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The Engineer
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Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/04/2018 9:56 AM

I had this thought today and was wondering what you all think. Especially if you are, or know, a civil engineer.

There seems to be some consensus that the infrastructure in the US is in rough shape and needs an overhaul. At some point, this will have to be addressed. Given how the government seems to operate, it seems to me this is most likely to be funded all at once rather than spread out.

If that happens, wouldn't civil engineers be in high demand? Do we have enough of them or will their costs skyrocket due to a shortage? Should I be going back to school to get a degree in Civil Engineering? (jk, I'm never going back to school!)

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#1

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/04/2018 12:36 PM

I have been a Registered Civil Engineer for some 40 years now, and would like to comment on several aspects of this topic.

First, the idea of THE infrastructure is a convenient misnomer because there are several infrastructures, possibly the one most frequently discussed is the roads and highways systems. I say this, in the plural, because there is the National Highway System, thanks to President Eisenhower, among many other people... There are also the individual State Highway Systems, and State Highway Administrations, along with numerous State, county, City, etc., road systems... They each have there own priority list of projects which they need to get funded, individually Thus, those projects will tend to get funded sepepately amonst the various jurisdictions according to which which jobs can get the most political support, first...

Additional funding will allow for the engineers working for the more fortunate government agencies will become more busy with new engineering planning and design projects, and will tend to create new engineering positions to handle those additional projects... In consequence thereof, construction contractors will similarly create new engineering positions to order to get their share of more new jobs, and make their share of more new money...

So, to some degree, the employment picture is brightening for impending civil engineering graduates, among others, provided that that the Economy stays strong enough to continue to support such project expansion...

Part of the picture is that, because Civil Engineering is possibly the least (glamorous?) of the several engineering disciplines, and among the lowest paying ones, it tends to attract the students who only want to have to take one or two classes in differential equations to meet the math requirement to graduate...

And then, such students will have to be satistfied to, usually, go out into the working world and utilize an ongoing array of technologicical advancements in construction, and then, to be satistified with seeing projects they actually worked on become physical realities that the General Public could also view, and go in, work in, live in, etc...

It's not for every Civil Engineering graduate...

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#7
In reply to #1

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/04/2018 2:53 PM

Thanks Mr. Guest! That makes a lot of sense. It's always better to hear what's actually going on from someone in the field. I appreciate you jumping in the discussion!

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#22
In reply to #7

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/05/2018 4:59 PM

Thankyou very much for saying so.

It's unfortunate that Capt. Moosie doesn't seem to be available to also contribute the value of his perspective as a product of his significant Civil Engineering work experience...

Anybody heard anything from him, or about him?...

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#23
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Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/05/2018 5:59 PM

He last posted in September of 2017.

I believe that he was overweight and in poor health.

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#25
In reply to #23

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/06/2018 8:36 AM

There have been a few people who have, over the years uncharacteristically disappeared with the implication being what you're suggesting. It's always a very sad thought and yet somehow a reaffirmation that this is more than just a website but rather a community. At least in my opinion. And that seems like a happy thought.

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#26
In reply to #23

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/06/2018 9:23 AM

I thought I'd seen him much more recently, but the record shows that his last post was, as Lyn says, last September. I might have seen his name in a list of recent users (a report that moderators check periodically) more recently than that. I'll send him an email to inquire after his well-being.

We call CR4 a community and it really IS a community, not just for those who post regularly but the many people who visit and read. I've seen more long-time silent members posting over the last few months; hope that trend continues.

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#2

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/04/2018 12:45 PM

You might be on to something, according to this site, civil engineering jobs are forecast to increase by 11% by now and 2026, the average for all other occupations is 7%. That is 63% higher then the average.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/04/2018 12:52 PM

That's pretty strong growth. I have a feeling the next 20 years it's gonna start being good to be an engineer. Not of ton of kids going into it like the old days and yet rising demand.

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/04/2018 1:25 PM

Just to clarify, is that 7% per year, or 7% for a total of ten years?...

My avatar is an small example of one such (relatively) new application to Civil Engineering (Surveying in this case) mentioned previously. It's my tabulation of the data from a simple Bearing-Distance Land Survey that calculates the enclosed area, using a previous version of Excel(R), which I use at work on a weekly basis.... it is not as good as commercially available software. (It doesn't pretend to forecast the existance of any new bosons, but is a big help to me...)

By the way, if you believe (gummint) estimates then I've got this brooklyn bridge over swampland in Florida I'll sell you cheap. In fact, you seem like such a good guy, I'll sell you three of them for the price of two... Now, how can you pass up a bargain like that???

GA from me for the link, in any case...

