The future of professional engineers: recruitment

Young engineers are an important resource for firms—recruiting, training, and retaining fresh talent is important for a company’s future success. Here, engineers with experience in attracting and developing new talent share advice to help their professional development while increasing their value to the company. Many engineers have varying methods regarding how they recruit new talent.


Meghan Calabro, PE, Assistant Department Manager, Telecom & Network Engineering, Burns & McDonnell, Kansas City, Mo. Courtesy: Burns & McDonnell Michael J. Ferreira, PE, Vice President Development, Jensen Hughes, Baltimore. Courtesy: Jensen HughesDavid Harris, Senior Recruiter, Stanley Consultants, Phoenix. Courtesy: Stanley ConsultantsWilliam E. Koffel, PE, FSFPE, President, Koffel Associates Inc., Columbia, Md. Courtesy: Koffel Associates Inc.Douglas Lacy, PE, LEED AP, Vice President, WSP + ccrd | A WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff Co., Dallas. Courtesy: WSP + ccrd | A WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff Co.Paul Meyer, PE, LEED AP BD+C, CEM, CBCP, Senior Vice President, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, New York City. Courtesy: WSP | Parsons BrinckerhoffChristopher O’Connor, Engineering Operations Manager, EYP Architecture & Engineering, Albany, N.Y. Courtesy: EYP Architecture & EngineeringRon Parsley, PE, LEED AP, NCEES, Electrical Engineer, Affiliated Engineers Inc., Madison, Wis. Courtesy: Affiliated Engineers Inc.


Meghan Calabro, PE, Assistant Department Manager, Telecom & Network Engineering, Burns & McDonnell, Kansas City, Mo.

Michael J. Ferreira, PE, Vice President Development, Jensen Hughes, Baltimore

David Harris, Senior Recruiter, Stanley Consultants, Phoenix

William E. Koffel, PE, FSFPE, President, Koffel Associates Inc., Columbia, Md.

Douglas Lacy, PE, LEED AP, Vice President, WSP + ccrd | A WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff Co., Dallas

Paul Meyer, PE, LEED AP BD+C, CEM, CBCP, Senior Vice President, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, New York City

Christopher O'Connor, Engineering Operations Manager, EYP Architecture & Engineering, Albany, N.Y.

Ron Parsley, PE, LEED AP, NCEES, Electrical Engineer, Affiliated Engineers Inc., Madison, Wis.


CSE: How does your firm recruit young professionals, those still in or just graduated from college? Do you have co-op programs set up with specific engineering schools?

Meghan Calabro: Burns & McDonnell's internship program gives college students a first-hand look at the work and the culture at our company and allows us to determine whether the student is a good fit for full-time employment. Interns work on real projects all summer, gain technical experience, and participate in intramurals, service projects, technical tours, social events, and team activities. Some interns get the chance to go onsite to see their work. Interns learn about all of the industries that we serve at Burns & McDonnell, and they have great exposure to company leadership.

Engineers at Koffel Associates Inc. sit down to a company dinner. Courtesy: Koffel Associates Inc.Michael J. Ferreira: Our firm actively recruits from area universities close to each of our satellite offices and does targeted recruiting at universities that have specialty programs appropriate to our business offerings (e.g., fire protection engineering). Most of our offices employ summer and year-long co-ops who are given engineering assignments that complement their individual skill levels and give them practical engineering experience.

David Harris: We recruit young professionals at college engineering career fairs, through our active internship program, by attending college engineering department events, through targeted advertising, and via our employee referral program.

William E. Koffel: We do not have a formal co-op program, but we do have a regular program in which we hire two to four interns who generally start upon completion of the spring semester. The interns work during the summer months and do some work during the academic year or during other breaks (holidays, spring break, etc.). More than 40% of our current engineers started with us as interns while they were still attending college.

Doug Lacy: WSP + ccrd tries to engage students while they are still in college. We find that summer or part-time internships or co-ops are the best ways to find the most qualified individuals and make sure they fit within our organization while allowing them to see if our company fits their career goals. We have had success across the country at various universities. Each of our regional office recruits from programs close to that office and shares candidates that may wish to relocate where we have offices around the globe.

