Posts tagged ‘Civil Engineering Shortage’
Prior to this current economic downturn a MAJOR topic of discussion was the lack of civil engineers in the marketplace. It did not matter if I was executing a search for a Project Engineer who was an expert in hydrology & hydraulics and flood control, a Project Manager who understood advanced water treatment, a National Program Manager with P3 or Design Build experience as it related to toll roads or a Land Development Department Head; no matter how you sliced it, the pool of civil engineers was shallow. Engineers at all levels throughout the civil engineering community struggled with same dilemma. They were working ridiculous amounts of hours, weekends included; their employers became stagnant in their plans to diversify into other civil engineering disciplines; and principal level engineers were rolling up their sleeves and cranking out construction plans themselves. When the economy eventually picks up, the civil engineering community will be treading in that shallow pool again wondering ‘where are we going to find the right engineer with the right experience?’
The other evening I was at home watching the NCAA Tournament and a commercial came across the television screen that caught my attention. It was all about traffic and transportation and the technology that is being utilized to help ease traffic congestion, which would help cut down on fuel costs as well as free up more time for people all over the country. The average commute time in most major cities across the United States, according to a Time Magazine report in 2007 is +/- 30 minutes. Many folks I know spend at least 45 minutes each way on their commute. And if there happens to be an accident on the LBJ Freeway in Dallas or the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia, well then you can just forget about getting to work on time or home for dinner. Thank goodness for the hard working civil engineering consultants and DOT engineers who are putting in countless hours and lending their skills to help make the necessary improvements to our transportation infrastructure that will help cut down our commute times and allow for us to do fun things like play with our children, spend time with our friends and families or be able to get to our softball game before the 4th inning…right? But wait…this commercial I saw was not for a consulting engineering firm or a PSA type commercial from ASCE…it was is an IBM commercial.
So, if I am a college student pursuing a degree in civil engineering and I want to specialize in transportation, you can be darn sure I am going to check out IBM. To answer the question as to ‘where are all the civil engineers?,’ maybe they are all working at IBM. Is it even possible to fathom the AECOM’s and URS’ and CH2M Hill’s of the world to advertise in this manner? Are there opportunities for ASCE to advertise like this? Or are those avenues of advertising just a pipe dream for the traditional civil engineering community at large?
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This month Pamela Mullender inked for us a very enlightening article in regards to the ACE Mentor Program and the statistics she presented were numbing, at best:
…the industry is facing a workforce situation that is at a crisis level. The Brookings Institute states that only 50% of all the buildings that will be here in the year 2030 have not been built yet. Our workforce is aging. For every 5 workers who leave the industry, only one enters. The shortage in employees will reach and exceed the 1.3 million mark by the year 2012.
What’s even more staggering is that this report likely did not take into account the current economic recession we are in, which will likely create even more pressure on the industry. What I am referring to is the increase in the number of civil engineering professionals exiting stage left and leaving the theater altogether because they got “the hook.” With many state DOT’s dealing with crippling funding issues and with the land development and home building community leaving vacant parcels of land behind only to be occupied by unmanned bulldozers, elevating/self loading scrapers and various other earth-moving equipment, the only thing that is moving at a fast and furious pace is the escalating unemployment rate and the number of civil engineering firms experiencing multiple rounds of layoffs. Frustrated by the limited options available and the increased competition for those scarce jobs, and left with a bad taste in their mouth, many folks decide to leave the industry altogether.
I am reminded of an engineer in Fort Worth with whom I spoke earlier this year (I’ve always wanted to use this line, I sound like a presidential candidate out on the campaign trail! ) who was let go from his firm due to the economic slowdown. He has now started his own company manufacturing and distributing state-of-the-art lasso’s and whips (I never figured I would use “state-of-the-art” and “lasso’s and whips” in the same sentence; but I’m just a city boy from the east coast, so what do I know?!?).
Then there is another professional civil engineer in Michigan who followed his faith and became a pastor as a result of his firm letting him go.
And finally, there is the human resource professional in Pennsylvani who spent many successful years as a corporate recruiter for the home building / civil engineering industry who survived multiple RIF’s, but was the unfortunate casualty of the most recent one. He is now considering turning his mountain biking hobby into a profitable and passionate business through the development of his own custom bike building company.
Being released from your firm can certainly be disheartening and can be quite a blow to one’s ego. But how exciting is it, in some of the instances above, as one door closes but another one opens wide in a completely different building? Sometimes that is just the kick in the pants one needs to follow their passion or dream.
So we have identified a few more folks who leave the industry altogether as a result of our battered economy…the gap widens.
Struggling to recruit high school students to pursue degrees and careers in civil engineering and baby boomers retiring at a record pace is creating quite an uphill battle. The current recession further widens the gap of experienced civil engineers as many will leave the industry altogether for other pursuits. The way I see it, it’s just another bump in the road – there has been a shortage of civil engineers as long as I’ve been recruiting in this industry, so it’s really just more of the same (“more of the same,” yet another often used phrase in the recent presidential campaign – clearly too much CNN). But we can’t give up. Get out to your local elementary, middle and high schools, get out to your local universities, be a mentor. Find a way to close that gap between yourself and the civil engineers of tomorrow.