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/04/2018 1:57 PM

That would be over 10 years. As for believing the estimates, I did notice the government logo at the top of the page, hence the reason I stated "According to this site......" But it is a government site and they would never lie to us...

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#6

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/04/2018 2:20 PM

Interesting question, Bayes -- and no, I don't think you should get any more degrees.

Sticking with Mr. Guest's focus on the roadbuilding sector of infrastructure: what other professions could benefit? Geologists? Materials scientists/materials engineers who develop better concrete? I hesitate to bring up specialists who do environmental impact studies since the future of environmental sensitivity is up in the air.

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#9
In reply to #6

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/04/2018 4:00 PM

All related construction professions, vocations, specialties, etc., could see increases, but actually who, what, where, etc., remains to be actually seen...

Also, don't be surprised to be surprised...

Such as, I was quite surprised to hear that my first engineering school responded to the impact of (computerization) in the '80's by shifting focus to the then emerging program field called computer engineering while simultaneously (phasing out) my major program of Civil Engineering (CE)...

I was not amused to find this out, not one single little bit...

I subsequently donated zero dollars and zero cents when they phoned to ask for financial support... They finally stopped calling...

The development of software, like LandCAD(R) , etc., will make construction design even more competitive, now that some (CE) College Programs a including it in their Civil Engineering programs...

The point is that all of the consequences to change can not be reliably anticipated, and that the impact of robotics on construction-related activities will also continue to increase, as well...

How much, how often, to what extent, at what cost, etc., remains to be actually seen, how-ever well the Economy does, or does not, ''do''...

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#8

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/04/2018 3:21 PM

The "infrastructure" speaking of highways, bridges, railroads and those parts of it built by "the government" have been starved for many years by the very people who were elected to look out for our (the voters) best interests.

I see continued starvation of funding for remediation or new construction until such times as the Congress is not paid by private interests to funnel funds to them and not public works projects.

More than 50,000 American bridges are falling apart - NBC News

Absent that change, I'd expect to see more foreign educated C. E. coming to America on work visas and temporary assignment.

Choosing a career path and going to school is a long term process. Until such time as money is actually used to improve our public works projects, there is not much incentive roll up one's sleeves and work in the field. Besides, CAD programs will be used more and more as they advance, negating the need for formally trained professionals as C. E. and increasing the need for keyboard operators.

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#10

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/05/2018 2:17 AM

The same can apply to all sorts of professions, not just civil.

There is a distinct lack of plumbers, electricians, bricklayers, structural engineers, elect engineers, etc etc.....

forget the infrastructure.. get more kids out of school and onto the tools, THEN into University.

Only then can you improve the infrastructure!

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/05/2018 10:03 AM

We in the US have, in my opinion, denigrated any occupation that does not require a four-year degree. The result? Too many people running up a lot of debt going to college/university when their abilities lie elsewhere -- some, no doubt, who'd do well in building trades. And we really need good plumbers/electricians/carpenters/stonemasons/bricklayers.

Mr. BIS and I live in the country and have a terrible time finding skilled workers and then getting on their schedules once we find them. Our plumber is over 70 and not able to do anything that requires heavy lifting. We're still waiting for our carpenter to have time for a job we discussed two years ago. Mr. BIS ticked off the local electrician a few years ago so he won't work for us; try finding a new one.

Even if we lived in the burbs we'd be hard-pressed to find craftspeople who have the time to take on a new job. Thank goodness for YouTube videos, CR4 and Mr. BIS, who's smart enough to figure out how to do some of this stuff himself.

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/05/2018 10:31 AM

Wait.. Who's Mr BIS? Isn't that you? Best In Show?

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#13
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Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/05/2018 10:44 AM

That is Mrs. BIS commenting. Time for some introspection.

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#15
In reply to #13

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/05/2018 11:15 AM

Thanks yes, I only seem like one of the guys.

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#17
In reply to #15

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/05/2018 11:41 AM

Oooohhhhhh....... Or should I say Oooooppssss....

Then, does Best-In-Show mean that you're a model?

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#20
In reply to #17

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/05/2018 1:56 PM

Unfortunately, no, but some of my dogs are model Welsh terriers. Here is my little girl finishing her AKC championship a few years ago. No, that's not Mr. BIS handling her.

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#21
In reply to #15

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/05/2018 3:34 PM

It's the perfume that gives it away.

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#24
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Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/06/2018 8:26 AM

Indeed

Bebe prefers Eau du Chien herself ... unless she's wearing Eau de Yard Dirt.

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#14
In reply to #10

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/05/2018 10:48 AM

Definitely correct. If I had a family member who came to me and said "I really don't want to go to college but I'd like to make some money", I'd say, kid, you're in luck. Become a welder, electrician, or machinist and be willing to work and you'll be just fine. Good money in those trades for sure and it seems like it's only going to get better.

