Call it "the gap."
It is the 10- or 12-year period between a college engineering student's last SAE Collegiate Design Competition and the day he or she reappears on the rolls as an SAE International member.
Bill Cariello, Manager of Web Strategy for SAE International, would like to plug that gap by communicating with young engineers within their comfort zone—the Web and social media.
"SAE International has a very robust student design competition, and we have tremendous participation on the collegiate level, but they graduate and we don't hear from them again until they're in their 30s," Cariello said. "If we're going to attract younger members—and that is our goal—we need to be relevant to them, and the web is the ideal place to make that happen."
There are several reasons for the drop-off, but one of the primary reasons is that as the country's industrial base has declined and employers are stretched thin, they’re no longer paying for professional memberships. "They've gone the way of the corporate country club and pension plan," Cariello said.
The aim is to make www.sae.org vital to a young engineer's career.
"Many of our members are already using www.sae.org to assist them in their committee work," said Cariello. "It has become the primary way the standards committee members interact with each other—via the ‘Standards Works’ portal."
The average time per visit when a committee member visits "Standards Works" is 28 min. Visits by others average about 8 min, many of which are engineers purchasing standards or books.
"I want to develop a sense of community where we are not purely a transactional website," Cariello said. "Essentially, we need other reasons for people to hang out with us."
To meet that end, SAE International is rolling out the EngineerXchange on Oct. 19 at SAE Convergence 2010 in Detroit. EngineerXchange will promote peer-to-peer interaction and host an expanded jobs site.
EngineerXchange allows users to personalize their own professional profiles, with the ability to share information with everyone, with friends only, or to keep information to themselves. Users can participate in spaces, communities, and blogs, joining in joint discussions about the latest technology, design challenges, and career opportunities. In addition, EngineerXchange offers relevant professional advice through SAE Expert Community Groups, which are moderated by veteran designers, engineers, specialists, recruiters, and career counselors.
Cariello said that by promoting counseling opportunities and career advancement, EngineerXchange will attract young engineers and, ultimately, increase the rolls of SAE International’s 128,000 members.
"This will be a site where members can come for advice and mentoring issues," he said. "That will be our secret sauce. We will become less transitional and more peer-to-peer. I can envision a site where retired members can help younger members with career path decisions. If we can enhance the careers of young engineers, then sae.com becomes very relevant in their lives."
Along with expert advice from fellow SAE members, EngineerXchange offers exclusive access to important data such as polls, salary surveys, and the ability to preview SAE technical information, including magazine feature articles, standards, and technical information.
To view a demo video and learn more about EngineerXchange, visit http://ex.sae.org.