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Re: Mentor Commitment ( was: SECB Certification Program for SE's)

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Paul,

You hit on what my main "push" was in the certification effort.  There
were those that wanted tougher/more education requirements (i.e. require
Master's degree or push for NCSEA's list of "minimum" structural courses)
or those that wanted tougher/more exams (i.e. something on par with the
Western States exam that California has traditinally used for SE
licenses).  To me, the weakest part of licensing (and thus potentially for
certification since is "built" off of the same basic model just aim at
structural engineering rather than general civil engineering as most PE
license processes are...for those in civil engineering related fields) is
the experience requirement.  To me, this is an area of EXTREME weakness in
profession.

The licensing laws typically require 4 years of experience.  Too often,
this experience (from what I have observed) tends to be reviewing shop
drawings for project that other more senior engineers designed, design
simple elements repetively (i.e. beam after beam after beam, and maybe if
you are lucky you get "promoted" to columns), or other fairly basic
engineering tasks that don't "extend" the learning or talents of the young
engineer.  After, as you point out, it is my understanding that the 4
years of experience came about from "apprenticeship" type systems of the
past.  It is meant to be a way to learn by doing hands on.  Too often, I
see senior engineers that just give the young engineer a task and
virtually tell them to go away, work on it, and "leave me alone".  So, in
general, I also see a general lack of "mentorship".

This also extends into "expansiveness" of the exposure to various aspects
of structural engineering.  I was lucky.  I worked for a company when I
came out of school where my boss "let me lose"...in otherwords, I worked
on a variety of projects.  I did not just sit and design beams for other
engineers.  I was doing footings, frame analysis, seismic loads
determination (I was actually kind of the seismic "expert" as I was
exposed to the SEAOC Blue Book [thus, UBC seismic provisions] and the 1991
NEHRP provisions in school during a class that I took...so I was much more
familiar with the things coming down the pipe seismicly that we in
Michigan typically did not have to deal with in the past [at  the time]),
beams, columns, masonry exterior walls, and even running a project
structurally within about 6 months out of school.  So, I got a good broad
exposure.  Most young engineers are not nearly as fortunate.  I have one
friend who basically spent his first year or two reviewing steel shop
drawings.  As a result, when he FINALLY got to do some other things, there
was the appearance that he was slow and not as advance...duh, that is what
happens when you have some ONLY do one specific task for an extended
period of time...they don't learn any thing else, other than it doesn't
pay to take an intiative.

So, while involved with the certification committee, I tried to get some
more emphasis on the 4 years of experience.  I cited what the architect
are required to do.  They have a formal experience process that they must
complete.  They _MUST_ get experience in various aspects of the
profession...they must spend some time doing design, some time doing
drawing production, sometime on interior design, some time on project
management, etc.  So, they have a formal "mentorship" and experience
requirement.

I would like to see that happen in the engineering field...but I doubt it
will happen.  Most companies (and senior engineers) have the unrealistic
expectation that a young engineer will come to them fully trained and
fully productive.  They want the schools to produce such people, thus we
end up with the push for requiring Master's degrees.

Now, this is not to say that there are not "points of light" within the
darkness.  I have worked for companies that will at least send employees
to seminars on occasion.  Many try to have "lunch time" seminars (either
outside "product peddlers" come in to speak or just a presentation/review
of a project or techincal subject by one of the engineers in the office).
But, _NO_ company I have worked for paid for membership in any
organization until you became an Associate (now the interesting thing is
that our "friends" in the general civil engineering side of the
profession seem to do a better job in this area...most general civil
engineering firms in my area will pay for some organization
memberships...typically in the form of "they do one, you do one").  And
they typically did not pay for attending conventions/conferences.  They
might pay for dinner meeting of a local organization (such as ASCE, NSPE,
or a SEA).  Most had  some policy of paying for graduate school courses
(at least partially).   And some did attempt to have a mentorship program
(not always successful).

Like you, I think that the profession has to realize the importance of
training the future engineers.  We cannot just expect the schools to do
that, especially as state universities lose funding because of lower
revenue (sometimes from lower taxes many of us like and from our distaste
of raises in tuition).  To me, many times we become our own worst
enemies...this is similiar to the rants/threads about structural engineer
fees...we do it to ourselves many times.

Enough soap box for me...I usually end up with too much soap in my mouth.

Regards,

Scott
Adrian, MI


On Sat, 26 Jun 2004, Paul Feather wrote:

> Jordan is right in terms of billable hours and time and energy, but Scott is
> all too correct with regard to working conditions.
>
> Having experienced the situation Scott describes and then some on a first
> hand basis, I agree that other than Building Authority organizations most
> firms give very little support to younger engineers for professional
> involvement or exam prep.  I was fortunate enough to find someone with a
> different view, but it was absolutely a minority condition.
>
> Having progressed in my career, I made a personal commitment to put my money
> where my mouth was so to speak, and set company policy to where an honest
> mentoring effort with respect for personal growth is more important than the
> few dollars involved.  We provide payment and time for select seminars, as
> well as an effort to provide proper time for new areas of exposure and
> training within the office.  Without the experience of how alternate systems
> measure up or differ from expectations it is hard to develop the intuitive
> sense needed for the art of our profession.
>
> The question is, how many others are taking their responsibility seriously?
> As professionals, we are supposed to be more than capital tools.  As an
> industry the concept of mentoring is in the historical basis of our
> profession and the licensing / experience requirements are a reflection of
> this.  I honestly believe that as a profession we often fall far short of
> the ideal.  I grant that we are a small office, and do not have tens to
> hundreds of employees so these financial commitments are not as substantial.
> However I would think that with each employee generating billable hours the
> proportional commitment should not be too different.
>
>
> I would be interested in hearing about some of the programs and approaches
> others use to provide a mentoring environment.
>
>
>
> Paul Feather PE, SE
> pfeather(--nospam--at)SE-Solutions.net
> www.SE-Solutions.net
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Scott Maxwell" <smaxwell(--nospam--at)engin.umich.edu>
> To: <seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org>
> Sent: Friday, June 25, 2004 4:42 PM
> Subject: Re: SECB Certification Program for SE's
>
>
> >
> >
> >
> > On Fri, 25 Jun 2004, Jordan Truesdell, PE wrote:
> >
> > > in terms of billable hours lost.  The preparation time for an exam of
> > > this magnitude is not insignificant, and younger EITs / engineers in
> > > larger firms will often be allowed some time to prepare/study/take the
> > > exam on the corporation's dime.  In a small (or very small) firm, such
> >
> > Yeah, right.  I can I come live in your fantasy world! <grin>
> >
> > Every large A/E firm that I worked for did not allow any time off to study
> > for the exam on the company's dime.  Heck, I have yet to work for a
> > company that will pay for any association dues and few will pay for any
> > seminars.  In general, the only seminars or conferences that I attend are
> > the ones that _I_ pay for.
> >
> > Regards,
> >
> > Scott
> > Adrian, MI
> >
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