Paul Meyer: WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff has several programs to recruit young professionals. We have an aggressive internship program for both summer-only and all-year duration. We also have a network of local colleges that are very helpful in putting us in contact with candidates, and we have formal co-op programs. Each year we develop a yearlong campus recruitment calendar that covers our target universities across the country. We will even visit some key schools more than once. WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff has relationships with some schools where they will send large groups of their students to our offices. And lastly, many WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff senior staff teach at colleges and universities where they can interact with students and offer internships during school or full-time employment after graduation.

Ron Parsley: We rely on career fairs, on-campus interviews, targeted presentations, and information sessions to help identify potential interns and new hires. We use these opportunities to reinforce our campus image and market our opportunities. We don't have co-op programs set up with specific engineering schools; however, we do offer internships and work with engineering schools to fill these opportunities. Interns work with senior engineers on characteristically unique, complex projects. They have an opportunity to experience a team environment that emphasizes collaboration and planning, beginning at the earliest stages of the design process.

CSE: Do you find any value in attending engineering job fairs geared toward current engineering students or recent graduates? What are some of the benefits and challenges of recruitment efforts?

Meyer: WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff does attend job fairs on college campuses, but not general public events. We prefer to attend job fairs at our targeted schools. The main benefit of this is to see face-to-face scores of candidates, if even for only 5 minutes. It is an excellent screening process. The challenge is when you "waste" time talking to a student who has not done their research on your firm and is clueless to the talent you are seeking.

Calabro: Burns & McDonnell attends college career fairs at dozens of universities each year. I love attending these, as it helps me understand the curriculum that's being pushed in academia at a given time. I also like talking with dozens of students in a single day, because it gives me insight to what potential new hires are looking for in an employer.

During an outing to Myrtle Beach, young engineers with Koffel Associates Inc. show team spirit. Courtesy: Koffel Associates Inc.Ferreira: We attend job fairs at several universities. One of the primary benefits is that it increases awareness for students in core engineering disciplines, such as mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering, of fire protection engineering, risk engineering, and other more specialized disciplines as a potential direction for their careers.

Parsley: We attend engineering career fairs in both the spring and the fall. Done properly, career fairs provide an ideal format for personal interaction and opening a dialogue that can last over the student's college experience and beyond. It isn't about brochures and giveaways, but putting a face on the name and building a long-term relationship.

Harris: Engineering career fairs are an important and successful component of our recruitment strategy. Career fairs give us a chance to interact with students and recent graduates, introducing many applicants to Stanley Consultants at one event. Though the time available with each individual is limited, career fairs help us target which candidates we would like to speak with again. One downside of career fairs is that some of our targeted schools tend to schedule the fairs on the same date, making it difficult for us to attend all that we would like to.

Koffel: There is a "career day" at the University of Maryland at which we make initial contact with many current students and recent graduates who are seeking intern or full-time engineer positions.

Lacy: We have found that large job fairs held in college field houses or student unions tend to be a poor way of finding qualified candidates. The speed and impersonal nature of these events attract only certain types of students, mainly those comfortable approaching strangers in large group settings. For this reason, job fair events don't give a good cross-section of all of the qualified engineering candidates. Therefore, these fairs do not lend themselves to all of our recruitment needs.

CSE: What other means has your firm employed to seek out young talent?

Lacy: While referrals by existing young employees are good first steps to make introductions, we have found that we must focus our efforts on meeting students in a more personal setting than the job fair. Conducting smaller on-campus presentations and interviews tend to be more successful.

Meyer: WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff uses its own website, social media, and recruitment firms. We also have an internal employee-referral bonus program.

Parsley: We sit on advisory boards at specific engineering schools, teach classes within engineering programs, speak at student organization events, and partner with student organizations to lead site visits and tours.

Koffel: Referrals from current engineers and allied professionals are also helpful. We have one young engineer who is personally responsible for at least three other recent hires as well as providing us resumes for some that we have not yet been able to hire. Other allied professionals, such as engineers in a different discipline, have referred students and recent graduates for us to consider.

Ferreira: Our firm recently sponsored a competition at the University of Maryland where individuals were encouraged to devise and present solutions to problems within the field of fire protection engineering. The competition stressed innovation and creative approaches to problems and was very well received by the students who participated.

Harris: We use many of the traditional methods such as job boards, websites, social media, employee referrals, active alumni, roundtables, etc.

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