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ACEC’s Technology and Workforce Committees held meetings during the Council’s Annual Convention and Legislative Summit. With emerging technologies and the ongoing workforce challenge both high on Convention attendees’ priority lists, these sessions were an invaluable check-in on progress the Council has made.

More than two dozen conventiongoers were on hand for the Tech Committee meeting, which was led by Committee Chair Raj Arora of Jensen Hughes and committee liaison Thomas Grogan. Arora level-set the meeting by reiterating the purpose of the Committee: To raise awareness of the business impact of technology on ACEC member firms and advance the engineering industry, and to ensure that no firm is left behind. “We’re not here to tell anyone what to do,” said Arora. “The whole point is just to educate membership so they can make the best business decisions for their companies.”

June 2024 will mark the one-year anniversary of the Committee. Since that launch, the Committee has held numerous education sessions, both formal and informal. Perhaps even more importantly, the Committee also has conducted a number of listening sessions. From those sessions, two common themes have emerged. The first is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution on technology. What is needed – and why it is needed – varies significantly by firm size and focus. The second common theme is that workforce development is paramount. The engineering industry needs workers who know technology – and change management experts who can lead firms into adapting that technology. Said Arora: “It all comes back to talent.”

The truth of that assertion was on full display during the Workforce Committee meeting, which came on the heels of the Council’s first Workforce Summit, held in April at ACEC’s Washington headquarters. Moderated by ACEC Workforce Development Director Patrick Brady, the Committee shared with attendees their respective views on attracting the industry’s new and future workforce, retaining and developing the current workforce, and issues of public policy that impact hiring and recruitment.

From these three buckets emerged a shared priority: that engineers need to tell their story. That was a recurring theme throughout the April Summit, and it was repeated during the Committee meeting. Said Committee Co-Chair Susan Osterberg: “We need to show the difference [engineers] make in this world, and that there is purpose in what [we] do.”

Committee Chair Rodney Chester asserted that rethinking outdated college curricula needs to be a priority, namely around math requirements. Math phobia is real, and the engineering industry needs to make clear that one doesn’t need “A Beautiful Mind”-level math skills to be an engineer. “We make it look so hard,” said Vice-Chair Orhan Ulger. Chester agreed. “I had to do differential equations in school,” he said. “I never do them now.”

One of the takeaways from the DC Summit was the need for a toolkit for Member Organizations to use for their own grassroots workforce initiatives. That toolkit is a work in progress, but Chester outlined its intended use. “It’s going to be a recipe for our MOs. You can modify the recipe – add some sugar or a pinch of salt to your ‘taste’ – but the basic recipe is one that’s going to work for you,” he said. That toolkit is slated for completion and delivery in the near future.


May 30, 2024



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