PEI Advisory Council Reviews Ways To Enhance Young Engineer Ranks

PEI Advisory Council Reviews Ways To Enhance Young Engineer Ranks

Recognizing the growing importance of young engineers to the future of the Society and its programs, NSPE's Professional Engineers in Industry practice division has begun renewing its presence among this audience.

"We need to establish an immediate presence in the lives of K-12 students, college students, and young engineers to show them that the Society values them, supports them, and is worthy of their contributions of time and talent," says Professional Engineer Michael Vinarcik, chairman of the PEI Young Engineer Advisory Council (YEAC). "I want the NSPE 'brand' to be omnipresent to show young engineers in industry that licensure is valuable."

Vinarcik emphasizes the importance for the Society to nurture recent graduates, encouraging them to seek licensure, and to provide mentoring and networking opportunities so that "we can also become each individual's valued career development partner."

The vehicle for developing this new path, YEAC, has focused its mission on five elements to:

Promote licensure among recent engineering graduates;
Encourage young engineers to develop professional excellence;
Represent NSPE's young engineers and their needs at PEI Executive Board meetings;
Develop more programming at NSPE meetings that is useful to young members; and
Provide networking opportunities for the Society's younger ranks through mentoring programs and events at national meetings.

"I view YEAC as a way to serve both young and potential professional engineers in industry, a segment that's often difficult to serve because of the licensing exemption," Vinarcik observes. In the interest of catalyzing these efforts, he says the advisory group will borrow from programs that other professional and technical societies have implemented to foster the networking and development of constituents.

One program that YEAC will soon consider targeting is the regional network of K-12 science fairs held annually across the U.S. "The lack of nationwide NSPE recognition at these events is an enormous, missed opportunity to present ourselves to a select audience of high-potential students," Vinarcik contends.

And although he admits the Society is a leading organizer and sponsor of MATHCOUNTS and partners with the Junior Engineering Technical Society, Vinarcik says a modest investment for a few additional awards could pay reasonable dividends to NSPE as it has for other participating organizations, and it would provide another opportunity to disseminate information about the Society.

Another related science competition, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, has also drawn the attention of YEAC, which is recommending that NSPE become a special awards sponsor. Other programs worthy of expanded participation include the National Engineering Design Challenge and Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics, and Science, and various student leadership and mentoring programs. "Time is of the essence in these matters," Vinarcik emphasizes. "Every year that goes by costs us thousands of potential recruits."

Accepting that challenge, the Society's practice divisions will host a networking session (date to be announced) at the NSPE 2003 Annual Convention & Expo in San Antonio, Texas. The program, addressing the special interests and career paths of young engineers, will be advertised to local undergraduate and graduate engineering students and young engineers, in addition to NSPE's state organizations and local chapters.

"I hope that our younger members will take advantage of the upcoming networking session," says Vinarcik. "It will be a great chance for us to mingle and connect, as well as meet some of the senior members of the Society."

Other interest areas that YEAC is examining include partnering with national Tau Beta Pi chapters in conducting "soft skills" seminars for engineering students; collaborating with universities in developing programs that provide better understanding of industry practice and encourage licensure; and sponsoring a Young Engineers' Board of Ethical Review Challenge at the university level.

Reflecting on his past experiences, Vinarcik notes that because he was exposed to professional organizations at an early age, 11, he later became active within those same organizations as a practicing engineer. "I am most loyal to the groups that were there for me as a youngster," he says. "I believe that organizations need more zealots like myself, individuals willing to give their time and expertise to volunteer organizations, despite family commitments, longer work hours, and multiple other activities."

For more information, call PEI Manager Erin Garcia at 703-684-2884 or e-mail egarcia@nspe.org.