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Thanks for getting us kicked off with the May edition of AMA. I'm glad you enjoyed the video of the conversation between Rose and me. Rose is a terrific role model. I'm looking forward to reading her contributions to this thread.
I love your lead-off question about specialty certification, as your rationale for it speaks to SEI's Vision for the Future for Structural Engineers and Structural Engineering https://www.asce.org/structural-engineering/structural-engineering-institute/. The Vision seeks a future in which structural engineers are consistently recognized for their leadership, creativity, and ability to embrace advanced and multidisciplinary topics. I'm glad to see that this seems to be exactly what you desire of structural engineers on your projects.
Specialty certification may well be the means (or part of the means) by which we gain that recognition. One challenge for us is to define a compelling set of certifications in terms of the granularity of specialties and the level of expertise. If the categorization is too general and the bar too low, there may not be sufficient differentiation from our current PE and SE licensure requirements to be attractive. If there are too many specialties and the bar is too high, the program could be too expensive, too complicated, or unrealistically lofty. Exactly what type of system may gain acceptance is what ASCE is studying now in careful detail.
You may be interested to know that in the UK, the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) requirements for "Chartering" of structural engineers are roughly equivalent to SE licensure in the US. In addition, IStructE relatively recently introduced "Specialist Diplomas" in areas like Fire Engineering, Offshore Structures, and Seismic Engineering. It's something to keep an eye on.
Your follow-on question is also great. In my years of experience as a consulting structural engineer and as a current Director of Confidential Reporting on Structural Safety – US, I more frequently see problems with delegated design caused by poor communication and lack of clarity of roles than by lack of engineering competency. There are some exceptions in areas of niche work where specialty certification might be helpful.
Thanks again for your advocacy of the Structural Engineering profession.
My questions to the SEI leaders is as follows:
- What do you think of applying the distributed workforce model in engineering companies from now on? What are the currently known potential challenges, and solutions to those challenges? - What do you think of applying the distributed workforce model in the construction environment from now on? What are the currently known potential challenges, and solutions to those challenges? - From your experience, what are the top three new inclusion initiatives (such as hiring, corporate giving, work hours, diversity, skill sets, etc) for companies to launch now in order to address the remote working environment? Why are they more important as compared to other initiatives?
Wow. These are tough but very relevant questions for today. Let me start by saying that I consider myself far from expert in this area. Many have more relevant experience with distributed workforce models than I. But let me give this a shot, based on (1) my 22 years as CEO of a structural engineering company that grew to over 600 people with nine locations and (2) the recent experience we've all had with work-at-home/social distancing restrictions.
Are we ready to apply the distributed workforce model for engineering companies now? If a distributed work force model can mean some time in a common office environment and at least periodic face-to-face interactions, then perhaps yes. If it means nearly all individuals working in remote isolation with rare personal interaction, I don't think so at this time. I have been amazed, however, at how far the current pandemic has successfully pushed us in this direction.
There are many potential benefits of distributed workforce models, among them: ability to attract and retain diverse professionals from a broader geographic space, potentially distraction-free workspaces, flexible work hours, time, cost, and reduced carbon footprints from not commuting, and enhanced personal productivity through ability to embrace different work styles. But you asked about challenges. Here are a few that come to mind:
Can we apply distributed workforce models to construction companies? I imagine for office operations it's little different than for engineering companies. For field construction I think we're some ways away from robots doing it all.
Top three inclusion initiatives for remote working environments? Off the top of my head I would say that creating cultures with communication and support systems that make people feel valued, accepted, respected, and equitably secure would be most important. The reasons are self-evident. Tolerance for different work styles is critical. Clear, equitable, and transparent recognition and advancement policies are a must. All of this must be backed up by effective, company-wide training.
Thanks for challenging me today. I hope you find this informative.
Congratulations on becoming a graduate civil engineer. First let me say, be patient and don't loose your dream of becoming a structural engineer. It's the greatest profession! I entered the workforce during a recession in 1975, and although I was able to find employment at an engineering company fairly soon, it was many months before I was doing the kind of work I wanted to do. I'm so glad I stuck with the profession and the company (where I worked happily for 45 years).
My short answer to your question about preparing yourself to enter the workforce until an opportunity becomes available is (1) improve your skills and (2) start building your professional network. Details below.
Improve your skills: A career in structural engineering requires a lifelong commitment to learning. Your degree in civil engineering is a great accomplishment, but you must keep going. At your stage of development, I would particularly recommend investment in soft skills: written and oral communication, time management, leadership, creativity, team building, and collaboration. Study of the building codes and standards that are employed where you will work will help you get a head start once you do find an engineering job. And in your part of the world, knowledge of principles of resilience against natural hazards is important and developing. There are many great resources available through ASCE/SEI, such as webinars, short courses, and publications. Find out what the requirements are for professional registration in your area and work towards that goal
Building your professional network: Building and maintaining a network of professional colleagues will serve you well your entire career. While it does not seem there is an ASCE Section or Branch in Trinidad and Tobago, you can make virtual connections through SEI/ASCE resources like ASCE Collaborate. You could also make in-person connections through your university, with your classmates, and with other professionals in your area. Keep in touch with all your colleagues.
Please write to me when your job opportunity arises. It will!
Hi Caleb -
I'm sorry to hear your summer internship was cancelled - you're definitely not alone! Glenn has already provided a great list of ideas. I especially like his suggestion to consider areas of development more broadly. At this point in your academic and professional development, almost any experience is good experience, so think about what interests you the most and start there.
If you do decide to sign up for a course, or do some self-guided learning, I highly recommend picking up AutoCAD Revit and other BIM technology skills. Consider what tools and skills are most valuable to a future employer. With any luck, you'll be able to complete the internship you were planning to do this year next summer.