A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Future Is Bright for Mason Engineering Students

By Jason Jacks on February 22, 2012

While other students facing the last few months of their college careers are simultaneously hitting the books and sending out resumes, systems engineering major and senior Daniel Hettema already has a big item checked off his worry list: a job.

That’s because Hettema, like some others at Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering, had his job lined up well in advance of collecting his diploma.

“I’ve been working at a company part-time for a couple of semesters, and will go full-time after I graduate,” he says excitedly of the company he works for in Manassas, Virginia.

Almost 30 employers had booths at the Volgenau School of Engineering’s annual Engineers Day.

Like all industries, the many subsets that make up the field of engineering—bio, computer, electrical, mechanical, to name a few—struggled, albeit not as much as others, to gain jobs during the recent recession. However, things do look promising for the future.

According to U.S. Department of Labor, computer science jobs are expected to grow by at least 4 percent over the next decade. Electrical engineering jobs are expected to increase by 2 percent. Meanwhile, the biggest jumps are projected for the civil, environmental, and bioengineering fields, which could see percentage gains of 24, 31, and a whopping 72 percent, respectively.

“[The engineering industry] has more jobs than we have students,” says Lloyd Griffiths, Volgenau’s dean. “And they are not just pursuing our graduates. We have juniors with jobs—part-time—and they transition to full-time after they graduate.”

Asked if engineering, particularly in the Washington, D.C., region, is one of the few industries that is recession proof, Griffiths was quick to answer. “Absolutely,” he says, “especially in this area where there is such a high demand for IT professionals.”

To further improve its students’ chances of finding work after leaving Mason, Volgenau has programs in place that introduce prospective employers to its students.

Mason students meet potential employers at Engineers Day in Dewberry Hall. Photo by Alexis Glenn.

One of those is the school’s corporate partnership program, where member companies are given special access to Volgenau facilities, faculty, and students. Linda Kovac, director of corporate relations for Volgenau, says her office receives phone calls and e-mails “daily” from corporate sponsors seeking talented recruits.

“We do match-making throughout the year for the 32 companies in the program,” explains Kovac. “Although we are not a career services office, per se, we get to know the company cultures and many of our top students and connect them together in a variety of ways.”

Included in those ways is Engineers Day, the school’s annual career fair, which attracts companies from throughout the Washington, D.C., region, including private companies and government and military agencies

The most recent Engineers Day was on February 2 at the Johnson Center on Mason’s Fairfax Campus. Of the companies and government agencies that sent recruiters was CSC, a Falls Church, Virginia-based company that provides technology-enabled business solutions and services to other companies. It has nearly 100,000 employees worldwide and more than $16 billion in reported revenue.

“The overall market for IT specialists and engineers is very good,” says Gary M. Gerber, senior manager for university relations at CSC, which is a corporate sponsor of Volgenau.

CSC had one of the larger booths at Engineers Day; and one of the busiest, as it appeared to have a constant stream of job seekers stopping by.

“Bottom line for CSC,” adds Gerber, “is that we plan to hire many IT specialists and engineers from Mason.”

Among the job seekers at Engineers Day was Kofi Amanin Jr., a senior majoring in computer science and minoring in software engineering. He’s also president of the Mason chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, a position, he says, that has its job-seeking benefits, since, according to him, companies seek out student group members for potential employees.

“As far as I know the job market is looking good for computer science majors all of the time,” he says. “This is why I chose to pursue this degree in the first place. It seemed to be a good economical move for myself and for my future family.”

Computer science PhD student Keith Sullivan was also at Engineers Days to discuss RoboPatriots, a team of Mason students that builds robots to compete in soccer-style tournaments. He’s eyeing a career in academics after he finishes his dissertation. But knowing that university jobs are difficult to come by, he is also open to positions in other industries, like defense and defense contracting.

“There are still a lot of opportunities out there,” he says.

Standing nearby was Hettema, talking with another student about systems engineering, which focuses on how large and complex engineering projects should be designed and organized. The son of an electrical engineer, Hettema says his education is preparing him to work on “big-picture projects,” such as traffic management. Excited that he has a full-time job already waiting for me after graduation, he sees nothing but fruitful futures for those leaving Mason with a degree in engineering.

“I think the job prospects [for engineers] are really good,” he says while looking out over Dewberry Hall crowded with students and recruiters. “Just look at all the companies that are here!”

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