Teaching the next generation about sustainability and career opportunities

This Spring, the Latin American Engineering Student Association Chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (LAESA-SHPE) held a virtual Pre-College Engineering Day. LAESA-SHPE is the most prominent undergraduate student organization at The City College of New York (CCNY) and brings together students from all engineering disciplines and a diverse pool of cultural backgrounds. Both myself and Project Executive Willie Cruz are CCNY alumni—and Willie was president of LAESA when he was in college—so we jumped at the opportunity to give a presentation on sustainability for LAESA-SHPE members and high school students interested in the construction and engineering field.

A few CCNY LAESA-SHPE members during the virtual Pre-College Engineering Day event where our team presented on sustainability.

CCNY is a low-tuition, high value, diverse University. CCNY alumni have a strong desire to give back to this institution that gave them an education and the opportunity to be where they are today. Our presentation covered sustainability and its importance in construction and development, our roles at Skanska, and how our projects are shaping the future. The goal of our presentation was to talk about topics the students are already familiar with and connect them to a bigger and meaningful picture like climate change and sustainability, while encouraging them to pursue careers in the industry.

D&I in the AEC industry

Oftentimes, high school students have very little concept of what professionals—like civil engineers or architects—specifically do or the path they should take to get there. So, they fall into a degree based off what they like, such as math or physics, without knowing how that translates into a job and career.

A lot of their decisions are based on who they know and what they’ve heard, which perpetuates the problematic trend of fewer minorities and women in engineering and science (because there are already too few minorities and women in these fields). As minorities, Willie and I were able to show these students that we’re here, and they can be too.

Biggest lessons learned

With this presentation, we showcased career opportunities and had a positive impact on 300 high school students. Seeing real-life projects put our civil engineering professions in perspective. The students also connected with our sustainability message, which covered how different industries use sustainable practices, how it’s typically measured, and how Skanska is reducing carbon emissions through our projects.

Willie and I emphasized to the students that wherever they decide to work, they are the change and they have the power to demand sustainable initiatives from the companies hiring them. We showed them how companies, industries and the world are all changing as a result of what the next generation is asking of them. This movement is happening because new generations are demanding that companies be environmentally responsible, insist on work-life balance, and prioritize social aspects of sustainability, like diversity and inclusion.

I knew the students connected with our presentation because they asked us challenging questions, such as “What projects would you like to see in the future?” This isn’t a question I’ve contemplated before, since we don’t always have a say in what projects we build, but more so in how we build them. This question showed me they were taking our message to heart. In an unspoken way, I believe the students were able to see themselves in our position and could imagine, one day, presenting on their own achievements and company’s values.

I’m proud to represent women in engineering and will always aim to inspire and educate other women and minorities who are interested in this field.

Last updated: 5/13/2021