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#37
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Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/07/2018 3:35 PM

plumbers, electricians, bricklayers,

That's skilled labor,.. it seems that no wants to put in the time and effort to be in a league of its own...

As far as Civil Engineering shortage,... I had a head hunter last week telling me he has a Civil Engineering position and asked if I'd be interested in...

IMO, this really pollutes the job market with placement agencies just trying to make a buck trying to fill a position with just 'anybody'... it'll really put a company off to those types of agencies.

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#16

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/05/2018 11:30 AM

One way to approach this, would be to start with the "spine" that connects the whole country together, with the talent/skills available now. People could have temp jobs from cross-trained/related fields. From there, they could move on to more local jobs/projects. As the demand/supply situation becomes clearer, adjustments could be made in the classroom for the future.

One thing a lot of people fail to recognize, is that once the surge of projects get finished, those people will be unemployed again. That's why I like being a jack-of-all-trades. There's always something somewhere going on in that "field". It tends to smooth out all the jerky starts-and-stops. Quantum leaps are not required.

However, the whack-a-mole approach is just as bad. It leaves deficiencies in the integration/transition/interfacing from old to new. Computers used to be backward-compatible. But now, you have to trash-and-replace whole systems. Planned-obsolescence should be redefined as the preparation for obsolescence, with allowances for upgrading/interfacing with newer/future systems.

Theoretically, a rising tide lifts all boats. But, that assumes you have a boat to transition/interface to that rising tide. Otherwise, you'll drown. Without an analog/old-school interface, a quantum-leap is no good. Talk about a big gap in equality/pay/class/generation/gender/race/"intelligence"/understanding/functionality/satisfaction/harmony/piano-tuning/etc....

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#18
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Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/05/2018 12:16 PM

As a point of information, my father was a semi-notable pianist, who teamed-up with with another one, and eventually recorded one piano duet album that sold too-few copies to be regarded as successful. My father kept practicing at home until arthritus in his hands finally stopped him. At one point, his 1920-ish studio grand needed a tune-up by a local piano tuner. That tuner turned out to be slightly deaf, so quality piano tuning was a personal family concern of a similar nature to your posted point... (and no, I personally can not even play ''chop-sticks'' any more...)

The point being that, yes, even qualified piano tuning is a real labor concern these days...

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#19

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/05/2018 12:17 PM

Where to start...

With all the technological advancements in computers and what can be programmed, increasing AI being developed, the number of engineers required is somewhat reduced. So saying,, even with the aid of computers trained engineers with practical experience are still required. After all, even with computers, garbage in = garbage out. Someone qualified still needs to check the outputs and confirm that they are correct.

I can recall before the age of computers, the time it used to take to get through all the calculations and checks needed. I can definitely say that computers have really decreased the time required for certain specific tasks. I don't spend a lot of time on manual calculations any more, only a quick review of the outputs to see if there are any glaring errors.

As for infrastructure repairs/upgrades/improvements, there will always be a need for the "human touch" as we are all aware that actual field conditions rarely match what the calculations or assumptions are at the project start, no matter how many "field" inspections are conducted.

Personally, I do not "believe" any assumptions unless I was involved in the original design/construction - I did a lot of bridge build/installation earlier in my career and was always available or on site to ensure that things were done to plan, or if not possible, at least I had a set of drawings to markup to "as builts" for a permanent record. Even though I am not trained civil engineer, my schooling (agricultural engineering) and experience (ag, civil, mechanical, electrical and so on) has taught me a thing or twelve.

There will always be a need for professional engineers and the baby boom generation is on the verge of retiring (if they already haven't done so). Replacements, even if less of them, are still required. Besides, an engineering degree should not limit you to purely engineering unless that is what you want to do- it gives you a basis for a whole myriad of other things - at least that is what it has done for me.

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#27
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Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/06/2018 4:09 PM

Years ago, I met a guy who told me that he had dropped out of college and spent the next ten years (jes hangin' aroun' da beach...)

The ''light'' finally came on for him, and he went back to college, graduated, and became a successful mechanical engineer...

Why? Because he finally heard his ''calling''...

How? Because he had finally become ''ready''...

...and, because he was still young enough to handle the rigors of such a technical academic obstacle course that was the right one for him...

Funneling eighteen-year-olds en masse into college can not be the right answer for everyone who qualifies...

Maybe half of college graduates actually find employment in the area of their college studies...

How viable of an (occupational mechanism) is it that only ''works'' half the time?...

Similarly, my personal employment experience was that:

- I had to go where the work was...

