Employers place a strong emphasis on essential skills in the workplace. Essential skills are used in nearly every occupation, and are seen as ¿building blocks¿ because people build on them to learn all other skills.
Each profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skill is generally performed by the majority of workers in an occupation. The estimated complexity levels for each task, between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced), may vary based on the requirements of the workplace.
Electrical and electronics engineers design, plan, research, evaluate and test electrical and electronic equipment and systems. They are employed by electrical utilities, communications companies, manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment, consulting firms, and by a wide range of manufacturing, processing and transportation industries and government.
- Encounter capacity problems in power, communications and information technology systems. For example, they may find that the capacities of electrical substations are exceeded because the demand for electricity is too high. They collect data to identify immediate solutions such as moving power lines to neighbouring substations to meet the demand. (2)
- Face construction delays and complications due to poor or inadequate planning. For example, electrical engineers in some contexts may find that units of street lighting systems cannot be installed as designed because their bases would be on top of underground sewer lines. They relocate the base units to avoid the sewer lines and change the positioning and aim of the lights to achieve the desired light intensity. They note the changes on construction drawings. The ability to quickly solve small construction problems is important to keep jobs on time and on budget. (2)
- Have difficulty meeting project deadlines when unforeseen circumstances arise. When technical difficulties or insufficient resources delay projects, they consult with co-workers and colleagues to reassess project goals and discuss their options. They may reduce the scopes of projects or renegotiate new deadlines with clients so that all planned activities can be completed. (2)
- Discover errors in plans created by colleagues. For example, they may find that architectural floor plans for electrical and equipment rooms are too small to accommodate the required equipment. They consult with architects to ask them to rework the space. If additional space is not available, they may adapt space available elsewhere in the buildings. (3)
- Have clients who do not accept their advice. For example, they may find that clients want to use inferior products to save money instead of the products they have recommended. They talk with the clients and point out why the recommended products are the only permissible options. Electrical and electronic engineers are guided by a code of ethics which must be followed at all times. (3)
- Find that new equipment malfunctions. They may find that new industrial process equipment worth several million dollars does not work after being installed correctly. They check manuals to confirm that the equipment is set up properly and consult with colleagues, experts, help-line operators and equipment manufacturers to find the sources of faults. They conduct tests and engineering studies. They may also develop unique solutions to get the equipment working. (4)
- Find that industrial operations and processes do not run well. For example, electrical engineers in food processing plants may discover that steam pressure readings in processing equipment are fluctuating inappropriately. The engineers work with instrument mechanics and plant operators to determine if pressure relief valve control systems are causing the problems or whether the plant steam loads are swinging. When the causes of the problems have been identified, the electrical engineers develop solutions to correct the fluctuations or reduce the effects. (4)
- Decide not to authorize work which would be unsafe or environmentally damaging. For example, electrical engineers may insist that lighting be installed in parking lots for safety reasons even though clients do not support the added expense. (2)
- Decide to temporarily stop projects when expenditures exceed organizational limits. For example, they may decide to halt projects and consult with top management to discuss causes, options and recommended actions when cost overruns exceed fifteen percent. (2)
- Make decisions about equipment adjustment, repair and replacement. For example, electrical engineers in pulp and paper plants may decide to use variable speed drives to improve the pulp production process when the existing control valves wear out. They base their decisions on cost and reliability analyses for all replacement and repair options. Selecting the wrong equipment can reduce pulp production or cause injuries to production personnel. (3)
- Decide which electrical codes, standards and guidelines apply when designing electrical systems for construction, manufacturing, processing and electrical generation projects. They consider the type, function and location of the projects to determine the guidelines that must be followed. Failing to follow required codes can result in unsafe electrical systems, work that has to be redone and the loss of the credibility for engineers and their organizations. (3)
- Decide what equipment to buy or recommend for purchase for short-term or long-term projects. They follow established procedures and selection guidelines for equipment, considering costs and past experiences with similar equipment and similar installations. Selecting inappropriate equipment can result in safety concerns, lost productivity and financial loss for the clients' and the engineers' organizations. Decisions can only be reversed at significant cost, especially for larger equipment. (3)
Job Task Planning and Organizing
- Judge the validity and accuracy of contractors' claims for payment. They check to see if the claims are justified and, when the work itemized on claims seems beyond the terms of agreements, recommend that contractors' statements of work should be adjusted. (2)
- Judge the suitability of equipment and systems. For example, they may evaluate suitability of programmable logic controllers when implementing new processes. They review the specifications for existing controllers in relation to the sequences of operations, temperatures and flows required for their particular applications. (3)
- Evaluate the adequacy of intricate architectural and mechanical engineering plans which specify the planned interfaces between their respective systems. They use their specialized knowledge of electrical and electronic systems, experience and understanding of architecture and mechanical engineering to make the assessments. Errors in analysis can negatively affect projects, relationships with clients and the reputations of consulting firms and engineers. (3)
