7th Biennial ACSPRI Social Science Methodology Conference

Gayleg Zangmo

I am a third year PhD student at Swinburne University of Technology, Australia. My research project focuses on engineering practice of early career engineers in hydropower sector in Bhutan. Before embarking my PhD study, I have worked as an executive electrical engineer for more than 14 years in hydropower sector. I am interested to conduct research in engineering practice, engineering education, sustainability, engineering management.

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Engineering Competencies and Challenges faced by Engineers in Hydropower Sector in Bhutan: A Pilot Study

Many studies carried worldwide indicate existence of a gap between engineering education and practice. However, a little attention has been given to engineering practice in non-western countries. This study explores the engineering competencies and challenges faced by engineers working in hydropower sector in Bhutan, which is the main contributor of Bhutan Gross Domestic Product. This study will try to answer the following research questions:
1) What are the engineering competencies are required by engineers in hydropower sector in Bhutan?
2) What are challenges faced by engineers in hydropower sector and how engineers overcome the challenges faced?
Considering the educational qualification background and work experience of more than 14 years in hydropower sector, of the leading researcher, the research study is positioned in constructivist research paradigm. The qualitative methodology used for the study is constructivist grounded theory (CGT). The first step of this project was to conduct a pilot study to test and improve the research protocol. The data for this pilot study was collected by conducting semi-structured interviews with three Bhutanese engineers having work experience ranging from 4 to 12 years in hydropower sector. The convenience sampling was adopted to recruit the above participants by contacting them via social media and email.
The recorded interviews were transcribed manually to remain very close to and interact with the data. The CGT method was adopted for the data analysis. The initial line-by-line coding using gerund was conducted followed by focused coding. Both line-by-line and focused coding helped to remain very open to the data and not force any preconceived ideas to the data. Then searching for patterns in the focused codes was carried out.
The results indicated the following engineering competencies are required. First, engineers require technical skills to perform the technical related work. Second, engineers need to communicate with their subordinates, contractors, supervisors, work colleagues. Both verbal and written communication skills are fundamental for their work. Third, engineers have to manage projects of varying size from small IT projects to mega hydropower project. and have to be equipped with project management competency. Fourth, engineers have to manage the personnel working under them. Thus, people management skill is required. Fifth, engineers need to carry out the tendering to procure goods and service from vendors. Thus, they need to be equipped with tender management skill. Last but not the least, engineers need to manage the contracts and thus needed to be equipped with contract management competency. One of the main challenges faced by engineers is the inability of engineers to persuade and influence others to take action.
Conducting the pilot study helped to gain feedback on the interview protocol and to gain the practice of the interviewing and data analysis. The challenges faced during the pilot study was participant recruitment problem due to their pre-occupation. The lessons learned in the pilot study helped to conduct the main study with confidence.