graduate Beth Tallman works on a hydrology study in Deadhorse,
Ted Trueblood, president
of Anchorage, Alaska-based engineering firm Tryck Nyman &
Hayes Inc. has a problem: he cant hire enough young
Although the firm has only hired
two college graduates this year, Trueblood says it is "not
for lack of trying." The engineering, planning, and surveying
firm 's staff has grown by 50% over the past five years, but
it is still "somewhat constrained by the availability of qualified
new engineers," he says. "Our state university system is not
able to graduate enough engineers to meet current demand."
Tryck Nyman & Hayes Inc. is
not alone among Alaskan firms that cant hire enough
engineers. Mick McKay, manager of URS Corp.s Anchorage
office, has only been able to hire one college graduate so
far this year and is looking for more.
The get-rich-quick promise of areas
like Silicon Valley lured away many prospects, even three
years after the stock market bubble burst, forcing firms in
Alaska to scramble for qualified engineers, especially civil
engineers. In addition, the burgeoning economy of Alaska demands
a better infrastructure.
"Alaska is really a large,
underdeveloped country with enormous needs for transportation,
sanitation and other infrastructure facilities," Trueblood
says. "This situation is being addressed with more attention
in recent years, but the needs are great."
Mckay agrees. "The economy
is relatively strong in Alaska," he says. "Two major components
in the economy that are strong are military spending and military
construction. Alaska has a very small road system within the
state so rural airports and ports and harbors are an important
component of the transportation system."
The University of Alaska Anchorage
has only about 175 students in its civil engineering department,
although the program has seen a 17.5% increase in enrollment
in the last six years, according to Thomas Quimby, a professor
and chair of the civil engineering department at UAA.
Beth Tallman, 31, graduated this
May with a B.S in civil engineering from the campus and quickly
found a job in the local office of URS, a major engineer-contractor
headquartered in San Francisco. After living in Florida and
New York, Tallman moved to Anchorage where she lived for several
years before enrolling in the university's civil engineering
"I was in Las Vegas during
construction of the New York New York casino. The model and
façade were so creative and intricate, I thought, I
have got to learn how to do this,'" says Tallman. "So I came
back to Anchorage and promptly enrolled in the Architectural
and Engineering Technology Program, a two-year drafting certificate."
While pursuing the certificate, Tallman interviewed a local
architect and learned of his challenges altering a building
design to accommodate necessary seismic reinforcement and
decided to enter the field of engineering.
"I thought, Okay, engineering
must be the science of efficiency,'" says Tallman. "You do
the most you can with the least amount of material; it must
be like a crossword puzzle, if you know your stuff, you can
get it right. I found this idea very appealing, so I went
looking for an engineering degree."
Alaskan natives Paula, Jackie and
Connie Borman didnt have to go far to fulfill their
The three sisters were raised in
a small community 185 miles north of Anchorage where the familys
closest neighbor was a gas station called Igloo City. When
the oldest, Connie, was looking for colleges she chose UAA
because it was close to home and offered a degree in civil
"I wanted to pursue
a career in engineering because of my interests in math. I
was also interested in working on projects that were going
to be constructed and knowing that I had contributed to it,"
says the 25-year-old.
When she graduated in 2000, Connie
was entertaining job offers from three companies but chose
a position in the transportation department of Unwin Scheben
Korynta Huettl, Inc., a multidisciplinary engineering and
Paula, 24, graduated from UAA in
2002 with a B.S. in civil engineering and was immediately
hired by R&M Consultants in Anchorage where she had worked
as an intern. Nearly a year ago, Paula left her snow-covered
home state and moved to Phoenix, to work in the transportation
department of Michael Baker Jr., Inc. The youngest of the
Borman sisters, Jackie, 20, is finishing her degree at the
school and is now interning at HDR. She will graduate in May
Alaskas unique climate can
be challenging for engineers but also provides experience
in dealing with issues of permafrost, snow drifting and insulation
requirements. Licensed engineers are required to complete
a class in arctic engineering, which covers extremes in temperature,
inaccessibility, limitations on materials and earthquakes.
UAA offers a graduate degree in arctic engineering, which
can be earned through online classes. Judy Michael, who works
for the Office of Engineering at UAA, says that people from
as far away as South America have earned the arctic engineering
The constant demand for engineers
has provided a way for both young engineers and women to work
on more challenging projects.
"We have seen a very dramatic
increase in the number and percentage of women in the profession.
Our staff is over 35% women currently and the majority of
our recent hires are women," says Trueblood.
Judi Shapiro, 34, graduated in
1995 from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with
a B.S. in geology. Her resume includes a variety of worldwide
and national firms such as TRC, EA Engineering and ENSR. But
in the end, she decided she liked working for a smaller firm
that could offer her a spectrum of challenging projects.
"We have a variety of disciplines
in our office, which is great for gaining cross-discipline
knowledge and having diverse and interesting projects to work
on," says Shapiro, a project engineer with Tryck Nyman
& Hayes Inc.
A native of Massachusetts, Shapiro
was set to take a position with a Seattle, Wash. firm but
after a quick trip back to Anchorage to visit friends and
her boss at ENSR she decided not to return to the lower 48.
"I've always enjoyed the outdoors,
hiking, biking, skiing. So after spending the summer in Alaska
I really hoped to move back. Three years ago I decided I wanted
to move from environmental into more traditional civil engineering
and landed a job at TNH," Shapiro says.
During her three years at the firm,
Shapiro has worked on site grading, layout and utility projects,
a feasibility study for a marine ferry terminal, generating
dredge quantities for a ship lift, resurfacing of a dock and
a port expansion design project. She is currently working
on straightening out nine miles of track for a railroad realignment