By Kat J. McAlpine
“I’m feeling pretty optimistic about what awaits me after graduation in May,” remarked Jordan Brown, as his friends Joshua Vassell and Dominique Smith nodded in agreement. The three young men, all seniors in Mechanical Engineering, attended the School of Engineering Career Fair in hopes of connecting with prospective future employers. Dominique elaborated, “I am definitely glad to be a part of this year’s graduating class. The three of us attended last year as well, and judging by the amount of positive feedback I’ve heard today from the employers, I’d say the class of 2011 will not face the same job market that challenged previous classes.”
That upbeat message was echoed throughout the afternoon by students and employers alike. The event, held October 27th in the Rome Ballroom on UConn’s Storrs campus, attracted over 500 students and 60 companies comprising local, Connecticut employers as well as out-of-state entities. In addition, representatives from the School of Engineering Grad School and UConn Law were also available for discussion.
In spite of the current economic unrest, one of the companies in attendance has experienced a steady, rapid increase in business over the last 13 years. Started in 1997 out of New York, QuEST Global has experienced growth and expansion to over 2,000 employees around the world. QuEST’s local office in East Hartford houses over 300 personnel and – according to company representative Jessica Sullivan – is currently hiring engineers of all disciplines. QuEST provides engineering design services to Fortune 500 companies such as Connecticut-based Pratt & Whitney and Hamilton Sundstrand.
Representing the Connecticut Department of Transportation, transportation engineer Jose R. Catalan was excited to meet the newest generation of UConn engineers. He explained that ConnDOT has been working in conjunction with federal agencies to improve Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure. The projects include the improvement of highways, bus-ways and railroads along the Northeast Corridor. The Career Fair was Jose’s first time back on campus since his own graduation from UConn, earning his bachelor’s in Civil Engineering in 1999. As a member of the ROTC program, Jose served in the U.S. Army for eight years and was twice deployed overseas in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he attained the rank of Captain and served with an Attack Helicopter Battalion. “The students we meet today will be great candidates for new employment opportunities that may be generated by the transportation improvement projects along the Northeast Corridor. Of course, we also encourage both juniors and seniors to inquire about our many internship opportunities; it’s a great way for mechanical or civil engineers to build their resumes,” Jose concluded.
One student who has recognized the value of internships is Materials Science & Engineering senior Erica Marcinek, who says she has interned at United Technologies Corporation for three consecutive summers and is now looking to line up employment opportunities. Slated to graduate in December’s commencement ceremony, Erica visited the tables of UTC, General Electric and Westinghouse to find out about current employment openings. “All three companies are definitely hiring immediately,” she said. “Each representative I talked to encouraged me to post my resume directly online through their website’s career portal.” Representing a growing number of women in the field, Erica explained how participating in the UConn School of Engineering BRIDGE program helped her to succeed academically. “As a woman entering the School of Engineering, I qualified to participate the summer before my freshman year. The program is targeted toward preparing underrepresented populations, including women, for the rigorous engineering curriculum, and it definitely made a difference. I felt ready.” In addition, Erica is currently collaborating with INROADS, a global program improving corporate leadership among underrepresented members of the work force.
Many companies at the Career Fair had reassuring messages about the current state of the economy. For example, Westinghouse representatives discussed how government support of alternative energy sources has recently led to several U.S. utility companies initiating contract negotiations for nuclear power plants. The utility companies plan to take advantage of federal loan guarantees which will cover the cost of installation. Overseas, Westinghouse’s AP1000 model nuclear power station is already being installed at several locations in China; upon completion, the four plants will be the first of their kind operating in the world. General Dynamics Electric Boat representatives described how their contracts with the U.S. Navy have them constantly hiring a variety of engineers from all areas of study. As proof is Career Fair representative Peter Liaskas, an electrical engineer who graduated from UConn this past spring and was quickly recruited to Electric Boat. The company, headquartered in Groton, CT, has been tasked with the redesign of the Navy’s Virginia-class attack submarine for both affordability and life-cycle sustainability. In addition, the company is designing the Navy’s next-generation submarine, which will replace Ohio-class strategic deterrent submarines that were also designed and built by General Dynamics Electric Boat.
Also in attendance were several corporations specifically looking for computer science and electrical engineers to support software security and technological infrastructure, such as Travelers Insurance based in Hartford. “Travelers anticipates hiring many entry-level candidates within the coming year,” stated Carlos Figueroa, the company’s University Relations Director. Representatives from ESPN, headquartered in Bristol and appearing for their first time at the Career Fair, explained how the support of their extensive satellite and broadcast technologies also has them looking for computer science, electrical and mechanical engineers.
The Career Fair’s large turnout and buzz-filled air reflects an upward trend in the job market, a message that sends a positive outlook not only to UConn engineering students but also to the residents of Connecticut as well. To view details of the spring semester Career Fair, please click here.