The Palm Beaches Branch of FSEA was inaugurated early this year, and within it a new kind of Young Members (YM) Group was developed. Now 10 months since its establishment, the FSEA Palm Beaches YM Group has built a solid member base, and has branched out to create a peer network for structural engineer interns, as well as a new FSEA chapter at Florida Atlantic University. Its membership is comprised mostly of E.I.s and students, but meeting attendees also include some recent P.E.s, as well as established P.E.s who are interested in the discussion topics of the meeting, hearing new perspectives, and providing guidance to their younger counterparts. By providing a meeting place outside of work or school where everyone can share experiences and advice, participants are able to return to the nature of why they were interested in becoming structural engineers in the first place — their passion. Discussions initiated without the pressure of the workplace allow the YM meetings to generate a room full of intense thought and contagious conversations.

The goal of the YM group is to provide a community for young structural engineers to interact with their peers while also providing events that will fill the gap between schooling and licensed practice. That space was once filled by the four years that E.I.s work before qualifying for their P.E. Exam. However, due to the lack of employment prospects for entry-level structural engineers, young engineers now have fewer opportunities to learn from a mentor. Those E.I.s who are able to secure jobs are therefore reluctant, although required, to show their design weaknesses to their employers. This creates a lag in the formative E.I. years, as well as dangerous practices, as young engineers are hesitant to admit what they still need to learn on the job. When E.I.s are cautious to ask their employers for help, they need to have an alternative venue for this development to take place; the FSEA YM monthly discussion meetings and presentations do just that. Even those with steady, secure employment can benefit from the interactive discussions that our meetings offer.

Since holding its first meeting in February, the FSEA Palm Beaches YM (FSEA PB YM) Group has developed into monthly discussion meetings, monthly P.E. teach-in presentations, community service opportunities, networking events with local structural P.E.s and other organizations, and a group atmosphere that promotes learning, camaraderie, and respect within the structural engineering profession. We have an average of 15 attendees at each meeting; and we have created what has been dubbed the “YM Workforce,” a group of those members who regularly attend the YM meetings and are looking for work. We continue to attract new members and we have developed a reputation as a source for exceptional employees, due to how dedicated our members have become.

The benefits of a YM Group for young structural engineers and the structural industry as a whole are numerous. These benefits will produce more competent and capable young engineers entering the workforce.

  • A venue is provided for young structural engineers to meet, advise, network, and grow together.
  • A productive transition from the community of the university setting to the individuality and confidence of the licensed engineer is made possible.
  • Confidence and experience are infused among members, to assist those who feel like they are coming into their careers at a difficult time.
  • The meetings are held in a discussion format, allowing the more experienced E.I.s and P.E.s to hone their design understanding and presentation skills as they instruct the younger E.I.s and students.
  • Out of work YMs gain experience and knowledge that will give them an edge at their next job interview.
  • YMs working in civil disciplines can maintain their structural connections and code knowledge while waiting for the economy to improve, and YMs employed in structural engineering firms can grow in design knowledge while reducing the time required by their employers to teach such designs.
  • Members in all stages of their careers are able to take part in refreshing and interesting discussions and presentations, either as attendees or volunteer presenters.
FSEA Palm Beach Youth Members Group coordinators. From left, Eric Trillas, Claire Etienne, Troy Bishop, Heather Anesta, Youry Demosthenes, Tricia Fitzgerald, and Chen Leow.

As the economy improves, I expect that the FSEA PB YM Group will grow exponentially. I highly encourage other NCSEA member organizations to start YM groups of their own, and to allow their members to take part in refreshing and interesting discussions and presentations. The YM group relies on the input and guidance of its members, as well as the local structural P.E.s who volunteer for the monthly P.E. teach-ins. I would like to personally thank the FSEA State Board, the FSEA Palm Beach and South Florida Board of Directors, all volunteer P.E. teach-in presenters, my employer, C3TS, for encouraging me to grow as much as I can, and the FSEA PB YM coordinators, Troy Bishop, Youry Demosthenes, Claire Etienne, Tricia Fitzgerald, Diana Serrano, Eric Trillas, Chen Leow, and Henry Rand for their ideas and efforts that help the group provide all of its services.

Heather Anesta, E.I., M.S., LEEP AP, works at Corzo Castella Carballo Thompson Salman (C3TS) as a structural engineer intern. Anesta graduated from Florida State University in December 2007, and acquired her master’s degree from Florida Atlantic University in December 2010. She will be sitting for the PE Exam in April 2012. In January 2011 she founded the FSEA Palm Beaches Young Members Group, which has helped obtain and maintain employment for its members by providing events that strengthen their confidence and rsums. Contact her at H_Anesta@me.com.

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