As we celebrate Engineers Week, I want to take time to recognize the important role that engineers play in solving the infrastructure needs of our nation and world. As a CEO of a national Architectural and Engineering firm, I have seen first-hand the impact we’ve had in shaping the infrastructure of our nation in my 36 year engineering and in the 120 year history of our firm. As engineers, architects, designers and planners, our mission is to not only meet the infrastructure needs of the present, but also plan for, design, and ultimately shape the infrastructure of tomorrow. This is a vital part of keeping our nation and our world safe and productive.
A large part of keeping the engineering industry alive and well is maintaining a steady pipeline of new engineers who want to dedicate their career to this mission, and that all starts at the grade school and high school level. Kids have a lot of career choices to make and these choices only expand as they get older. It is up to us to expose them to the engineer career path and let them see the opportunities it can provide. Mentorship is one important way we as engineers can accomplish this.
I personally have been involved with student outreach at both the grade school and high school level. I have stepped in as a guest lecturer, and have given several “Introduction to an Engineer’s Career” presentations, both in the schools and in our offices. We show them the types of projects that they can be involved in, provide information on the various engineering disciplines available, and also have students participate in hands-on design software and virtual reality demonstrations.
In addition to maintaining a healthy pipeline of aspiring engineers, a second challenge we as an industry face is increasing diversity within the engineering profession. We have made great strides in attracting more women into this industry, but we know we have a long ways to go still. And gender diversity, while important, is just one small subset of the bigger picture. Attracting engineers from different races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds will allow us to reap the benefits of a diversity of perspectives. The new ideas and different perspectives true diversity brings is imperative to help solve today’s complex challenges—and these challenges are not going away any time soon. As we progress, our challenges will continue to become more complex due to technology, a growing population, climate change and many other factors. We can’t hope to overcome them within a homogenous environment.
To help promote diversity, our team at Mead & Hunt has been reaching out to schools with more diverse populations to help promote the engineering profession. Recently, I was the keynote presenter for a national aviation student chapter group represented by a wide array of students from universities across the country to discuss career path opportunities. Reaching a diverse audience is key to increasing diversity in our industry.
I encourage all engineers to do their part in promoting our industry and the careers it offers, and at the same time reach out to more diverse groups. This is not only simply the right thing to do—it also helps promote and preserve the health of our industry, our nation, and our world.