New NCSEA Survey Promoting Stronger Connections Among Structural Engineers

Structural engineers mostly take rightful pride in their skills and the importance of what they do. In other respects, however, job satisfaction can be uneven within the field, without much opportunity for engineers to address questions of professional engagement, mentorship, compensation or equity. The Structural Engineering, Engagement, and Equity (SE3) survey, sponsored by NCSEA, is an attempt to remedy this shortcoming. In the following post, Annie Kao, a structural engineer with Simpson Strong-Tie, gives an overview of this development. 

Second Biennial Survey on Engagement and Equity in Structural Engineering Open Through May 2018

As a field engineer with Simpson Strong-Tie, I have the opportunity to visit engineering firms, building departments and jobsites across the country, and I get to talk to folks at firms of all sizes — from sole proprietorships to those with dozens of offices. The size of the firms doesn’t seem to matter, though, when I ask them about their business challenges. Everyone seems to agree that it’s hard to find and hire the right people, to justify their fees to clients and to develop their employees and keep them motivated. Most people I visit don’t interact a lot with other structural engineering offices, so there’s not a lot of opportunity to share best practices regarding these topics. The regional SEAs (structural engineering associations) are one great place to share technical and business practices, but time and distance restraints may make it difficult for folks to regularly attend the meetings. So how can we take advantage of the immense collective knowledge of the structural engineering community?

The National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA) is taking a big step towards creating a benchmark for the profession by conducting a nationwide survey of structural engineering professionals. This survey will provide valuable information about our profession regarding demographics, compensation, satisfaction and engagement. It will constitute one of the largest comprehensive nationwide surveys of structural engineering professionals to date, and widespread participation from structural engineers around the country will be vital to its success. The goal of the project is to strengthen and grow the community of structural engineering professionals. There are webinar slides available that help explain the concept in further detail.

So where did this survey come from? In 2015, the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California (SEAONC) funded a committee to study engagement and equity in the structural engineering profession, which came to be known as the SE3 committee. In 2016, this group administered their first national survey of over 2,100 structural engineering professionals. Findings from this study included information and insights into why engineers leave the profession, the importance of mentorship, and the existence of a nuanced gender pay gap. A list of best practices was developed based on these findings, all of which can be found in the 2016 SE3 Survey Report.

In mid-2017, the NCSEA SE3 Committee was created at the national level with the primary goal of administering a similar nationwide study of structural engineering professionals every two years. This biennial survey will focus on measuring professional engagement and equity, with the goal of providing data and best practices that can help ensure that every structural engineering professional has a positive experience within the profession.
Topics addressed in the survey will include career advancement, compensation, and work-life balance, and a biennial report will be issued to document the findings from each survey and recommend best practices based on the findings. Additionally, the NCSEA SE3 Committee promotes in the creation of local SE3 groups for SEA member organizations to foster the mission of SE3 in their communities.

The survey is open now through the end of May 2018. I hope you will join me in participating and in helping to grow and nurture the structural engineering community!

Want to learn more about The SE3 Project? Check out the video below:

Annie Kao

Author: Annie Kao

Annie Kao, PE is a senior field engineer for Simpson Strong-Tie, where she connects and educates engineers, architects, building officials, and contractors on design and product solutions for wood, concrete, steel, and masonry construction in the Southwest region of the US. Prior to joining Simpson Strong-Tie in 2006, she worked as a project engineer on commercial and multi-family projects for a structural engineering consulting firm in Irvine, CA. She is currently serving as co-chair for the 2016 SEAOSC Summit, an annual event to promote building resiliency in Southern California. She is a registered PE in California and earned her BS from Harvey Mudd College and MS from UC Berkeley.