During the summer between my junior and senior years of college, I—like many students—gave up my days in the sun and got a "real" job: an internship at an engineering firm. That summer marked a memorable transition in my life, going from a carefree lifeguard and swimming teacher to a "career" woman.
The experience was eye opening and gave me a glimpse of what the future would be like the following year when I finished college. Some of what I learned includes the following: what it is like working in an office, what it is like doing fieldwork, how to solve problems that aren’t the type described in an example in your textbook, how to ask superiors questions, how to ask peers questions, how to dress appropriately, how to log expenses and complete an expense form, how to engage in office banter, how to fix a photocopy machine, how to interact with much older colleagues, how to impart knowledge to your colleagues, and much more. When I look back, I don’t remember what technical skills I learned, although I’m sure I learned some. I just remember all of the other stuff, which in reality probably was more important to learn that summer than anything else.
Our Beyond Words column this month was contributed by C.R. "Chuck" Pennoni, P.E., chairman of Pennoni Associates Inc., the firm that so graciously employed me that summer. After reading his article, I deemed that this is another hot summer day in my life that Pennoni taught me something. I hope you feel the same.
Luckily, thousands of students each year have the same opportunity I did to gain practical experience and sharpen their skills. Looking at the data collected from this year’s Best Civil Engineering Firm To Work For Contest, which includes data about 157 civil engineering firms ranging in size from 19 to 3,800 employees, I found that 96 percent of firms hired interns or co-op students in 2005. Looking at the ratio of interns or co-ops to number of total staff, I found that most firms hire one intern or co-op for every 23 employees.
Have you struggled to find the best candidates for these positions, as well as for entry-level openings for junior engineers? Maybe we can help. CE News, along with AECWorkForce.com, its allied career resource website, will be sponsoring an exciting new project that will connect engineering firms with students looking for internships, co-op jobs, and entry-level positions. We’ll be developing the AECWorkForce Employment Guide, a directory of engineering firms that will be distributed to students attending engineering schools nationwide. With a printed and complementary online directory, this resource will be the most effective way for firms to succeed at recruiting interns, co-ops, and entry-level employees. Look for information about the AECWorkForce Employment Guide in the October issue of CE News or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Basic directory listings will be free for engineering firms, so don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity.