Posts tagged ‘ASCE’

Will Our Infrastructure Ever Make Honor Roll?

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

 

I did a little bit of investigating (well, not that much…about 1 minutes worth!)  in regards to the American Society of Civil Engineering’s (ASCE) report card that we have all come to love so much.   Since it’s inception in 1988, there have been 5 complete report cards (at least that I have found) and one trend report.  When growing up, I wonder if I brought home a report card this poorly, time and time again, if my parents would’ve awarded me with  nice stimulus package?   Ha. The only stimulus I would’ve received would have been to my backside from the likes of a wooden spoon!  

Take a look:

  1988 1998 2001 2003 Trend 2005 2009
CATEGORY            
Aviation B- C- D D+ D
Bridges C+ C- C C C
Dams N/A D D D D
Drinking Water B- D D D- D-
Energy N/A N/A D+ D D+
Hazardous Waste D D- D+ D D
Navigable Waterways N/A N/A D+ D- D-
Public Parks & Rec N/A N/A N/A N/A C- C-
Railways N/A N/A N/A N/A C- C-
Roads C+ D- D+ D D-
Schools N/A F D- D D
Solid Waste C- C- C+ C+ C+
Transit C- C- C- D+ D
Wastewater C D+ D D- D-

 

I know that if my kids came home with these grades one marking period, you would be darn sure you would see improvement the next.  And then, as a parent, I would work with the teacher and school to learn the root of problem and then make the necessary changes that would breed long-term success.  Finding short term solutions and putting a band-aid over the situation does not lead to good news down the road.   Regarding our infrastructure, according to Wayne Klotz, ASCE President, we have been using band-aids, or what he refers to as  the “patch-and-pray method” for too long:

I believe ASCE and its members to be an upstanding and successful organization with a lot to offer.   But these thoughts have to cross your mind:

  • What would happen to the civil engineering industry if all these categories were given A’s & B’s? 
  • Would funding for infrastructure projects  disappear until lower grades were given?  
  • And if that was the case, would ASCE be doing their members and the industry a dis-service, by reporting anything other than a crumbling infrastructure?  
  • Would ASCE really  mislead the government and the U.S citizens by being over-dramatic with their evaluation of the infrastructure in order to spend tax-payer money on civil engineering and infrastructure projects?

I would say, ‘probably not.’  Have you seen the news lately with the bridge collapses and the water main breaks?  And of course there are all the roads and bridges and underground utilities that were built decades ago that were not meant to handle the capacity of today.  Not to mention all the new environmental issues coming into play. There is an interesting point of view on this very topic that argues,  though ASCE is a beneficial organization for issues like education and professional development, it is stepping out of its bounds by producing such abysmal reports and lobbying the U.S. Government for funding.  To read this point of view check out this blog:

http://www.aplaceofsense.com/2009_01_01_archive.html

I realize that we have so much money invested in our troops in the Middle East, but with such bad report cards for over 10 years now and no apparent improvement, is ASCE not doing enough to get its point across?  Or  has our government just been pre-occupied with other issues? Will we likely see this same report card every four years just to keep building and re-building for the benefit of the civil engineering industry?  Or are the roads and bridges and dams and airports really that bad?  If by chance you do agree with the commentary from the blog that you can read via the link above, who do you believe then would be best suited to produce the Infrastructure Report Card? 

What is your opinion?

 

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March 11, 2009 at 5:20 pm 4 comments

$1,500,000,000,000…Does This Get Your Attention?

By Carol A. Metzner, President, The Metzner Group, LLC and Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, CivilEngineeringCentral.com

Last week the CBS Early Show aired a segment concerning the deteriorating U.S. Infrastructure.    ASCE President David Mongan and outspoken NY Engineer “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz contributed to the discussion.

You can see the short video report here:

Yes, you are hearing correctly on the video…an estimated $1,500,000,000,000 ($1.5 trillion) over the next five years will most likely be needed to avoid large-scale disaster.  That is referring to repair and maintenance…add on new and expanding infrastructure costs!  It seems as though this is a re-occurring issue that is brought up a couple times each year, yet it keeps being brushed aside by other issues.

At least we are in a market where we are needed…but where do we get that kind of money?!?!?!  And, how did we get into this situation?!?!?!

May 21, 2008 at 1:31 pm Leave a comment

ASCE Scandal?

Last week it was reported that the American Society of Civil Engineers is being accused of a cover up. The claim states that the ASCE is covering up errors and brushing aside stricter building standards in order to protect engineers and governmental agencies from lawsuits.  These accusations stem from the recent disasters like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina and come from engineering experts on a team that was funded by the National Science Foundation.  At the time of the article, ASCE had no comment.

After 9/11, ASCE reported that they were happy with how long the structures that made up the World Trade Center held up, as they are not typically designed to withstand the impact of airplanes.  Forensic expert Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl believes otherwise, claiming the ASCE investigation into this disaster was misleading and noted it as “moral corruption.”

Regarding Hurricane Katrina, Raymond Seed, a levee expert at Cal-Berkeley accuses that ASCE and the Corps of Engineers worked together to “promulgate” (now that’s a fancy word) misguided reports and doctor information to divert any independent investigations from occurring.

With the influence that ASCE has in the civil engineering community, its strong commitment to excellence and its great history and heritage, I find it strikingly hard to believe that they would intentionally be involved in a cover up.  Though I guess these days anything is possible.  I believe it is good to have checks and balances and to have groups like the NSF conducting research and investigations into this matter…but are we really seeing corruption now from national associations?

April 3, 2008 at 5:37 pm 3 comments

Why the Shortage of Civil Engineers?????

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

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 weddles.com 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 www.civilengineeringcentral.com. 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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