Recruiting the next generation of engineers

Author: Dave Schaller, BSEE '82, Strategic Product Planning Manager for Navistar, Inc.
Many engineers are working their way up the ranks of their company’s ladders. Most probably hope to have excellent teammates and a replacement to back fill their current position so when they succeed on their current challenges, they are free to move on to a new position.

Dave SchallerHow many of you are concerned about the person that steps into the entry level position on the end of the ripples in the organization chart? It all works best when the right people are available for each task our organizations face.

In order to have new engineers ready to fill those holes, we first need top notch engineering schools with high school students eager to become engineers. We, as engineers, have a HUGE role to play in this equation. Engineering is not the subject of popular TV shows, movies or songs. It doesn’t make the news often, and when it does, there is a better than average chance it is in the coverage of a failure of something that has created a negative news event. Our profession doesn’t get a lot of great press. We should create a path that others want to follow.

To create a shining future stream of engineers, we need to reach out to the middle and high school students and explain why our careers are rewarding and worth following.

Job shadowing

Job shadowing is an aspect of many middle and high school programs. If you have an exciting engineering job, are you willing to be shadowed? Can you schedule part of a day to escort a young student through the interesting aspects of what you have done and plan to do in the future? Have you let schools in your area know you are open to such opportunities?

Mentoring

If you have a talent for working with kids, is a mentoring or a technical coaching opportunity waiting? Maybe it is a single student with a science project. Could it be a Future City or FIRST Robotics team working together tackling challenges and learning how engineers create new realities?

In schools

If two way interactions aren’t your specialty, can you be a public speaker in a small setting? High school math and physics classes can always use a real-life expert to make the equations and problem solving come to life. Maybe you are a better fit to help guidance counselors learn to spot a future engineers and coach them into investigating engineering schools? Guidance counselors have obviously spoken to doctors before and more than likely have spoken with a lawyer. What are the chances they have ever interacted with an engineer to understand what we do for a living? If a guidance counselor is not inclined to encourage the highly talented to become engineers, can your future teams succeed?

Career nights

If working with a team of your peers is where you excel, can you help to establish an engineering career night in your community? High school students and their parents have a lot of questions, and you can recruit a team to engage them in conversation and get them excited about creating the next portable music device, computer system, artificial joint, satellite, energy drink plant, video game system, sports complex, etc?

Close the deal

Can you help a great engineering student prospect make the last tough decision on which college to attend? Maybe you can host a meeting for admitted high school seniors that are accepted for an engineering program but haven’t accepted the offer. The talent is there, but the choice hasn’t been made. Can you close the deal the way you do for your company?

Why so many questions in a short blog spot? As an engineer you make your living asking and answering tough questions. If you are five years from retirement , the tail end of your ripple effect is entering their senior year of high school and making a career choice. If you are ten years out, they are entering middle school and learning about their talents and finding that math comes easier for them than their classmates. Are you ready to guide them your opportunity?