InTrans / Dec 14, 2016

Five Questions with Jennifer Shane

Jennifer Shane is an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at Iowa State University. She also is the director of the Construction Management and Technology program at ISU’s Institute for Transportation. Her primary research interests include project management, cost estimating, and alternative project delivery strategies for infrastructure. She holds a PhD from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

What is your favorite part of your ISU job?
My favorite part of my job is that no two days are the same and that I get to interact with industry and students through both teaching and research.

How did you become interested in construction engineering, particularly in transportation?
In high school I wanted to become an architect. My dad steered me towards civil engineering. After a summer internship where I spent most of my day behind a computer, I realized that I needed a position that would allow me to experience several different environments throughout the day. I need to be able to do desk work, do other work inside, get some outside time, as well as interact with people and have quiet time where I work alone.

How is the job outlook for graduates in construction engineering in transportation?
The job outlook is great! Students, both undergraduates and graduates, are walking out the door with jobs. The students are often considering multiple intern and full-time positions in their chosen field.

What are the biggest challenges you are seeing in your field now?
The biggest challenge that I see is that students in K-12 are often not exposed to experiences where they get to work with their hands and are not told that there are jobs, which make good money, outside of just office work. Many industries, including construction, mechanics, and even taxidermy, are having trouble finding people to work or even take over established businesses. In construction, the average age of craft workers is quickly approaching 60, and there is a need for workers, as the current workforce retires, that is not being filled. Students, parents, teachers, counselors, coaches, and many others need to become more aware of the opportunities that are out there, whether they require a college degree or another type of training.

What was the best advice you ever received?
There is a children’s book called I Knew You Could. After reading this book with my kids, I realized that the best thing that my parents did for me, and continue to do, was support me in everything that I tried and in all of my decisions, congratulate me on my successes, help me learn from my failures, and push me to take on new challenges. This piece of advice continues to guide me in everything I do.