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25 Percent of Profession’s Workforce to Retire in Next 10 Years
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From the Technical Editor 25 Percent of Profession’s Workforce to Retire in Next 10 Years

By Chris Jelenewicz, P.E., FSFPE Senior Manager for Engineering Practice SFPE

This issue of Fire Protection Engineering magazine focuses on fire retardants. As you read the first two articles, you will see that the Fire Protection Engineering Editorial Board decided to provide our readers with different viewpoints on this issue. We intend to provide this sort of content in future issues so we are asking our readers to provide feedback on this format to see if it provides value to you.

On a totally different issue, since 1976, SFPE has surveyed fire safety engineers/fire protection engineers (FPEs) concerning different aspects of their education, compensation, and other related employment questions. Last year, SFPE conducted its 17th survey and over 900 people, from 35 countries, completed this survey. The results were extremely positive in areas related to compensation, benefits, and employment participation as it revealed FPEs are well paid, receive excellent benefits, and are rarely unemployed.

Although this is all good news for the profession, the survey revealed one important finding that should be alarming to the entire profession. That is, for first time, this survey asked participants about their plans for retirement to better understand the expected job turnover in the profession. The survey results to this question revealed about 25% of the participants are planning on retiring within the next 10 years.

Historically, in the FPE profession the demand for engineers has exceeded the supply. With this new expected turnover, this offset in demand will only expand.

As a practicing fire protection engineer, there are many benefits when the market demands more jobs than the available supply. Nevertheless, the implications of this shortage are a cause for concern. Without keeping up with this demand, the profession cannot effectively grow and maintain its competitiveness with other design professionals.

To combat this demand issue, SFPE has made efforts to inform the public that fire protection engineering is an exciting and rewarding career. The first step in the process was to develop messages that are understandable and supportive of SFPEs goals:

  • Fire protection engineers use science and technology to make our world safe from fire.
  • Fire protection engineers are in high demand. The number of jobs consistently outweighs the number of engineers available to fill them.
  • A career in fire protection engineering pays well, provides opportunities for world travel, and offers the chance to work in a variety of environments.

As a way of getting these messages out to the public, SFPE has developed a number of resources that can be used by our chapters and members to promote fire protection engineering as an exciting career. These resources are all available on the SFPE website:

Careers Page on SFPE Website (http://www.sfpe.org/?CareersHome). Provides information about the profession that includes a listing of colleges, scholarship opportunities, and student organizations.

Guide to Careers in Fire Protection Engineering. Features trends and topics specific to the profession, including interviews with recent graduates and salary survey results.

Careers in Fire Protection Engineering PowerPoint Presentation. Designed for people who are interested in making presentations at local colleges and high schools.

Chemistry of Fire. A multi-media teacher’s kit that is geared towards high school chemistry students. It teaches students the science behind fire as a way to understand the dangers of fire.

These resources have been very effective in generating interest in the profession. Since this recruitment program was started, SFPE has received many compliments from graduating engineers who said they found the profession as a result of these resources. For example, Janna Shapiro, who recently graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, told us:

"The SFPE Career materials not only provided me with information regarding what FPE entails, but also introduced me to the wide variety of career options and school programs available in the field. Ultimately, this resource served as a key factor in my decision to pursue a degree in FPE.”

Practicing engineers and SFPE Chapters can use these resources to tell their friends, families, and local schools about how fire protection engineering is a rewarding profession. Now is the time to get the word out about FPE. High school students who are in their junior year, a time that many career decisions are made, will be graduating college in the year 2021. If we wait much longer, it will be too late to correct this offset in demand.

Fire Protection Engineering welcomes letters to the editor. Please send correspondence to engineering@sfpe.org or by mail to Fire Protection Engineering, 9711 Washingtonian Blvd., Suite 380, Gaithersburg, MD 20878


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