Posts filed under ‘Civil Engineering Shortage’

zzzzzzzzz….WAKE UP! (Your Job Descriptions)

By Matt Barcus, President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of

At any given time I can go to an A/E firm’s employment page or to a job board and see the same advertisement for the same job, but for eight different firms. Everyone in southern California is looking for a PE with 12+ years of experience in highway/roadway design. It was not too long ago that every civil engineering consultant in the Washington, D.C. area needed a land development engineer with 4-8 years of experience. The job descriptions that you see for these jobs are like a t-shirt store on the boardwalk of your favorite beach — you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. How is your potential candidate going to be motivated to join your firm when his job looks identical to the one he is staring at in your advertisement? How can you get a job seeker to apply to your job only when there are 10 more exact same job descriptions out there?

Differentiate yourself

The biggest obstacle in the A/E industry is finding talent. Remember the Wonder Twins cartoon that used to be on Saturday mornings? Get your HR group to pound fists with your Marketing group and form an exciting job description. Marketing people earn their living differentiating your firm to clients – co-opting their expertise to address staffing issues is proven strategy that can make a difference.

Here’s an example of how you can do this:

A. Project Manager-Highway Engineering- The Highway Project Manager will provide coordination of project execution and control of highway design projects, to achieve continuity of purpose within scope, budget, and time schedules from conception through final design…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. This individual will also be accountable for handling specific…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…. design aspects on highway design projects; coordinating efforts of assigned highway design team to ensure completeness and accuracy of design effort; and…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….. serving as technical liaison with client on project efforts. A bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and at least eight years of experience on DOT highway design projects is required. PE license is also required.

B. Project Manager-Highway Engineering- Our office softball team has won 3 League Championships in the past 4 years. A couple of our engineers come in at 9:30 AM because they have to make sure they get their kids off to school safely. Each year we take two consecutive PAID days off as an office to build a home for Habitat-For-Humanity. Last year, our firm was part of the Wilson County Toll Road Design Build Project, we completed the design of an award winning 4-Level Interchange and we burst into the ENR Top 500 List for the first time in our 10 year history. If you have your BSCE, your PE License and a stable work history with 8+ years highway engineering experience, we would love to talk to you.

As a job seeker, which of these jobs are you more likely to apply for?

Here is another great example that I pulled (with permission, of course) from Bohler Engineering, one of the leading civil engineering firms on the east coast. It is fun, it is entertaining and it easily gives you some insight as to who the hiring manager is; I highlighted in red the commentary that stood out to me.  They are looking for recruiting coordinator…wait…a ROCKIN’ RECRUITING COORDINATOR! (THAT IS REALLY THE TITLE POSTED ON THEIR WEBSITE!) This is exactly what I am talking about…good stuff:

Job Description:

Play a vital role within a growing company in Land and Site Development. Imagine a career where your opinion counts, where you can ask questions everyday about your work and career and get answers from experienced professionals; your future is important to us, our company and our community.

Bohler is the premier Land Development Civil/Site Consulting Firm in the eastern U.S., providing civil engineering, surveying, planning, landscape architecture and permitting services throughout several industries. Bohler employees produce high quality project documents and continuously communicate with team members, managers and outside entities.

Be part of the Recruiting and Marketing teams to help grow the organization. If you are ambitious, results-oriented, and dynamic and would like to build upon your recruiting career, Bohler may be the right place for you. If you get to the bottom of this job description and are still laughing, well then, Bohler is probably a pretty darn good place for you to work.

We aren’t looking for just anyone; we are looking for a Rockin Recruiting Coordinator in our Sterling, VA office.

What you’ll be doing: (Isn’t that what you really want to know)

*Provide support to the Recruiting and Marketing Managers in various, customer-serving aspects. I know it’s vague but we’ll explain.

*On the recruiting side you will coordinate and schedule all phases of interviews through the offer process.
You will assist in identifying qualified candidates (we can teach you) and schedule them for the Recruiting Manager to conduct an initial phone screen. The good news is that we use Ceridian (Applicant Tracking System, ATS) which makes this process seamless.

*Please help keep us productive by entering resumes on a regular basis. Also, maintain the integrity of the data in the ATS; after all it’s way more efficient if you have good data.

*Preparing general correspondence (meeting minutes), create and maintain tracking spreadsheets and provide administrative support to Recruiting and Marketing.

*Assisting in coordinating marketing events, recruiting events and assist in maintaining vendor activities. You will also register people for events; please do it on time so we don’t miss out. Also you will maintain and update all event activity.

*You will be filing and maintaining the filing system. Why? Well, that way you can find things when you need them.

Minimum Qualifications:

*2-5 years of experience in Recruiting, Marketing, Communications, Human Resources or related field.
Bachelors Degree in Psychology, Marketing, Communications or related. (If it’s unrelated and you are interested and feel you are qualified, please apply).

*Superior verbal and written communication skills are a must (really; do we need to explain, come on you’re reading what we wrote). Oh, we really need someone who is tactful.

