Brad Peterson, P.E., CFM, LEED AP is Vice President of Infrastructure at Crafton Tull. This article is the third in a series he wrote during his time as ASPE president in 2016.
In my previous entries I discussed the NSPE Strategic Plan: DEFINE. PROMOTE. PROTECT. First outlining the mission as a whole, and then focusing on the DEFINE portion and what it means to DEFINE licensure. The installment laid out steps we can take to ensure clear, comprehensive requirements are in place as a way to educate the public on what it means to be a licensed engineer. I addressed the need for an increase in compulsory education and professional development in retaining our trusted stature in our communities. The next step: PROMOTE. I will focus on promoting our industry and the importance of professional licensure, not only to the public but students as well. One way to start is by self-identifying as Professional Engineers and Engineer Interns; just as important is proudly displaying the suffixes we worked so hard to earn. I have chosen to highlight both the established ways to get the word out, and the up-and-coming opportunities to keep our industry growing.
PROMOTE: Student Outreach/Project Lead the Way (PTLW): As members of the engineering profession, we have a duty to support and encourage those pursuing licensure. There is no single activity to accomplish this. However, there are many coordinated actions that together produce a cumulative, measurable effect. As I mentioned in my message on DEFINE, it is imperative that colleges and universities adopt a program to raise credit requirements as they apply to engineering. One action is to reach out to students from primary school and up through school based STEM education. With programs already in place, it is up to us to get involved. Programs like, K-5 Launch, Middle School Getaway, High School Engineering, BioMed, Girl of Promise STEM, and Computer Science, need training and resources that we can offer through volunteering and mentoring.
Few factors influence people more than other people. Taking that a step further, nothing affects parents more than their children. Through speaking to students, parents, and educators, we find where our involvement will most impact the classroom. Parents and teachers know the importance of quality engineering and why helping sustain the profession is crucial. By volunteering at local schools and engaging in the programs mentioned above, we can show kids how vast and vibrant and cool the engineering profession is. Win/win/win.
PROMOTE: Social Media Involvement: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, these outlets are ubiquitous to the current generation of up-and-coming engineers. However, widespread use of these platforms in promoting our industry is a fairly new concept. Following NSPE, ASPE, ACEC, and other professional organizations on social media has a two-pronged effect: 1. We can reach and engage an entire demographic through low cost marketing and promotion in a way that is relevant to their daily lives. 2. We can expand our network and message which, in turn, adds to our credibility. Social Media is no longer a source of content to be ignored. To stay connected and relevant, promoting through these channels is vital to attracting the best and the brightest to engineering.
PROMOTE: Established Promotions: Having discussed the importance of up-and-coming opportunities for promotion, it is just as important to preserve and build up the more traditional forms of outreach. Two such programs are Engineers Week and Honor Awards.
Engineers Week began in 1951 as a way to involve and educate students on the role of engineering in society. The program, now known as DiscoverE, takes place the third week in February. Every engineer should take part in some way. By meeting with colleagues, speaking to groups of students, and hosting job shadow days, connections are made and interests are sparked. Prepackaged information and materials are available for volunteers to draw from throughout the week’s activities.
Honor Awards are an established avenue of promoting engineering careers at local, state, and national levels. As members of professional organizations, we have an obligation to nominate worthy colleagues who showcase talent and dedication to furthering and maintaining the integrity of our profession. Among these awards: Engineer of the Year, Young Engineer of the Year, and Distinguished Service Honors. Recognition by peers for service and achievement encourages excellence within our organizations. While the deadline is January 31st, it is never too early to nominate and promote the contributions of a colleague.
The National Society of Professional Engineers is the only organization focused on addressing the needs of engineers working across all disciplines. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we turn public attention to our role in building a strong, safe, and sustainable society. By using the established means of promotion in conjunction with new marketing technologies, we are helping cultivate future engineers. Our efforts will ensure the status of our great profession is upheld and the foundation for the next generation engineers is solid. Attract them early, foster their interest, highlight the path to licensure, and show the benefits of becoming a well-rounded, fulfilled Professional Engineer; do the same for ourselves.