The 3 Non-Engineering Skills You'll Need as a Construction Project Engineer
Engineers aren’t known for these skills, but they’ll help you succeed.
The construction industry is hiring fast to try to keep up with demand, which means jobs are abundant for engineers entering the workforce. But to succeed in one of those jobs, especially considering the increasing complexity of construction projects and the expanding use of collaborative delivery methods such as IPD, new graduates and young professionals will need more than just engineering skills.
Here are three non-engineering skills that will help get you noticed — and promoted.
Communication is key in almost any job. For engineers, it’s not normally a focus area in school — but it should be. Written and oral communication play major roles in a project engineer’s day-to-day job.
“Owners don’t like bad news, but they like it even less when it’s two days late,” said Brandon Mabile, business development manager for the Texas region of Performance Contractors Inc., which provides all phases of industrial construction.
As a member of his company’s recruiting taskforce, Mabile meets with and interviews students who are earning degrees in construction management and engineering. When he recruits, he looks for communication skills.
“A good project engineer needs to have the confidence to say what needs to be said in order for their message to be effectively communicated,” said Mabile.
Written communication skills are just as important. Project engineers are constantly relaying information to architects, engineers, subcontractors and owners, including through formal documents such as RFIs. A project manager doesn’t want to have to rewrite every email or document; engineers with solid writing skills give their managers the support they need.
Having the interpersonal skills necessary to build strong relationships and generate respect among project teams will set one project engineer apart from another.
“As a project engineer, you need to be able to work with a very diverse group of people including craft workers on-site, superintendents, architects and owner representatives,” said Mabile. Engineers who spend time learning both in the field and in an owner’s conference room will build interpersonal skills faster than someone who sits behind a desk all day.
In construction, time is money, and every person on a project is responsible for ensuring they’re working efficiently to minimize added costs. While the industry has introduced apps and streamlined processes to help boost productivity, time management skills are still critical. For project engineers, making sure all tasks on their to-do lists are completed on time makes management’s lives easier and will not go unnoticed.
“In the field, you'll get pulled in so many directions that if you can't effectively manage your time, you'll never get anything done,” said Mabile. “The project engineers that can handle everything being thrown at them and keep looking for more responsibility are usually the ones getting promoted.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job opportunities for construction managers will grow 11 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is faster than average. While jobs may be plentiful right now, making yourself as valuable as possible with these non-engineering skills will help you climb the ladder to a higher-paying position and also help make you indispensable in the event of an unforeseen downturn.
Donna Puglisi is a communications and marketing professional specializing in the construction industry.