- I had to do what the work was, even when it was a step backwards...

- I had to learn how to support myself on whatever the job paid...

...or realise that I had go do something else, hopefully...

In short, I had to get, and stay, effectively ''real''...

How many eighteen-year-olds are ready to get that ''real'' when they are that young? I certainly was not...

So few are willing to ''start in the mail room'' anymore...

No wonder so many quality jobs go unfilled when so many applicants only want to accept their dream-jobs right out of college...

(OK, I'll get off my soapbox now...)

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#28
In reply to #27

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/06/2018 4:32 PM

Your oration is right on the point. In one of my first classes in 1st year, the prof said "introduce yourself to the people beside you,,, because one of you won't be back next year". In my case, neither were back. Not everyone can go straight to higher education after high school.

I have had my rant about the "me" generation(s) previously.

Some of the education offered these days is too specific and focused thereby not allowing or encouraging any one to "generalize". I took what I did because it was a broad selection of more than one discipline of engineering as well as discipline specific ones. I started in my discipline but went on to others-some not even in engineering-as well in later jobs (and turned a few down as well) and finally a business owner, only because I had the opportunity to get the varied exposure and experience required.

Anyone's first job is highly unlikely to be their "dream job". It appears that in order to be able to think outside of the box, you have to be quite a bit older these days.

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#31
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Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/06/2018 10:20 PM

"Anyone's first job is highly unlikely to be their "dream job"."

I kind of lucked into mine. I was a drop-out. Got tired of not getting anywhere. Was facing the Vietnam draft. Went to the recruiter who told me I couldn't have what I wanted, without a high school diploma. I didn't want to be drafted, and no bottom of the barrel job. So, I went back to school, graduated, then back to the recruiter, and got accepted into the Nuclear Power Program. Far away from the fighting/war. Who knows if I would have made it without a shortage of personnel. Electrician was my last choice of 4. But, that's what they made me, anyway. I wanted to be a Machinist's Mate. But, now I'm an electrician. Still, it was good deal. I was interested in nuke power in any form. Got my after-high-school schooling from the Navy. No debts. Time served. The good thing about it, was that I had a reason to stay in school and a job waiting for me when I finished. Nuclear Power was icing on the cake.

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#29
In reply to #27

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/06/2018 4:41 PM

That's reality, not a soap box. GA.

The outrageous cost of college makes it unattainable for many.

And, after they have invested theirs, and their parent's money, many end up working in the service industry and hating it.

Carpentry, masonry, auto mechanics, the military and other trades are sure fire ways to earn a living.

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#30
In reply to #29

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/06/2018 4:51 PM

For (Fast Food), we have the likes of (McDonald's, among others...),

But, we have no (McCollege) at all...

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#32
In reply to #30

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/06/2018 10:26 PM

That's a good point. Seems to me there should be some kind of on-campus jobs available, so somebody could work their way thru it without debt.

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#33
In reply to #32

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/07/2018 12:01 PM

Back (in the day), I washed dishes in the cafeteria for a $1.20 per hour...

That would not even buy one term's engineering textbooks today...

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#34
In reply to #33

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/07/2018 2:00 PM

Maybe. But, it doesn't have to be that way. If only our thinking can evolve like organisms can.

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#35
In reply to #33

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/07/2018 3:28 PM

Indeed I can relate. I worked on a road crew for $1.25/hr Cdn. Only plus was the overtime - worked an average of 66 hours per week - 6 or 7 days a week. It did cover my education's cost as summer employment.

Inflation and all that related stuff has really taken it's toll on the cost of a good education and everything else, but comparing wages and costs way back then to today, both are at least 10 times so it should work out if you actually do the numbers (not including the modern "conveniences" of today such as computers versus the slide rules of my day). It's a matter of relativity. The only difference is the rate of taxation of the income and all other taxes like sales tax. All those seem to go continuously upward.

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#36
In reply to #35

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/07/2018 3:34 PM

My first job was shoveling chicken manure out of giant chicken barns that were being readied for the next flock, in Arkansas, in the summer time, with NO ventilation nor even a dust mask, in 1964. Dusty, humid sweltering and miserable, but it paid $1.00 USD an hour which was a lot to me at that time.

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#38
In reply to #36

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/07/2018 3:48 PM

Yes indeed. It did seem like a lot of money. My $1.25 for an hours work would by me about 8 glasses of draft beer to quench my thirst after a day working on 300° asphalt. How is that for putting a number on my age!¡¡

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#39
In reply to #38

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/07/2018 3:59 PM

That would likely make you older than I.

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#40
In reply to #39

Re: Future Civil Engineering Shortage?

06/08/2018 9:18 AM

That is always a possibility.

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