A Stronger Tomorrow

The engineering demands and feats in Westchester County.

The spectrum of engineering projects undertaken every day brings work for white-collar and blue-collar employees in all professions— from engineers designing plans and lawyers preparing contracts, to insurance people providing coverage for the projects and equipment distributors delivering goods and services. The list of engineering-related activities and people needed to perform the feats goes on and on.

Two recent government reports show that New York State highways, bridges and mass transit systems require a vast amount of maintenance and improvement projects going forward. In the fall of 2009, the New York State Department of Transportation issued a five-year capital plan beginning this year calling for more than $25 billion in capital improvements. Three weeks before, the Metropolitan Transit Authority said its five-year needs exceed more than $28 billion to repair, replace and improve rail and bus transit systems to continue serving the greater New York metropolitan region. That’s a lot of money that will be used to fund the future growth of our nation and employ the workforce of tomorrow.

The United States is only beginning to appreciate the importance of spending for the nation’s infrastructure. Our country is now playing catch up with nations in Europe and Asia that spend a far higher percentage of their national budgets on building new highways and mass transit systems. This spending helped to expand the other nations’ economies, create jobs and compete with the United States. One recently published federal study reported that America would have to spend more than twice the $240 billion that’s being spent nationally over the coming six years in order to maintain the existing systems in good repair.

Given the underlying needs both regionally and nationally for engineers, there are great possibilities in terms of a career and employment for future engineers.

It’s easy to see that the field of construction means a lot more than just packing a lunchbox and pounding nails. Likewise, once a year each spring, major construction and building industry employers team with more than a dozen labor unions to give high school juniors and seniors a sense of what it means to pursue a career in construction. This is important as construction and engineering education is not available in most public schools. And yet, as leading economic contributors for the national economy, these fields hold a world of employment possibilities for young people— whether involving accounting, architecture, engineering, law, management or something entrepreneurial in nature, such as being one’s boss as a self-employed trade person. With these being only a handful of suggestions for a career related to engineering and construction, the future appears bright for teenagers aspiring to such careers who are entering the workforce.

To ensure that our leaders of tomorrow receive the proper training, a coalition of construction management and labor formed in early 2009 and made its inaugural scholarship awards to six students who will receive $3,000 grants for undergraduate studies in the sciences, including math and engineering. I’m proud to be the namesake of these grants for the Louis G. Nappi Construction Labor-Management Scholarship Program. Candidates for a scholarship must be residents of the seven-county region of the lower Hudson Valley of Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Columbia, Ulster, Orange and Rockland counties.