The Engineering Career Center expands to offer more tools, services to connect students and their potential employers
Almost 90 companies and scores of students attended annual Career Fair held by the Cullen College of Engineering’s Engineering Career Center on Feb. 20.
The event featured companies from a multitude of industries, including petroleum, construction, computing and many more, meeting and interviewing students for full-time employment, internships and other positions
While the event itself was a success, it was also one of the first times since December that the Career Center put students together with potential employers.
While that may seem odd for an office dedicated to helping students find jobs, it actually makes perfect sense: At the end of the fall semester, every Cullen College of Engineering student who had contacted the Career Center and was eligible to work in the United States has found a position, either as a fulltime employee or intern.
“I was out of students,” said Vita Como, the center’s director. “When I spoke to students at the time, they said they had three and four offers and don’t want to interview any more.”
With the new semester, more students have contacted the career center about finding work and, according to Como, there is more than enough demand in the marketplace for engineering students.
The Demand for Engineering Students
Much of this demand for students is due to the overall shortage of engineers combined with the booming petroleum industry, which is one of the area’s largest employers of technical professionals. Many other students, Como said, have been hired to help companies establish on-site electrical systems for their major operations.
Of course, the skills and attributes of the students themselves are the primary reason for early success in the job market. According to Como, companies seek out CCOE students because they quickly become productive employees working billable hours.
Part of the reason for this, Como speculated, is because many of the college’s students are the first in their families to earn a college degree, work their way through college, or both. These circumstances lead make the college’s students very likely to take full advantage of the opportunities presented to them, she said.
In addition, the college’s diversity, said Como, give students valuable experience in working with individuals from other cultures—a notable asset for professionals in an increasingly globalized economy. “They’re so used to a diverse environment that it’s practically invisible to them,” she said.
The Engineering Career Center Expands Its Operations
Despite these skills and the high demand for engineers, for the college’s supply of graduates to be thoroughly depleted months before graduation is not just a random occurrence. Much of the credit for the early success of CCOE students in the professional world lies with the Engineering Career Center itself, which in recent months has invested considerable time and energy into serving students and companies better.
Some of these efforts have been rather simple, yet very effective. The ECC, for example, has recently extended its office its hours and is now open until 7:00 p.m. from Monday through Thursday.
The change was made, said Como, in order to better serve the college’s students who work during the day and attend class in the evening.
“When we closed at 5:00 p.m., there were a lot of students who were never able to meet with us,” she said. “With our extended hours, we’re able to work with these students and help them connect with companies that are hiring.”
Other ECC initiatives are more involved and have taken months to develop. One of these has been the growth in the number of companies that recruit students from the college. That figure has tripled in recent years to approximately 150 firms, Como said, and has helped create a strong demand in the job market for the college’s students.
This expansion will also make it easier for the college’s graduates to weather the ups and downs of the market, said Como. In previous years, just a few companies would be responsible for a large percentage of the college’s hires. When one of these companies was not in a hiring mode, however, it became considerably more difficult for CCOE graduates to find a job. Now, with a wider base of potential employers, the situation of any one company will not dramatically impact the prospects of the college’s students.
In addition to expanding its employer base, the ECC has re-launched its website with a new look and more tools for students and potential employers.
The most important addition to the site, which launched with full functionality at the beginning of the year, is a new section dubbed e-Connection. The section allows students to upload their personal information and resumes, search for employers that are hiring in their discipline, and arrange interview times with companies that are visiting the college’s campus.
At the same time, said Como, the site offers the companies themselves more functionality. Firms can search for potential employees using specific criteria, such as grade point average, prior work experience, and membership in industry organizations, as well as use the site to request interviews with students.
While e-Connection does allow the site’s users to perform more tasks on their own, Como stressed that the Career Center will continue to strive to provide person-to-person service, often with the help of e-Connection itself.
“This new system lets us know when a company is online and having trouble. I can pick up the phone, call them and offer them help,” said Como.
While such personalized service may be unusual in a period when people and companies are expected to do more and more on their own, it’s now standard practice at the ECC.
“Our job is to find the best matches between our students and the companies that we work with,” said Como. “If that means staying open a few extra hours, completely remaking our website or forming partnerships with companies across the country, that’s what we’re going to do.”