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City faces engineer shortage

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More than one in three jobs at the city's Department of Design and Construction are vacant because licensed engineers are in short supply and can make more money elsewhere, department director Timothy Steinberger said.

The department struggles to keep up with more than 1,000 construction projects it oversees each year, but crucial infrastructure work is made a priority, he said during a City Council budget hearing.

"We do the projects that have to be done," he said. "The road projects, the sewer projects, are given the highest priority. Those always go first."

Out of 302 jobs, more than 100 are empty, he said. The department's proposed annual budget is $13.7 million, a 13.2 percent decrease from this fiscal year.

Engineers hired for the two classifications the city typically recruits earn starting salaries of about $37,000 and $45,000 per year, respectively.

Steinberger said licensed engineers earn more at state, federal and private jobs, and fewer than 15 usually graduate from the University of Hawai'i each year.

"Maybe half of them will go to the Mainland or the private sector," he said. "We're just not going to be able to attract those people."

The department aggressively recruits about 30 workers per year but loses others through attrition at about the same rate, so the overall number changes little, he said.

Increasing salaries would help, but money is spread thin and options are few, according to Steinberger.

"I do not deny that they should be paid more," he said.

Steinberger said the staff shortage is not solely to blame for construction projects falling behind schedule. The month-old concrete strike, changing permit requirements and other factors also cause delays, he said.

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I was considering going into engineering myself, and was thinking about how good the future job market for it would be - apparently there would be some waiting in line in Hawaii LOL.

What types of engineers are they looking for exactly - I assume they are referring to civil engineers as far as city construction is concerned. I've researched the salaries for beginner engineers and found out that civils make the lowest of all disciplines (pssst.... don't tell that to Kelvin Fields ;) ) and that software engineers make the most.

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Actually I didn't read the article thoroughly:

"Engineers hired for the two classifications the city typically recruits earn starting salaries of about $37,000 and $45,000 per year, respectively."

It turns out that a typical civil engineer (I took the average of NYC, Boston, Chi, and Det) makes a starting salary of $50102.25. No wonder Hawaii can't hire them.

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edit to my last post: according to salary.com the National median for an entry level civil engineer is $45,056, so it's the same as the higher end of Hawaii's payrolls. Then again we're only taking about entry level professionals here whereas there would be a mix of levels in a state.

A "Civil Engineer III" (average out of the 5 levels) makes $69,866. That's a 155% increase compared to even the 45K figure for Hawaii.

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