Engineering students preparing to take their sheepskin and depart into the world of change orders and service requests are finding no shortage of companies wanting to take their resumes.
The Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering at South Dakota State University organized its annual fall career fair Oct. 7, 2014, and a record 105 companies manned booths that overflowed the Volstorff Ballroom in the Student Union and took over the east hallway.
“This has got to be one of the best times I’ve seen for a graduating senior or one near graduation to be looking for an internship. This is outstanding,” according Lew Brown, dean of the college since 2001.
Grace Regan, a civil engineering major from Stillwater, Minnesota, came to the Engineering Career Fair with a full-time job offer in hand as well as plans to head to graduate school in January. “But I’m seeing what’s out here. With 105 companies, it never hurts to look around,” she said.
Cody Herman, a mechanical engineering major from Freeman, was figuratively “out knocking on doors, looking to stay local.”
The senior’s preference is for an ag-related firm, “but I’m open for anything as long as there is a challenge involved. I like solving problems.” He doesn’t expect finding a job to be a long-term challenge. “There are plenty of jobs out there. Everybody is hiring or is going to hire in the near future.”
List of job openings grows
One of the firms Herman met with was Vermeer, an ag and industrial equipment manufacturer based in Pella, Iowa, with a satellite facility in Herman’s hometown of Freeman.
Vermeer’s job listings have grown from three to seven pages in the past year, according to Andrew Neary, a paint engineer and a 2006 State graduate who headed the Joint Engineering Council when he was a senior. The council organizes the career fair, which is repeated in February.
“I’ve never seen this place so full. In my senior year, we had 63 booths and that was a record year,” Neary said.
The 105 companies represent a 23 percent increase from the record 86 companies in 2013. Previous career fairs had been attracting between 60 and 70 companies.
This year’s expo was the fifth time for Neary to represent Vermeer and the five-hour career fair definitely wasn’t a chance to catch up on emails. “I’ve had times in the past where it’s been stagnant. Today has been busy” for Neary as well as his Vermeer partner Tyler Schiferl, a ’09 State grad.
Expo draws wide student interest
More than 400 students registered for the fair, including freshmen just gaining a feel for potential employers.
The breadth of companies present at the career fair also provides students exposure to the wide variety of work available to those in the engineering, technology and math fields. “Many students enroll in the college not knowing which field to enter, but knowing they will have plenty of options if their first choice doesn’t fit them,” Brown said.
The fair drew students from all nine of the college’s majors and for the first year, architectural students were invited.
Regan said, “The College of Engineering is absolutely awesome about emailing students about the career fair; letting them know when it is, what to bring and how to be prepared.”
One of the recruiters working the Volstorff hallways was Delvin DeBoer, who retired in 2012 after 33 years on the civil engineering department faculty.
“The words I said to students as a professor are the same as I say to them as an employer. You are seeking a work environment that is mutually attractive to you and the employer, so learn the characteristics of companies and approach them in a professional manner.
“Those minutes spent with company representative at the career fair make a significant first impression,” said DeBoer, who is now in Fargo, North Dakota, with Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services.
‘It’s really competitive’
Scott Omland was at the career fair for a second year with Ottertail Power Co. of Big Stone City. The 2012 graduate went several times as a student and he has found a big difference being on the other side of the table. “It’s a little less nerve wracking,” the mechanical engineering graduate said with laugh.
Of course, for this year’s crop of senior the tension is less.
Dean Brown said, “I remember the years when students would look around hoping for one offer. Now they’ve got several offers. You ask any of these employers, they’ll tell you it’s really competitive.”
Omland agreed, “It’s a time when companies are really looking to the engineering field. Everybody is looking for good engineers.”