Aalto-yliopiston Vesi- ja ympäristötekniikan maisteriohjelman sidosryhmäselvitys 2019-2020 : yhteenvetoraportti: Alan tulevaisuus, osaamistarpeet ja vastavalmistuneiden rooli

Julia Renko, Anni Kaikko, Meeri Karvinen, Marko Keskinen

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

Abstract

This stakeholder survey was carried out to gain a comprehensive picture on the competence and development needs of water and environmental engineering field in Finland. The survey was targeted to the stakeholders of the Master’s Programme in Water and Environmental Engineering (WAT) of Aalto University. Therefore, this report discusses specifically the development of WAT programme and its education, focusing on the competence needs of its graduates.

The data was collected through interviews and questionnaires from employers, financiers and experts of the field. Complementary data was gathered from the workshops of WAT stakeholder event, “Water Expo”, in February 2020. The focus was in four specific themes: the future of the field, graduates in working life, stake-holder collaboration and the role of sustainable development in the field.

According to the results, the future of the field looks bright. Most of the respondents thought that the field’s societal importance will increase in the future, which results in an increasingly good employment situation. The role of water and environmental engineers is significant in solving sustainability challenges, both locally and globally. Therefore, many respondents considered that the export potential of Finnish water knowhow should be developed.

Climate change, environmental changes, digitalisation and urbanisation were recognized as the major driving forces affecting the field creating both, challenges and possibilities. These phenomena have already forced changes, including automatisation, more efficient flood protection, increased use of nature-based solutions in hydraulic engineering and increasing consideration of circular economy in the field. In water supply and sewerage, end-of-life infrastructure and lack of competent experts are a national challenge, specifically in smaller municipalities.

The results concerning future competences strongly support the current emphasis of WAT Programme: the field seems to require holistic comprehension and understanding of complex cause-consequence relationships, without forgetting strong technical capabilities and substance knowledge. Also skills relating to sustainability were highlighted in the responses, specifically multidisciplinary and -cultural understanding, communication skills and holistic thinking. The competence needs in the future seem to comprise of a combination of multiple skills, increasing the importance of students’ supervision and the building of their professional identity during their master’s studies.

In the interviews, practical implementation of sustainability -related knowledge was highlighted as one of the most important skills in the field. According to the survey, graduates have already succeeded in bringing sustainable values to working life and making practical suggestions in organisations on how to implement sustainable solutions. Although the current level of sustainability knowhow in organisations was evaluated quite high, almost all respondents reported they would need even stronger knowhow in this area. The respondents representing water supply and sewerage considered sustainability as a general quality management issue and emphasized technical and economical competences, whereas representatives of water resources management and environmental engineering considered the ability for holistic thinking as central.

The respondents considered the field scattered and thought projects are often overlapping and lacking coordination. Joint vision was called for, as well as structures enabling more efficient collaboration between teaching, research and practical projects. In university-working life collaboration, key challenges brought up were the dependency of co-operation on individual actors and the lack of several resources, such as time and finances. Master’s and doctoral thesis and student projects were identified as successful forms of collaboration, but respondents wished for even more collaborative efforts.

The key conclusions of this stakeholder survey are: 1) the need for closer collaboration and a vision for the field; 2) tighter relationships between education and working life; 3) sustainable development is important for the field and graduates have a significant role in implementing it and 4) WAT Master’s Programme has a right direction with providing a T-shaped learning profile: a strong technical and substance knowledge together with holistic understanding of the contexts. In order to create solutions to the complex climate and environmental challenges, it is of utmost importance to educate technically capable water and environmental engineers who are able to work in a multidisciplinary environment and apply the principles of sustainable development in practice.
Original languageFinnish
PublisherAALTO-YLIOPISTO
Number of pages126
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-60-3785-1
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study

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