Preparing Thai Mechanical Engineers for The Job Market: The Students’ and Employers’ Needs
English education at tertiary level in Thailand has attracted substantial attention due to the ongoing trend of globalization and the emerging trend of regionalization, which can be quite daunting if Thai graduates are not well prepared for the job market. Because of Thai learners’ unsatisfactory performance in English, they may not be able to compete regionally and internationally. The goal of this study is to prepare Thai mechanical engineering (ME) students to be successful English communicators in the workplace, addressing two objectives: 1) identifying the needs of English language skills and other relevant issues perceived by both 4th year ME students and Thai employers, respectively; and 2) highlighting the mismatch between the ME students’ and the ME employers’ needs. To address these two objectives, both groups of participants completed two parallel sets of questionnaires devised to elicit personal information, and assess their needs of English knowledge and related skills that possibly contribute to successful communication in the workplace. The analysis of the data revealed that both participant groups were aware of the utmost importance of English listening and speaking skills in workplace communication. However, certain differences prevailed. For example, while the ME students did not consider cultural knowledge and English pronunciation to have a tremendous impact on English communication, the employers considered them as important as listening and speaking skills. The analysis elucidates that, as articulated by the employers, effective use of English in the workplace requires more than a mastery of English language skills. In short, the curriculum for ME students in higher education needs to incorporate additional features essential for communication, to enable them to compete in regional and international job markets.
Index terms- Mechanical engineering, Employers, University students, English education, Thailand.