- Evaluate the efficiency and ergonomics of manufacturing processes. For example, electrical and electronics engineers may assess the best way to design tire manufacturing processes. They assess how to get products in and out of the processes and how to arrange the work flow of robots moving tires through tight spaces. They consider tire flow, tracking requirements, safety, ergonomics of how operators interface with the machinery and the familiarity of maintenance staff with equipment. They must balance the need for operational efficiencies against safety concerns. Risks of poor judgement may include injuries, loss of production and increased costs to the companies as well as loss of credibility of the electrical and electronics engineers. (4)
- Evaluate the reasonableness of clients' requests. They consider the need for the work, the feasibility of the work in terms of time and budget and the degree to which they think the work will satisfy clients' needs. They gather data by talking to clients, reviewing records and taking measurements. Electrical and electronics engineers usually lead the process of gathering data and developing consensus. Poor evaluation results in unsatisfactory projects and rejected proposals. (4)
- Evaluate the completeness of electrical and electronic designs. For example, they approve and sign electrical and electronics schematics to indicate they will work and that they meet all required standards before they are forwarded to others for implementation. The schematics are complex illustrations of each of the proposed electrical systems. They include many features that must be checked for adherence to relevant codes such as the Canadian Electrical Code and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Recommended Practices. Low quality, unsafe or unacceptable designs present risks and incur continuing costs until they are fixed. (4)
Own Job Planning and Organizing
Electrical and electronics engineers set their own priorities and plan their daily work activities within the framework of project schedules and deadlines. They need to manage time effectively if they are to produce high quality work on time and within approved budgets. Their work is often interrupted by unpredictable factors such as last minute client changes and requests, equipment breakdowns and work delays caused by underestimation of project complexity, communication errors and many other factors that may interfere with expected results. They must be adept at revising schedules and priorities. They may log their consulting in fifteen minute segments to charge clients appropriately and to identify personal efficiency problems.
Planning and Organizing for Others
Electrical and electronics engineers are responsible for planning the human resources, job tasks, schedules and budgets for projects that vary in length from several months to several years. Some electrical and electronics engineers are also involved in strategic planning for their organizations.
Significant Use of Memory
- Remember conversion factors between the SI and the Imperial Systems to facilitate calculation.
- Remember key parts of the Electrical Code and regulatory policies to have quick access to relevant information when needed.
- Remember circuit designs to use in other projects of the same nature.
- Remember mathematical formulae for common calculations.
- Remember the names of clients, details of their projects and the names and positions of contact people to ensure continuity and to establish good relationships with clients.
- Remember historical and anecdotal information. For example, an electrical engineer may remember why certain circuits or components were used in particular locations or how seasonal variations affect ground conditions when designing power distribution routes.
- Remember the characteristics of products and systems. For example, an electronics engineer may remember the design specifications and parameters of particular circuits, lasers and fibres used in research labs.
- Use the Internet and organizational intranets to locate information. For example, they use the Internet to locate electrical product supplier websites for performance and price data. They access the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers website for regulatory changes pertaining to electric and magnetic fields. Some engineers access organizational intranets to find documents such as lists of contacts, training sessions offered, regulatory requirements and drawings from previous projects. (2)
- Refer to the regulations and codes such as the Electrical Code of Canada, fire codes, provincial and municipal electrical codes and by-laws. (2)
- Consult reference documents such as electrical engineering textbooks and equipment manuals to obtain information about infrequent tasks such as how to calculate a short circuit or how to determine operating parameters for transformers. (3)
- Ask for advice or guidance from subject matter experts when faced with unfamiliar or complex problems. (3)
- Find solutions to electrical and electronics engineering problems by finding, reading and synthesizing research reports in journals, technical reports and the Internet. They interpret the results and apply relevant findings to develop innovation solutions. (4)
Other Essential Skills:
Working with Others
Electrical and electronics engineers perform many tasks independently and coordinate and integrate their work with project teams which include co-workers, colleagues, contractors and consultants. They lead and coordinate the activities of the electrical technicians and technologists who assist them. Electrical and electronics engineers in some contexts work closely with senior management to plan how to achieve corporate goals and interact with stakeholders outside their organizations such as community members, government officials and law firms. They must maintain positive working relationships with all individuals impacting their work. (3)
Electrical and electronics engineers must maintain current knowledge of new developments in their fields. They must also maintain current professional certification. Electrical and electronics engineers generally set their own learning goals and select the appropriate learning methods and sources. A wide range of training opportunities is available and may be supported to some degree by their employers. They learn informally by reading electronic newsletters published by industry associations or vendors, by reading manuals, books and professional journals and by consulting with colleagues and subject matter experts. They attend formal learning opportunities such as vendor product presentations, conferences, workshops and university courses.
Electrical and electronics engineers are granted professional engineer status by provincial engineering associations and some provinces require mandatory participation in professional development to maintain status. Provincial associations establish the required number of professional development hours required. (4)