Wednesday, April 9, 2014

University of New Orleans COE Students Engineer State-of-the-Art Job Fair

Engineers are known for their abilities to quickly assess situations and problems, develop plans, create networks and build superior systems that will last. On Monday, a team of able engineering students put those skills into action at the University of New Orleans College of Engineering — unveiling a top-notch student-organized and student-run job fair that demonstrated state-of-the-art coordination.

"The goal of this job fair is to re-establish relationships between the UNO College of Engineering and engineering employers in the greater metropolitan area," said Patrick Deaton, a civil engineer and chief organizer of the fair. "The event is entirely student-run and the College administration is supporting and encouraging the process."

Student organizations of the UNO College of Engineering — American Association of Drilling Engineers student section; Engineers without Borders; the American Society of Civil Engineers; the Society of Women Engineers; the National Society of Black Engineers; the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers; the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers — helped coordinate Monday's College of Engineering Career Fair, which featured visitors from 33 hiring organizations.

The fair was open to all UNO engineering students. Participating companies all indicated that they are interested in hiring engineering interns and new graduates.

The event took two months of planning, and brought new ideas and participants as late as last week, organizers said.

"What these students have done is remarkable," said Norm Whitley, dean of the College of Engineering.

A Novel Introduction

More than 20 percent of the engineering student population registered for the event in three days, said civil engineer Bradley Deaton, who created a database online and launched it Friday morning. By Monday, more than 250 students and 100 volunteers had pre-registered using a free software system the aspiring engineers had connected to a database they used to create spreadsheets and track all event activities.

Participating students used their smartphones to check-in, snapping a QR code that brought up an event schedule and event maps on their devices. The same software system allowed engineers to track availability and participation of volunteers, as well as monitor arrival times and number of check-ins and track "rush hours" and peak periods.

The system will allow the engineers to improve the stellar event for next year, Deaton said. It will also allow them to target specific audiences and program curriculums, assess interests and needs and create recommendations that the College of Engineering will be able to use long after they graduate.

Danton, who is vice president for the UNO chapter of the American Association of Drilling Engineers and a former senator for College of Engineering, co-chaired the event with Deaton, who is treasurer both the Engineers without Borders and the American Association of Drilling Engineers UNO chapters. The fair started with a plan to invite petroleum engineers to campus, then quickly grew as they began to work together with fellow student organizations and their national sponsors.

Participating companies said the event was seamless, allowing them easy check-in and set-up too. Visiting companies introduced themselves with large-scale poster presentations, traditional brochures and computer presentations.

"Initially, (the job fair) was for us as students to get as many job opportunities as possible before graduation," said Danton. "But now it's transitioning into restructuring the relationships of the University with industry."

Opportunities for Everyone

Aspiring naval architect Miguel Tovar beelined straight for a table hosted by Bollinger Shipyards, Inc.

Tovar, a rising senior, spent last summer living in trailers and working at North American Shipyards in LaRose, La., and was hoping to secure another paid internship that would help him to advance his skills.

"This is the last internship opportunity I can have because next year I will be graduating," said Tovar, who had recently updated his resume for the event. "I would like to have a full-time job by this time next year."

Tovar spent his last internship drafting plans and drawings for layout, construction and assembly of structural and mechanical features of vessels, skills he will need in his future career. He was pleased to find that he was well-prepared for the position and at the same time learned "a lot," he said. Not only did he gain new vision and develop his skills, he found valuable professional relationships in a close-knit community.

"I'm more than happy to be studying at UNO and the preparation they give you is related to what you do," said Tovar. "Structures, Stability, all the classes we take at UNO, one way or another, we do use them."

Hiring organizations said they viewed the job fair as an opportunity to feel out potential co-workers, a "try-it-before you-buy-it kind of thing," said Mark Buchert, who hosted a table for RSC Corporation with fellow UNO alumnus Eric Buras. The electrical engineers, who graduated from UNO's College of Engineering in 1985, said that they were looking for electrical engineers to help develop software programming.

A strong alumni presence was felt at the fair. Waldemar S. Nelson and Company, Inc. employs more than 70 College of Engineering alumni, said Brandon Payne, a mechanical engineer and event organizer.

"For me, it was an exciting opportunity," said UNO alumna Daisy Pate, a project geologist at Terracon, a consulting engineering firm with more than 140 offices nationwide, including one in New Orleans. "I specifically came here personally because I am looking to hire interns. For me, it was an exciting opportunity."

Pate said she considered meetings with students to be "mini-interviews," allowing time for employers to "get a feel for someone without all the resource and time demands."

Within one hour, Pate had collected 15 resumes. The majority of her work is focused on testing the soils during construction for new levees, she said. She also does environmental work that requires testing soils for contaminants and submissions to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. Jobs in her field require training and certification.

"The investment I'm going to put into training someone is significant," she said, explaining that internships are a great testing ground for both parties.


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