Tag Archives: employment

Episode 112 — Boomer Exodus

lavalampThe gang discusses opportunities and challenges of dealing with Baby Boomers as they depart the engineering field.

  • Adam is aware of the “retirement cliff,” which describes an impending loss of skilled workers, nearly all of them Baby Boomers, in a short period of time.
  • Americans tend to derive much of their self-identity from their jobs, notes Jeff.
  • This episode focuses on dealing with the loss of crucial information as seasoned engineers retire.
  • Many baby boomers have not saved enough for retirement, and so are deciding to work longer.
  • Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce published a 2011 study on STEM careers, noting that 10 years after graduation, 46 percent of STEM graduates have left the field.
  • While the clamor for more engineering graduates continues, a number of authorities claim there is no engineering labor shortage.
  • A 2013 article from National Defense Magazine explained that the “engineering shortage” is not a myth, although the engineers who commented on the article seemed to feel otherwise.
  • The concern over retiring baby boomers dates back a while, with a July 2000 article (pdf) from Monthly Labor Review discussing the substantial effects to be felt by U.S. employers.
  • Jeff references a white paper (pdf) from The Integrity Group that discusses the effect of Baby Boomer retirement on the energy industry.
  • Harvard Business Review published a 2014 article examining the costs associated with retiring experts.
  • A Bloomberg article from earlier this year discussed steps taken by defense and aerospace company BAE to prepare for upcoming retirements within their engineering ranks.
  • Paying workers more money can overcome their reluctance to assume jobs they would not otherwise consider, suggests a Twin Cities Pioneer Press article.
  • Jeff notes that many Baby Boomers are in no hurry to leave the job market.
  • Many companies cope with the loss of retiring engineers by hiring them back on a part-time or flex-time basis.
  • An infographic (pdf) from Kelly Services forecasts engineering job growth through 2023.
  • Interested listeners can look up forecasts for engineering employment offered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Thanks to Dean Hochman for use of the photo titled “lava lamps.” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme by Paul Stevenson.

Episode 104 — Downturn

downturnCivil engineer Mike O’Connor shares stories of continuously revamping his professional skills to stay afloat during turbulent economic times.

  • Adam sees economic cycles, both short- and long-term, influencing his engineering activities.
  • Petroleum engineers have recently seen an economic downturn in their industry, similar to a downward slide suffered 30 years ago by the oil business.
  • Our guest for this episode is Mike O’Connor, a retired civil engineer who spent over four decades in the fields of construction and project management, working in both the private and public sectors.
  • Mike’s father worked at Philco, which for many years was the leading producer of radios in the United States.
  • Inventor Philo Farnsworth worked briefly for Philco in the early 1930s, before setting up his own firm, the Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation, in 1938 to manufacture television system equipment.
  • A bet between a foreman and his crew led to Mike’s introduction to the construction business.
  • Of all things, learning about concrete specifications ignited a desire within Mike to become an engineer.
  • Mike completed his master’s degree in Civil Engineering over a two year period, completing the normal undergrad requirements by taking equivalent graduate-level courses.
  • As Mike was graduating with his engineering degree in 1975, computer automation was emerging with the Georgia Tech Structural Design Language (STRUDL).
  • Brian suggests that weakness in the United States’ economy during the mid-1970s was due to stagflation.
  • A theodolite is an instrument for measuring angles, usually while surveying.
  • In working for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mike was introduced to the moving technical target known as best available technology (BAT).
  • Not being able to find work in the late 1970’s (despite having a PE license), our guest went to law school for a year. However, he dropped out due to financial and familial obligations.
  • Mike notes that each engineer has a “shelf life,” and one has to be aware of the decreasing interest companies will have in older individuals.
  • Everyone makes career missteps; our guest estimates it takes 3 to 5 years to recover from each such course correction.
  • During the 1980s, many civil engineering firms had to shift from “cost-plus” to “lump sum” contracts.
  • In the early 1990s, Mike shifted his career trajectory once again, overseeing contracts for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) commuter transportation system.
  • Paraprofessionals are already integrated into other professional fields, such as medicine and law; our guest believes they will soon start being introduced into the engineering industry.
  • Mike suggests engineers develop mentor relationships, especially as they enter management positions.
  • Having an interest in engineering preservation, our guest has started the Fredrick and Pennsylvania Line Railroad Museum.
  • Mike can be reached via email: Mike -=+at+== fplmuseum dot org.

Thanks to the Tim Green for use of the photo titled “Vacancies No No.” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme by Paul Stevenson.

Episode 98 — Relocation

relocationMechanical engineer Jim Heilman returns to The Engineering Commons to cover questions engineers should ask before relocating to advance their careers.

  • Adam moved for his current job, but had to abandon the high-speed internet connection he enjoyed at his previous residence.
  • Our guest for this episode is Jim Heilman, a mechanical engineer who spent two decades in industry before becoming a plastics industry recruiter for Discovery Personnel.
  • Although many relocations take place for the sake of career advancement, Jim notes an increasing trend toward changing residences to be closer to family members.
  • With increasing pressure on businesses to deliver profits, and with individuals needing to cover medical, educational, and household expenses, everyone is taking a closer look at the details in relocation packages.
  • While some employers will increase their salary offer to induce a reluctant candidate to relocate, many employers are loath to “buy” an employee’s loyalty.
  • No matter how attractive a job offer might seem, it’s important to gather familial consensus before agreeing to a cross-country move.
  • While more senior engineers may be offered substantial relocation packages, younger engineers are more likely to be offered smaller, one-time cash payments to cover relocation expenses.
  • Very few employers are willing to buy homes to help with relocation, even though this was once a common practice.
  • During the height of the Great Recession, Jim says candidates “dug their heels in” and absolutely refused to relocate.
  • Many employers require relocated employees to pay back a pro-rated portion of their company-paid moving expenses if they don’t remain with the firm for at least a year (or two).
  • Whereas companies at one time were quite rigid in what they would offer for relocation, most firms are now open to negotiating relocation terms.
  • Since housing is the largest expense for most families, one should investigate housing costs before getting too deep into negotiating a job move.
  • Our guest notes that most employers are not keen on employees who fly or drive “home” to a different residence on the weekends.
  • Engineers who repeatedly change jobs every year or two may eventually find it difficult to find employment, regardless of their skill level.
  • It’s not unusual, says Jim, for an engineer to be fired when their employer discovers they are looking for a new job.
  • Brian suggests young engineers always accept calls from recruiters, as the recruiter may be able to help secure new employment when it’s needed.
  • Jim once dealt with a candidate who waited until very late in the relocation process to request help moving his snake collection.
  • It’s crucial to talk with one’s family before initiating a job change that will require the family to relocate.
  • Our guest may be reached via the Discovery Personnel website.

Thanks to Mark Moz for the photo titled “House, Property, Real Estate For Sale Sign.” Podcast theme music by Paul Stevenson.