County short on engineers

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By ABBY SOUZA

Any civil engineer out there looking for a job apparently hasn't heard about Tuolumne County.

Peter Rei, director of Tuolumne County Public Works, said he has had an opening for a civil engineer for nearly three years. In that time, he said, two people have applied for and been offered the job. Neither took it.

The county post would pay a rookie engineer more than $50,000 a year about $6,000 less than the national average.

"The single largest factor is that civil engineering has kind of fallen off the radar screen," Rei said.

Civil engineers design such things as roads, water and septic systems and subdivisions. Cities need them, counties need them and private corporations need them. And lately, they are very hard to come by.

In recent years, Rei said, students interested in math the ones who would normally go into engineering saw they could make more in computers.

In 2000, about 63,600 students graduated with engineering degrees. That is a 20 percent decrease from 1986, when there were 78,200 graduates, according to the Engineering Workforce Commission.

That many graduates will not meet the need for engineers by government agencies and private companies. And by 2008, according to the National Society of Professional Engineers, 1.75 million engineers will be needed in the U.S.

"We really have a shortage of engineers," agreed Gene Deaver, owner of Mother Lode Engineering in Angels Camp.

Deaver turns away jobs because there are not enough engineers in this area to do the local work.

"I'm constantly being asked to do new jobs," Deaver said. "I've got six months of work ahead of of me right now."

Referring the work to other engineering companies is also a lost cause. Most have told him to quit sending clients their way because they are flooded with work as well.

"Right now, anything related to land development is loaded with work," Deaver said.

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The Union Democrat
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