PSU alumni and students discuss the next wave of engineers

Portland State Alumni Association partnered with the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science to host the first panel of the four-part series Planning for the Next Wave of Engineers Thursday, Feb. 22, at Bridgeport Brewery in Northwest Portland.

Engineering industry professionals and Portland State Career Services discussed diversity and entrepreneurship in the tech industry, as well as what employers look for in people entering the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields.

Panelists said they regarded increased employment competition in STEM fields as a positive change because recruiters view millennials as being more efficient with time. “The current workforce is aging,” said Principal Engineer at City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services Scott Gibson. “I see plenty of new opportunities opening up for recent graduates.”

Job candidates should expect to continue learning on-the-job, according to Staffing and University Manager of Electro Scientific Industries Patty Nelson. This is particularly important, Nelson added, because new technology becomes obsolete within 12–18 months, according to a 2013 Forbes report. “The most important factor in a potentially successful candidate is the passion for learning,” Nelson said. “That is the only way to cope up with the accelerated pace of changes.”

The audience also questioned panelists about diversity in the tech field, which stirred mixed responses from the panelists. According to some, women and people of color should be given more weight while recruiting. For others, the availability of enough people with required skill sets could concern employers.

“We do support diversity and recognize its importance,” said CEO of Simplexity Product Development Inc. Dorota Shortell. “But we also make sure we do not compromise meritocracy for the sake of diversity.”

The panel discussion went on to discuss the future trends in general STEM education and careers. Tektronix Mechanical Engineer Brandon Gould explained the industry is updating the STEM acronym to STEEM by adding entrepreneurship. According to Gould, more and more companies encourage current employees as well as student workers to take ownership and build their dream projects.

Additionally, Gould added, candidates also need to work well with others. “It is not just about the hard skills,” Gould said. “An ideal candidate should be humble to work in a collaborative environment. You have to win as a team.”