By Chelsea Yates
September 18, 2017
A collaboration between the UW Career & Internship Center and the College of Engineering, the Career Center @ Engineering connects engineering students and employers.
UW students attend a career fair organized by the Career Center @ Engineering.
Thanks to the Career Center @ Engineering (CC@E), mechanical engineering senior Katherine Chun spent her summer developing satellite technology through an internship at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.
Chun learned about CC@E shortly after it opened in September 2015 as she was planning a networking event for the UW’s ASME chapter. Impressed by the CC@E staff’s attentiveness and warmth, she decided to seek their help for internships.
"The Center seemed to understand what engineering employers want and was equipped and excited to help me land an internship that would be a great fit," she explained.
She worked with Center staff at nearly every stage of the process: understanding how to initiate conversations with recruiters, polishing her cover letter, navigating intimidating online applications and honing in-person interview skills.
"I wasn’t taught these skills in my engineering classes, so the Center really filled a void," she said.
CC@E serves everyone from new undergraduates looking for professional experiences to help them choose an engineering major to active job-seekers to graduate students and alumni. It also functions as an entry point for employers seeking to hire engineering professionals.
"The College of Engineering is naturally suited as a hub to connect potential employers to future engineers," said CC@E’s director Gail Cornelius, a degreed engineer who worked at The Boeing Company for almost 18 years before opening the Center. "As the demand for engineers grows in Washington and beyond, the Center wants to be in the forefront of connecting employers with students."
Supporting student career development
A collaboration between the UW Career & Internship Center and the College of Engineering, CC@E offers a full range of career services: honing resume-writing and interviewing skills that are put to the test during career fairs and recruiting events, connecting students with internship or job opportunities, offering guidance on everything from salary negotiation to networking and using social media effectively.
"It’s never too early for students to start exploring career options, and we tailor our services to individual students’ needs," said Cornelius.
Internships are an important way for students to discern what kind of corporate culture they’re comfortable working in, or whether they really are attracted to the work that a chemical or civil engineer does. CC@E helps students identify such opportunities, as well as how to get credits that fit into their academic and professional trajectory.
This is something that Chun can attest to. "Along with receiving guidance on opportunities specifically relevant to me as an engineering student, like my NASA internship, I’m learning how important it is to think about personal career development in a broader sense," she said.
A "one-stop shop" for employers
In addition to supporting students, CC@E collaborates with companies to develop individualized campus recruiting strategies. The Center assists employers who may be hiring across a range of disciplines — materials or electrical engineers, students with expertise in construction, bioengineering, manufacturing or aerospace — by offering a single point of contact to reach all of the UW’s 10 engineering units, as well as corporate and foundation relations representatives.
"If a company wants four different kinds of majors, they can come to the Center and easily access any and all talent," Cornelius explained. "We are the 'one-stop shop' at the College of Engineering for corporate employment and internships."
The Center aims to make it easier for local employers to gain access to UW students who can fill that talent pipeline.
"Engineers are critical to the economy, and I’ve come to rely on Gail and her team to provide guidance on how best to reach UW students," said Brad Stevenson, a Boeing recruiter who hires for internships and entry-level positions company-wide.
"The Center has helped us with everything from finding space on campus for information sessions and interviews to identifying broader recruiting strategies to fill roles," he added. "It's great knowing we have a partner on campus who understands and can speak to our hiring needs."
CC@E staff are especially interested in helping employers broaden their scope when considering how to hire. "If recruiters come to us interested in hiring, say, electrical engineering majors, but we know of HCDE or industrial engineering students who have the desired characteristics, we’ll make the connection," said Cornelius.
Majors don’t always define careers, and we’re happy to facilitate conversations with employers to determine what skills are necessary for that next-generation workforce they’re looking to fill," she added.
Since opening its doors two years ago, CC@E has reported positive impact in student and employer engagement. In its first year, Center staff assisted more than 2,200 engineering students and reported a 15% increase in traffic in its second year.
Last year alone, the Center hosted more than 500 employers to recruit and interview students, lead information sessions and participate in career fairs. Additionally, more than 700 job and internship interviews took place on campus with engineering students.
Though these numbers may seem impressive, Cornelius is eager to increase them. "UW Engineering’s new Direct-to-College admissions process will give us more opportunities to work with students from the time they start at UW, which is important because students should be thinking about career development as early as possible," she said.
While CC@E currently touches about 35% of the engineering student body, she wants to increase this number to over 50% in the next two years.
"Professional development is as important to future engineers as their academic excellence," Cornelius said. "The more we can do to help the UW Engineering community understand this, the better." CC@E is committed to meeting the needs of students on a one-on-one basis, something that has already had a big impact on many future engineers, like Chun.
"Working with the Center has completely changed my outlook on job-searching," she said. "Instead of being intimidated by it, I feel prepared and excited."