A free way to help young engineers

It won’t cost you a cent to encourage young engineers to become involved in the engineering community.

By Amara Rozgus, editor in chief, Consulting-Specifying Engineer July 29, 2015

A few weeks ago, I was researching the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. My research stemmed, in part, from President Obama’s June 30 announcement that the White House would raise the threshold income level at which workers are exempt from overtime pay of time-and-a-half wages. The proposal: Salaried workers earning less than $50,440/year would earn overtime pay if they worked more than 40 hours/week.

My research also was a follow-up to a conversation I had with three editorial advisory board members about finding and hiring new staff, determining the dividing line between older and younger staff, the lack of qualified personnel to fit certain positions, and ensuring younger engineers are mentored as they move up through the organization.

The age dividing line—defined as 40 years old by the Labor Dept.—is an interesting place to be right now. Most principals, small-firm owners, high-level executives, or other key players fall at or above this 40-year-old mark. While some bright movers and shakers are younger than 40 and are extraordinary employees, they have less than 20 years of experience. They often are not seen as the “leader” or “project manager” at the table when meeting with external teams, such as leaders from architecture or construction firms.

The majority of people reading this right now are in their mid- to late 50s, and more than half have more than 20 years of experience. The questions posed during my conversation with the board members were difficult to answer: Where are the younger engineers? Are enough graduating with the desire to enter the building engineering industry? Are we hiring them for the right positions at consulting firms? Is Consulting-Specifying Engineer giving them the information they need through various media options? Is the current generation of engineers grooming them to be the next industry leaders?

Many of us have pondered the answers to these questions. We need to do something about it—and fast because we’re not getting any younger. Maybe raising wages is one answer (though engineers’ starting salaries are relatively high). Perhaps redirecting a recent graduate toward fire protection engineering is ample encouragement. And staff mentoring, whether formal or informal, can pay back in spades.

We offer you a free resource to help lift up a young engineer: Offer them a subscription to Consulting-Specifying Engineer, in print or digitally, or sign them up for an e-newsletter or educational webcast. Rip a page out of the printed magazine or send an e-mail to a protégé and offer them some practical education. Encourage them to become involved in the engineering community. This subscription option is free, overtime wages not required: www.csemag.com/subscribe