Chief engineer Steve Hutchinson knows there is a tsunami building on the distant horizon – a time within about a decade when a major retirement wave will reach ITD shores. The department needs to aggressively recruit, retain and prepare qualified engineers today to fill the anticipated retirement void.
ITD has a longstanding commitment to grow its own professional workforce by providing opportunities for cross training and experience-based promotions.
Loren Thomas, a former district engineer who has advanced to assistant chief engineer after holding a number of Headquarters positions, has seen both sides. He knows the benefits of progressing through positions at the district and Headquarters levels. And he is one of the engineers who will ride that approaching retirement wave.
Five of the six district engineers are separated by about five years of age or less. That represents a significant loss of experience for the department. The time to prepare replacements is now, he insists.
Historically, ITD has promoted internal advancement by moving engineer managers and technical engineers through positions in the districts and providing experience at Headquarters.
“Our preference has always been to promote engineers from within to fill vacancies, and go outside the department only as a last resort,” Hutchinson says. “We want to develop a strong pool of qualified engineers within the department. We need engineers who have a healthy combination of experience at the districts and at Headquarters.
“That adds a statewide perspective to their experience, building on the experiences they accumulate within the districts. It provides breadth as well as depth,” Hutchinson explains.
In the past, advancement required exposure to both environments. But in recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to find individuals who are willing to uproot families through a succession of moves to advance their careers. Engineers today are more place-bound, which stimulates depth at the expense of breadth.
The recent round of promotions (District 3 interviewed for and filled both of its assistant engineers positions at the same time last month) has left a gap that waits to be filled.
District Engineer Eric Shannon scanned the available pool of engineers and reached to District 2 to fill one of the positions. He is a firm believer in internal promotions of qualified candidates.
There just aren’t a lot of candidates who have the broad range of experience.
The answer, according to Thomas, is to find Engineer Manager 1s and Technical Engineer IIs (which are essentially the same pay grade and represent similar levels of experience) interested in expanding their expertise.
“We want to provide an avenue that enables employees to get the additional experience they need to compete for those vacancies,” Thomas explains. “We want to identify engineers who would be willing to gain the additional exposure by transferring among districts and into Headquarters positions.”
Renewed emphasis is being placed on lateral transfers among districts and Headquarters to increase the numbers of engineers qualified to move up when opportunities surface.
At the prompting of Thomas and Shannon, the department has started reviewing the experience and training levels of engineer managers and technical engineers in hopes of developing a roster of individuals willing to expand their professional resumes.
Any Engineer Manager 1 or Technical Manager II who would like to be considered for the lateral moves is urged to contact Mary Harker in Human Resource Services to be placed on a roster.
The department may be able to help facilitate the transfers by assisting with moving expenses.