An evaluation of the suitability of the course Communication Skills 1, for engineering students at technikons in Natal
Narsee, Sheila Devkaran
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The title of this research dissertation includes the appellation 'Natal'. Since the work began in 1989, the name of that province has officially become 'KwaZulu-Natal'. However, the previous designation has largely been used interchangeably with the present one, mainly because the course evaluated was and has been identified with Natal. This research was inspired by the assumption that the Communication Skills I course presently being offered to engineering students at technikons in South Africa did not appear to satisfy the workplace needs (in terms of content and time) of the engineering industry. This assumption arose out of a pilot study undertaken by the writer in 1989. In this pilot study, engineering companies were visited, and interviews were held with managers/directors/training managers, to ascertain the communication skills requirements of engineering technicians in the workplace. Many criticisms were made regarding the communication competency of engineering technicians in the workplace. According to the findings of the pilot study, engineering practitioners hold the view that the literacy skill demands of jobs are increasing while the basic skills of the available workforce, eg. reading, writing and speaking are decreasing. Employers expressed concern with the large numbers of workers who lack such skills in listening, speaking, reading, writing and thinking, and believe that this limits their chances of upward mobility in the workplace as well as their ability to adapt to workplace changes. All these factors, according to employers, have a negative impact on productivity levels. It was, as a result of the pilot study, suggested that engineering curricula, specifically the Communication Skills I course, should be fully evaluated to see to what extent they meet the workplace requirements of industry. What seems important is that the engineering technician should practise what has been learned and for the lecturer/instructor to bring practitioners and the workplace experiences into the classroom.