Engineering professor Bethany Brinkman shares current job market trends

Engineering lab
Professor Bethany Brinkman (center) helps students in the engineering lab

Engineering professor Bethany Brinkman joined colleagues from across the country to share their thoughts on current trends in the job market for those holding an engineering degree. The Q&A article, which was published on the career website Zippia, answers questions ranging from the impact of the coronavirus to how technology will change the field over the next five years.

Here are Bethany’s insights (read the full article):

Will there be an enduring impact of the coronavirus pandemic on graduates?

I would anticipate that graduating into an uncertain political and social climate with high unemployment will affect current engineering graduates for a while. It will take time for companies to adjust to new product and personnel demands, and hiring and promotion opportunities, during that time, will likely be slow.

Are there any particularly good places in the United States for graduates to find work opportunities in this field after they graduate?

Historically, many of our graduates have gone to work for larger companies or government sub-contractors; however, during the pandemic, we saw many of these opportunities disappear due to hiring freezes or program reductions. Smaller, local companies stepped up and were more flexible in their hiring practices, so they could provide socially distant internships and employment. I think this is where Sweet Briar’s general engineering degree is very helpful – our students have a broad base of knowledge, can adapt quickly, and communicate well, so they thrive in challenging circumstances.

How do you envision technology impacting this field in the next 5 years?

From a teaching standpoint, I would imagine that remote teaching technologies will continue to be integrated more into classroom learning. While hands-on learning is essential for engineering, a balance with remote teaching can provide additional experiences and resources. It was interesting to note how some students felt more comfortable participating in a remotely-led class – the introduction of an intermediate computer screen allowed them to feel more comfortable asking questions.

At Sweet Briar, we take pride in our small class sizes, and interactive curriculum, and these will not change, but I envision a greater use of technology to work closely with other schools and design clients. We have done this for clients in Brazil in our sophomore design class, Engineering Design in the Community, for many years, but the increase in technological acceptance will emphasize that even undergraduate engineers from rural Virginia can have a large impact on clients around the world. There are lots of implications for future engineering designs, too! How can engineering graduates create technologies that can be employed by a socially distant workforce? How can networks be strengthened to support an increasingly non-centralized society?