Here is how two entities are reaching out to the new professionals in the pumps industry, with the goal of increasing education and keeping them engaged for years to come.
A Global Outreach
Sixteen years ago, Siemens produced its first academic program after hearing from customers who said they were spending a lot of time training new graduates, said Dora Smith, global senior director, academic partner program, Siemens PLM Software.
Last year, the company research projects, including the TechClarity survey to find out what skills are lacking to see what academia can do to help produce a prepared generation of engineers, and also see what Siemens can do to support academia. Smith said they found that some things are needed, such as “systems engineering, cost management, ideation—[these] things that aren’t as easily baked into today’s curricula and that students may not get exposure to unless they’re doing a project. It was helpful to us to see where we needed to provide opportunities for schools.”
Smith said Siemens works often with developing countries where they may not have a base of customers, but they are trying to upscale the ability of the students and the region to get more manufacturing into the region. Project experience is something that is deemed as vital experience, and Siemens works with seniors on their capstone projects, getting directly engaged in suggesting the types of projects they might go do.
The company also has an internship program and is a big proponent in the competitions available to students.
“It comes back to the real-world opportunities and real-world competitions, so they get to see and interact with those manufacturers, and see what is available to them,” Smith said. “We can see what’s on the horizon, looking at the digitalization, [and we] can start to have that dialogue and keep them engaged and keep going for their engineering degree.”
WEF’s Young Professionals
One side of the pumps industry that is tuning into a younger generation is in water quality and wastewater where the Water Environment Federation has a network of young professionals as part of each membership association.
Megan Livak, WEF’s students and young professionals manager, closed applications in November for the 2019 Springboard program, which brings young professionals to the midyear program (held Feb. 6-9 in Atlanta), to help develop programming for WEFTEC in the fall. Livak said Springboard is a chance for these young professionals to get more involved with WEFTEC and the technical committees within WEF, with all expenses paid.
“We bring them in, engage them, and keep them engaged and then push them out into the rest of WEF,” Livak said.
They have seen young go on to serve roles in WEF and have had them take on roles in their membership association as well. Members of the young professionals group are generally 35 years old and younger with about five years of experience in the industry. One fun event they help organize every year is called Waterpalooza. This takes place on the Friday before WEFTEC and the young professionals go to a local elementary school and teach them about importance of water and how to be good water.
The group also does a community service project the Saturday before WEFTEC. Last year in New Orleans, the team built a bioswale at the community center in the city. They transformed a 1,400-square-foot planter box into a bioswale, planting native plants and taking about 9,000 gallons of water out of the sewer system, Livak said.
“It’s a good way to give YPs exposure,” she said about the community service project. “They’re front and center on project management, dealing with city officials.”
WEF introduced a new program at WEFTEC last year—InFLOW, which stands for Introducing Future Leaders to Opportunities in Water. Morgan Brown, WEF’s manager, technical programs, Water Science & Engineering Center, said the program is designed to get underserved and underrepresented minority students involved in WEFTEC and learn about the opportunities they have in the water sector.
“We’re dealing with an aging workforce and we need to get younger people involved in our industry and increase diversity in our industry,” Brown said.
Last year’s InFLOW consisted of 16 students from three schools: Tuskegee University, Howard University and University of South Florida. Brown said WEF worked with the engineering schools at Howard and USF, and with Howard President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, to get the students involved. While at WEFTEC, the 16 students participated in Waterpalooza and the community service project, attended the student design competition and worked with the student committee meeting and walked the exhibit floor during the trade show.
“We think it was a success, especially for our first year, being able to bring 16 students,” Brown said. “We were excited to see the students interacting with everyone and everyone was excited to see the students there. “A lot of the students for the most part didn’t even know about opportunities in water. They’re civil and environmental students…It was a whole new world for them, and it’s something that’s important to our everyday life.”
Being Proactive Paves Way for Success
It is clear from the results of the Tech-Clarity study, and from the companies and organizations in the industry, that the skills gap certainly poses a challenge. But it is not insurmountable. Whether getting young professionals involved, educating college students of the industry’s opportunities and providing an exciting, beneficial work environment, solutions are there for the taking. Mersino president and CEO Gino Mersino said his company has recently changed their approach to attracting the right employees.
“We have also found that it is very important for our company to be self-reliant with respect to employee development. There simply isn’t a large pool of trained labor out there to pull from, so our company has found it important to recruit people based upon core value alignment, with the intention of providing them the education and tools to succeed in a growing marketplace in our industry,” Mersino said. “Lastly, it is paramount for us to do all that we can to retain that talent once we have put them on a path for success, and this challenge requires solutions beyond simple compensation advancements. I suppose, as it always has been, it is about the people, the team and the larger culture you develop.
“People are your greatest asset,” he said. “I used to pay lip service to this axiom. I understand now, better than at any other point in my life, that this is more than a simple saying. It is an absolute maxim.”