How to design an effective professional development plan for your engineering teams


A perennial task on the to-do list for learning & development staff is planning professional development for their teams.  

Meanwhile, engineering project managers, team leaders, engineering leads often identify skills gaps they need to fill as they look forward through their project pipelines.  

These are the kinds of challenges Engineering Education Australia’s Education Manager Jason Fletcher relishes. 

Drawing on his three decades experience in instructional design and training delivery, Jason leads the education design team at EEA that has been recognised with four LearnX Awards in 2022 (two gold and two platinum), and three platinum awards in 2023. 

“I love talking to L&D managers. I'm not there to sell you something, I'm there to find out what your challenges are and go: ‘Well, we've solved that for this company, so maybe we can help you with that as well,’” he says. 

As Fletcher points out, the ongoing engineering skills crisis means that having effective professional development plans in place is more important than ever. 

“The skills gap is such a fundamental issue. The industry's changing so quickly. You can't solve that problem just by recruiting,” he says. 

“If you’re in the rail industry, for example, you can't just recruit rail engineers because the whole world's clamouring for rail engineers, and you're competing with places like India, Canada and China. So upskilling and developing people is definitely the way to go.” 

If you’re currently working on your team’s professional development plans, Fletcher has a number of practical tips to make sure the training you offer is effective. 

Make the training worth their time 

A critical starting point is to make sure your team members can see how the training is applicable to them, in terms of helping them be better at their jobs (or a future job they’ll do). 

"HR managers, L&D team managers are organsing the training. And the staff who are doing the training might be a few tiers down the org chart. So you need to convince the people that are doing the courses that there's actually value in them completing it,” Fletcher says. 

“As I said to someone just the other day, if I'm buying a program, the value proposition for me is: ‘Was it worth my money?’” 

“But if I'm attending the program that someone else is paying for, the question is: ‘Was worth my time and effort?’ Did I learn something? Can I use that learning? Is it helping me do what I need to do and achieve that career goal or that organisational goal?” 

To do that, the training you provide needs to do more than just improve your team's knowledge and skills. It also needs to empower them to do things differently and better, in such a way that the participants can see the value of the training to them. 

“The challenge that we meet is to deliver training that people can go: ‘Actually that was a valuable use of my time and money.” 

Make the training relevant to the engineering profession 

But that raises an important question: How can you make sure your team members can see the value in the training they’re doing? 

If you’re planning the training for an engineering team, you should make sure the training is relevant to the engineering profession.  

The advantage that partnering with EEA offers you on this front, Fletcher says, is that you’ll gain access to courses and training programs are designed for engineers, by engineers.  

“If I'm an engineer learning about, for example, growth mindset, why is that important to me as an engineer, not just a general person in society? 

“Or if I'm doing project management, the case studies need to be about managing engineering projects, and not about other things. 

“So if I’m an engineer who’s participating in that training, I can go: ‘This is related to my job, my industry and profession, even though the topics might be general professional skills.” 

Go beyond technical skills 

To succeed at their jobs and progress in their careers, engineers need to learn more than just technical skills. Especially as they take on more senior leadership and project roles, they also need professional and business skills. 

That means providing them with professional and business training that’s designed with the engineering profession in mind. 

“Some of our most popular courses are on topics like Writing Winning Technical Documents, Contract Management for Engineers, and Financial Acumen for Engineers,” Fletcher says. 

“What engineers learn very quickly in the job is that it's more than just engineering work. It's also about dealing with people, dealing with numbers, problem solving and project management. 

“So we offer a range of different things to help people get those skills and build their confidence in those areas.” 

Flexible training for a distributed workforce 

Especially if your workforce is distributed across a number of locations, or has embraced hybrid working, there are a number of other questions you need to consider when you design your professional development plans. 

How do you upskill your people if your staff are geographically spread all around the country — or the world? How do you a cost effective and timely manner? 

To help you meet these challenges, Fletcher says EEA offers a very broad range of training techniques and delivery modalities. 

“We don't just sell widgets off the shelf. We sit down with you and discuss your challenges as an L&D manager and your businesses objectives. Then we pull together a custom solution to the problems you face as an L&D manager.” 

Along with offering training across a broad range of professional and technical skills, the programs EEA offers range from short online workshops through to multi-month training programs. 

“The EEA Online courses are eight-hour self-paced e-learning courses that you have access to for 90 days, so you can dip in and out of and have that flexibility of delivery,” Fletcher says. 

"Our live virtual workshops are offered on particular dates, but can also be delivered on-demand for larger groups, allowing them to fit your budget constraints and time constraints. 

“And EEA can also provide you with longer-term training programs, such as the Engineers Australia Graduate Program, Emerging Engineers Leadership Program, Micro-credentials, and the GET (Global Engineering Talent) program.” 

Find the right partners 

The final piece of advice Fletcher offers is to find strong training partners, such as a reputable industry association, that can help you deliver your training plans. 

“Look for people and organisations that will form a genuine partnership that's beneficial to you. Look for industry partners who are there to support you and to make you look like a superstar, while teaching your engineers do the best they can in their jobs.” 

Learn more about Engineering Education Australia, the courses we offer, and how we can help your business identify what skills you need through the Engineering Skills Framework.

Or contact us directly to discuss how EEA can help you deliver an effective professional development plan.