Hungry for information

Engineers and building professionals are curious and hungry for information—no matter what level of experience


After a recent visit with one of the nation’s largest engineering firms, I left with a lot of good information to ensure the right information is released to this audience at the right time. We talked about print and digital magazines, enewsletters, education and webcasts, and other means of delivering content.

Most of the folks I spoke with are newly minted engineers, or have not yet earned their professional engineer license. They’re working on projects that vary widely, and admitted they learn a lot from asking the person in the next office or workspace for advice and tips. This informal mentoring is key; younger professionals need someone with experience—even if it’s just a few years more than they have—to share the trials and tribulations of engineering building systems.

They also admitted they obtain technical information on-demand. Working on a hospital project? They search for examples similar to what they’re designing. Tasked with designing a complex air system in a school? Find some practical articles, videos, or other collateral to help them better understand a system. Need details about how a product works? Call the manufacturer’s representative to ask questions or watch a demonstration.

Our conversation solidified my hunch: Engineers are always curious, and will use a lot of different methods to gain the knowledge they need.

A concern that kept bubbling to the top of our conversation was staffing. While this particular office had just experienced a reorganization in which some people had been laid off, they were also short on talent in specific areas. Anyone at a staffing agency or in human resources should perk up at this: There’s a shortage of qualified engineers and building professionals at many levels.

Their concerns are echoed by the 2017 MEP Giants, the top 100 mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP), and fire protection engineering firms. Unlike past years when the economy’s impact on the market was the No. 1 challenge, nearly a quarter of the MEP Giants companies reported, “staffing: quality of young engineers” as their biggest challenge.

So, what can you or your firm do? Offering education and practical knowledge are key. Whether it’s emailing an article or signing up for an online course, these hungry young professionals will appreciate it. Mentoring—formally or informally—also helps ensure newer staff are guided in a manner suiting the company’s goals. And manufacturers and vendors must continually give younger team members hands-on opportunities to learn about technologies.

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