The lives of virtually every man, woman and child in America
are shaped to some extent by an engineer. From the products
we use, the buildings where we work, the systems we use to
communicate, and the roads we travel, engineering is the common
Engineering is a profession that affects just about
every human being, from public health and safety to mobility,
said ITDs Chief Engineer Jim Ross.
ITD relies on engineers to monitor traffic flow, detect bridge
deficiencies, protect environmentally sensitive resources,
plan new highway routes, and design highway construction projects,
among many other critical functions.
As the observance of National Engineers Week unfolds,
Ross emphasized the importance of engineers and the dozen
individuals involved in ITDs Engineer In Training process.
The 1970s ushered in the era of the interstate highway system;
construction was rampant and demand for civil engineers soared.
Although that system has, for all practical purposes, been
completed, dont expect the demand for engineers to diminish.
Its now time to rebuild the system, and demand for new
engineers likely will remain high for the next two decades,
Demand also tends to surge following reauthorization of the
federal transportation bill. The new bill SAFETEA
may be just weeks away.
ITD has been relatively successful in recruiting and retaining
engineers, despite national trends to the contrary. The
demand is increasing, and were seeing a shortage of
civil engineers nationwide, Ross said.
A very solid Engineer In Training (EIT) program provides
a steady flow of new engineers to the department.
We have been successful in keeping EITs after they
become professional engineers. Once theyve been here
eight or 10 years, they tend to stay. They find the work interesting,
become comfortable with their career choices and like the
work environment, Ross added.
He also credits a very strong and growing mentor program
with building the kind of professional relationships necessary
to retain EITs. The program matches a trainee with a veteran
engineer who serves as a mentor/adviser and makes the four-year
journey much smoother.
The transportation department maintains a cadre of about
12 or 13 EITs, rotating into and out of the four-year program.
Late in the process, they have opportunities to identify a
specialty or career path.
ITD also encourages continued education for engineers, regularly
sending them to workshops or schools in Illinois, Indiana,
Utah and to the University of Idaho.
Its not a requirement that engineers have continuing
education to maintain their license, but it keeps you
the practicing engineer current on procedures, technology
The new leadership we have in the department is committed
to providing continued training for engineers.
Ross said designing bridges has gone through three distinct
evolutions during his tenure, and continuing education keeps
engineers current on new technologies and practices.
Engineers can choose two professional paths at the transportation
department technical or management. Both are crucial
to ITDs mission. Engineers can attain positions of Staff
Engineer, Technical Engineer 1 or Technical Engineer 2; or
on the management side, can advance from Engineer Manager
1 to Engineer Manager 2 or Engineer Manager 3 (such as district
engineers). The department also has a Chief Engineer
Jim Ross, and two Assistant Chief Engineers Steve Hutchinson
and Greg Laragan.
The transportation department has approximately 80 engineers
on the technical path, 60 in the management path and about
a dozen in training.
Engineers who aspire to those positions go through the EIT
process, learning the application of their skills. Usually
they spend three years in a district, gradually assuming more
responsibility for projects. The EIT process culminates with
a year at Headquarters, rotating through a variety of disciplines.
Individuals who complete the training program under a qualified
professional engineer (P.E.) also are eligible to take the
nationally administered comprehensive engineering exam and
seek licensure as a professional engineer.
ITD director Dave Ekern holds a Professional Engineer license.
The Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors was
established by Idaho law and administers the licensing program.
ITD and other organizations that rely on civil engineers
generally compete for the limited number of women who choose
I think youre seeing more women in the profession
and more women in the Idaho Transportation Department. There
are more women available for engineering positions. But they
are in high demand in the private sector, which makes it difficult
for us to recruit, Ross said.
Pamela Lowe is the first female in Idaho history to become
a district engineer. Women fill a number of other key engineer
positions at ITD, including: