internship programs, which constitutes the transition from student to the professional workplace. The need to plan strategies in order to promote the students’ interpersonal development is discussed. Key-words: engineering education; interpersonal development; leadership; social skills