The Future is Bright!

May 04, 2007

Like many organizations, Kittelson & Associates, Inc. (KAI) visits with upcoming graduates at several universities across the United States each year. But these visits are not typical college recruiting trips.

Informational sessions open to anyone draw hundreds of students, from undergraduates to those pursuing master’s or doctorate degrees. KAI staff members share their perspectives and field questions about the transportation engineering profession. Students interested in learning more have the opportunity to meet one on one with KAI staff.

The process typically results in a handful of students pursuing careers in the field, with a few of them joining KAI. Adding thoughtful and talented individuals to the firm’s ranks is an important – though not the only – objective of the visits.

Along the way, we hope to have opened people’s minds and eyes about careers in transportation engineering and how to approach the job-search process,” said Brandon Nevers, an associate engineer in KAI’s Baltimore office. “We learn more about the schools and the students. And we get to know the university professors better. There are just a lot of tangible benefits that make it worthwhile.

For industries such as the transportation engineering field, which faces a shortage of engineers, connecting with universities is only one of many effective strategies to attract new talent. These workforce shortages are due to a variety of factors, including the retirement of large numbers of experienced workers and fewer students pursuing many traditional degrees.

Like any challenge, the transportation workforce shortage presents several opportunities as well, including the chance to market the many attractive aspects of a career in transportation. Given transportation’s broad impact, the field offers professionals a chance to profoundly affect an entire community or region. Additionally, transportation needs and challenges will only grow as the population increases.

The profession boasts attractive growth opportunities, offering technical and management positions in both public and private organizations. It also requires a high degree of interaction and collaboration with other disciplines and the general public. The issues the industry tackles cut across many fields – from finance and public policy to public relations and other engineering disciplines. And the field is in a constant state of change, with new ideas being tested and implemented.

Organizations can increase awareness of the profession, and its many opportunities and benefits to aspiring engineers, through a variety of strategies.

Internship programs. Many students are unaware of the profession when they choose a career path. Internships are the best way to expose a student—and their family, friends, and professors—to the world of transportation.

Embrace diversity. The transportation field’s broad context lends itself to people from difference backgrounds and with diverse perspectives. Common traits are required, including analytical and problem-solving skills, as is the ability to communicate effectively and adapt to the modern work environment. But more than many fields, the transportation profession has opportunities for people from all backgrounds.

Lead by example. Transportation professionals often find themselves in the spotlight. The approach individuals in the field take to solving problems, their creativity, and their interaction with others gets noticed. Setting a positive example builds the profession’s credibility and reputation.

Promote transparency and accessibility. Allowing others insight into what transportation professionals do, perhaps via a website or job-shadow opportunities, gives people who are curious about the profession a window into transportation.

Ultimately, the kind of people we want to attract are those who take the initiative to find out more, who think critically and are passionate about what they do, Nevers said.

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