*Must be proactive and have the ability to multi-task while maintaining a positive and enthusiastic attitude.
Must be proficient in MS Office. Proficient means you know the programs as well as if not better than we do and typing is a must.

*Do you have the ability to work under minimal supervision and resolve issues independently based on project/company standards and verification of facts prior to releasing documents? If so, please apply.

*Strong attention to detail while maintaining consistent workflow and meeting deadlines; Capable of processing impromptu requests as needed.

Bohler Engineering is an equal opportunity employer and affords equal opportunity to all applicants and employees for all positions without regard to race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability, veteran status or any other status protected under local, state or federal laws.

SOOOOOO…engineers, recruiters, marketing professionals and many other members of the civil engineering community are in high demand these days.  Your competition on the floor below, the building across the street and in the corporate park down the road have the same position available.  Candidates can afford to be quite selective these days as they are in high demand; get their attention right off the bat with a unique and attention getting job description that gets them in the door before anyone else.  Good Luck!

April 24, 2008 at 11:42 pm Leave a comment

Where Have All The Civil Engineering Firms Gone?

By Carol Metzner, Managing Partner, and President, The Metzner Group LLC,

Acquisitions in the civil engineering community exploded in 2007 with a steady group following this year. A client jokingly told me that eventually we will all work for about 5 firms…that is all that will be left!

While I think that is a slight exaggeration, the pace of these M&As does not seem to be slowing. What has happened to the traditional firms of the past? Certainly, these consolidations allow firms a great way to increase staff and presence in particular locations or technical arenas. But, if you joined a firm because of a specific company culture….what do you do now?

Are these large national and international firms of combined technical talents good for our industry?  What do you think?

April 16, 2008 at 7:42 pm 3 comments

Never Underestimate the “Gray Haired” Engineer

By Carol A. Metzner President, The Metzner Group, LLC, and Managing Partner,

It has always amazed me that consulting firms “appear” hesitant to hire engineers with 40+ years of experience when these can be the best employees to join the team. They have survived market downturns; they understand commitment to a project, they know how to navigate a difficult client and they play nicely in the sandbox with others.
Here are some thoughts to review next time an experienced candidate’s resume graces your desk:

1. Studies prove that older employees show a loyalty to employers that exceeds that of
their younger counterparts
2. Older staff are excellent mentors; they have usually seen it all (at least once!).
3. Experienced staff tend to be more patient when dealing in adversarial situations;
4. Multiple reports show that total sick days per year of older staff is lower than that of
other age groups.
5. Older employees bring a palm pilot full of contacts of other potential employees!

Don’t be quick to scan for the graduation date on a resume. You could be missing your next “Employee of the Month!”

March 10, 2008 at 6:22 pm 3 comments

Why the Shortage of Civil Engineers?????

By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner,

I was recently interviewed for an upcoming addition of Water & Wastewater Digest Magazine regarding the topic of the shortage of civil engineering professionals in the current market. Take a look at the discussion:

Q1. Recent industry surveys show that there is a lack of qualified employees to fill positions in areas of drinking water, wastewater, storm water collection, drainage and solid waste. What is your opinion about these findings? Where do you see the biggest shortage of qualified personnel and why?
These areas of specialty are not unlike any other areas of specialization which fall under the civil engineering umbrella (highways, bridges, aviation, geotechnical, etc). There are a number of reasons for this shortage. First of all, the industry needs better PR and better marketing – to children, believe it or not. The civil engineering community at large, the leading civil engineering associations like ASCE, AWWA and AWRA, and the working professionals need to find a way to team up with schools and student organizations that will allow them to expose the students to the exciting projects and opportunities that are available in the profession, and really draw light upon how critical civil engineers are to our society. This idea of course is more long term. Secondly, though there has been some adjustment recently, the pay for civil engineering professionals needs a boost. Compared to all other engineering fields, civil engineers are about at the bottom of the totem pole. Finally, in specific regards to drainage, storm water, hydrology & hydraulics and some of the other micro-specialties in the industry, these are areas that sometimes become too niche oriented. Someone may come out of school and be assigned strictly to drainage and storm water management; great experience, but they become pigeon holed as they realize they are only being exposed to the storm water or drainage tasks assigned to larger scale highway or land development projects. By having such a narrow specialization they are deemed an “expert” and do not get the exposure to managing entire projects. This being said, they choose to shift into more traditional roles or departments, like transportation or land development, where they feel they can better advance their career.

The biggest shortage that I see out there today is for talented engineers with a strong understanding of the water/wastewater industry and new technologies like Enhanced Nutrient Removal and bio-solids. There is also a very strong upward trend in the Federal Programs segment and finding experienced engineers with experience in water resources, drainage, flood control and flood plain mapping. Whether contracts target studies, planning or engineering solutions to environmental or man-made disasters, candidates will be needed to oversee this work. Additionally, security upgrades to existing infrastructure will continue. Even though there are pockets of private development “slow-down,” environmental projects, federal programs and infrastructure improvements are running at top speed.

Q2. What resources do you use to locate qualified employees for this industry segment?
The best resource any company has for finding qualified employees is their own staff. Offer aggressive recruiting incentives to your employees for referring any potential candidates that ultimately get hired. These may be professionals that your employees went to school with, who they met at a conference, or that they know and have seen in action at public meetings or local association happy hours. Let your own employees be your eyes and ears – they will not let you down.

Invest in a professional and nicely done website that highlights exciting projects, awards, and that has a current careers section. Websites do not sell a company, the people do, but it’s like purchasing a house – you won’t draw anyone in without good curb appeal.

According to Peter Weddles, owner of and an expert in compiling research and statistics on this issue, the #1 source of employment for job seekers is answering ads and posting their resume on job boards. The #2 source of employment is through a call from a headhunter or staffing firm.

Stay away from the big internet job boards like Monster & Career Builder. First of all, they are too cumbersome – there are so many ways for job seekers to become distracted they sometimes forget what they even went there for. In some cases it may even expose them to other opportunities that may encourage them to leave the industry altogether. Secondly, you are competing against hundreds of your competitors, and even more recruiting agencies, that have access to these sites, so your ROI is minimal. The trend is to use niche job boards like Where ever you choose to run an advertisement, make it a compelling advertisement. I recently wrote an article for Professional Services Management Journal about this issue, for a copy just shoot me an email.

As a search consultant specific to this industry, my first, and of course biased recommendation, is to find an experienced search consultant who knows the industry. I have been recruiting in the civil engineering industry for over 11 years, I have a database of over 10,000 professionals within the civil engineering community, and I have worked on search assignments across the country. My team of recruiters that I work with have even more experience than I do, so our reach into the industry is extensive. These are all things you should consider when you choose to work with a recruiter.

Q3. What is the key to successfully placing job seekers with the right employers?
In a day and age when the market for professionals with an expertise in water resources, storm water management, drainage and wastewater is extremely tight, it is very important not to be hasty. Too often I see firms so strapped for help that they will hire anyone that walks in the door…do NOT fall into this trap. Clearly, you are looking for someone who has the technical expertise you are looking for. Make sure you ask them pointed technical questions during the interview. Dig deep into their project experience and don’t be afraid to post upon them your own hypothetical scenarios and see how they might solve the problem. Once you have a firm understanding of their technical capabilities, you really need learn about their work philosophy on the non technical issues like work environment, customer service, management style, business ethic and how they get along with their peers. No sense hiring a technically capable employee if they are on a different level when it comes to philosophy and management style. And make sure to verify their credentials regarding licensure and education. It is also of great benefit to have some of your employees meet with the candidate as well. They are able to evaluate candidates and develop professional opinions by looking and evaluating things from a different point of view. When all of this is said and done, make sure you check professional references.

Q4. How can employers stay competitive in attracting qualified personnel (for example, competitive salaries, benefits, training, etc.)?
Know your competition. Sign up for relevant monthly newsletters from industry associations and websites as they relate specifically to your industry, there are always different reports and articles coming out on these topics and the latest trends in salaries, benefits, training, etc. Keep your ears open as well, people are always talking about how much they make or what their bonus was, etc. Ask your peers in the industry what they are doing. Contact a recruiter who specializes in your industry and ask them, or hire a consultant to evaluate your current package. In any event, try to stay ahead of the curve, as falling behind can be detrimental.

Q5. Do you think our industry will continue to see a shortage of qualified employees in the near future? Any solutions?
I do, and I have blogged about this a couple of times on ASCE’s website. There is SO much opportunity in the hi-tech industry that many students these days are much more inclined to become computer engineers rather than civil engineers. So the industry needs to break out of it’s conservative nature and really make a strong PR push through ASCE and other associations. There is no real short term answer with the exception of increasing the pay. Our infrastructure needs a MAJOR face lift and clearly the civil engineering industry is the answer. The fate of our infrastructure lies in the hands of civil engineers, and that is exciting, but it comes with an enormous amount of responsibility, so pay these men and women what they are worth. The long term solution is marketing and public relations and thinking outside of the box by reaching out to children all across the country by getting them excited about civil engineering. When I say out of the box, I mean ideas like partnering with schools and hosting an engineering fair/competition where engineers from the community help out and/or judge – not just a science fair or competition, but specific to engineering; partnering with a software company that makes video games for Playstation and Game Cube and developing exciting and fun games that deal with civil engineering; partnering with local museums or libraries and developing eye catching displays, presentations or themes that highlight all the amazing works of civil engineers throughout history; partnering with the publisher of the ASCE magazine AND schools throughout the country and develop an engineering publication that is suited for kids…kind of like SI for Kids, but rather ASCE or Civil Engineering for Kids. Needless to say there is shortage, and there will continue to be a shortage unless proactive steps are made in these and many other directions.

What is your take on the shortage of civil engineers in our industry? What are your suggestions?

February 5, 2008 at 4:27 pm 10 comments

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