I attended the IEEE PES PSCE 2009 (that’s the International Electric and Electronic Engineers Power & Energy Society Power Systems Conference & Exposition 2009 – yikes!) last week in Seattle, WA. I had a great time talking with various engineers and looking for possible job opportunities.
I attended a panel session concerning University & Industry Cooperation where the primary concern seemed to be a lack of Power Engineering graduates in the USA. There was some discussion on the industry side about creating more interest in the field to encourage students to get PE degrees; the University professors responded that there was plenty of interest but many students were intimidated by the calculus classes and changed majors at that point.
I think the Power Engineering Companies are just looking in the wrong place. Why not look for students who have completed applied math degrees? I am finishing up my MS in Math Modeling. Coupled with my BSCE, I can design and then code complex algorithms with ease. A PE graduate will still need months of on-the-job training. I bet I can learn the job nearly as quickly as a PE student. Perhaps not as fast but when the PE student’s learning curve tapers off, mine will keep going. I can surpass the basic level material and quickly progress onward without having to take extra math classes in stochastics, etc.
In addition to math students like myself, there are a whole host of fledgling programs out there in some form of renewable energy. At Humboldt State University, it’s called Environmental Resource Engineering (ERE) and the people that finish their MS degrees in ERE are already building small power systems – solar, micro-hydro, wind, etc. They have to take engineering math courses and many of them are involved in undergraduate research projects on power efficiency, hydrogen fuel cells, and more.
So my message to power companies is to look outside the box. There are plenty of graduates available for you. You’re just missing them because they don’t have the PE label on them. I am one of them but I’m aware of the situation so I’ll be working for one of you soon.