Engineering A Great Career Option

Given the increasing demand for our services, the difficulty in finding contractors to carry out works and continuing strong drivers in the housing market, it was no surprise to see engineering high up the list of occupations cited as having the best chance for students securing employment.

It also prompted the following few comments on my part based on recent experience.

Engineering, and also Surveying and Town Planning, are exciting, varied and challenging careers with great opportunities for development and advancement. Unfortunately I think many companies are doing poorly developing their talent in the workplace. I have recently had the chance to interview and work with several students and graduates and have been impressed by the calibre of the people that the profession is attracting. However, sadly, many of these graduates enter the workplace full of enthusiasm and keen to apply their skills in their chosen career as they should but find that their initial experiences in the workplace are a far cry from the expectations they held. In my experience based on interviewing numerous disillusioned engineers and surveyors a year or two into their careers employers are frequently placing graduates into roles where the work that they are asked to do is relatively mundane and well below their level of ability. This isn’t motivating or empowering for the graduates nor does it serve the employer well. While many graduates are of the view that this is part of the learning process and that more interesting work will come as experience is gained, I don’t necessarily share this view.

The above events have given me cause to think about the responsibility companies have to provide appropriate ongoing training and career development to their staff and to relook at what we are doing as a company. I have been fortunate, through most of my career, to have good mentors and to work with motivated people. However, in contrast, I had one job where the complete opposite was true and despite a lot of great people I can only describe the organisation as desperately unhappy and it has since dissolved completely.

I suspect that many companies think that they are doing well developing, training and motivating their staff however surely the most honest measure of this are the views of those being trained and by this measure maybe companies aren’t doing so well. It isn’t easy in the face of day to day pressures but that is no excuse.

Reflecting on my own experiences, and considering how many people I have interviewed over the years who recount similar stories, it has prompted a review of what we do as a company as the last thing we can afford is to waste the talent we have through poor training, processes that stifle learning or through having talented staff completing work that doesn’t motivate them. Last year we put a time into developing a review system which certainly worked but given the sort of feedback that we are getting from those people we are now seeking to employ it seems that we have not gone far enough. Research into the software available in this space has left us disappointed with the quality of what is on offer and consequently we have embarked on a major project to write our own internal career management software that will give staff far more guidance, feedback, support and control over their careers. This dovetails with other IT and training initiatives that we have underway. It is a fascinating process and while daunting we think we are on the right track – time will tell.

The other thought that the article, or more correctly the photo, which has women front and centre, prompted is the under -representation of women in our industry. Several female students / graduates that I have been in contact with recently have impressed me immensely. They were excited about the work they were doing and clearly had bright futures, yet ours is an industry that does not seem to attract women overall. It is unfortunate that this is the case when New Zealand needs engineers and yet we seemingly can’t attract a large portion of our population to participate. I have no idea why this as I have worked with some outstanding women engineers, surveyors and planners who put many of their male counterparts to shame.