Paul Ruzicka is the chief engineer for Xylem Inc. He has been in the pump engineering field for nearly forty years, starting at Goulds Pumps in 1976. A graduate of Syracuse University, he has design experience in a full portfolio of pumps used in markets such as API, chemical, pulp and paper, commercial and residential water, wastewater, and power generation. As pump hydraulic design expert for Xylem, he’s produced high performing designs for all pump types Xylem produces globally. He currently managing the Xylem Engineering team in Seneca Falls, New York, and continues to serve as a technical resource for Xylem in developing solutions for pumps and systems. He sat down with Modern Pumping Today to discuss the challenges facing young engineers entering the industry.
MPT: How important do companies like yours see expertise in engineering education?
Paul Ruzicka: Engineering education is paramount to the success of our industry. Companies are beginning to experience turnover in their workforces as baby boomers enter retirement. It’s critical to find the next generation of qualified engineers to fill these engineering positions. While young engineers bring fresh ideas and extensive theoretical knowledge, they often lack the practical experience of seasoned professionals, which creates a knowledge gap in the industry. Companies that want to develop their engineers understand the important role that mentoring and continuing education plays in filling these knowledge gaps.
At Xylem, and in particular, in our Seneca Falls, New York, location where we engineer, test, and assemble our Goulds Water Technology brand products, some of our young engineers develop their skills by working with a tenured mentor. These industry professionals help recent college graduates apply their theoretical knowledge to practical system design. We’ve found this helps emerging engineers understand system operations, learn how to design and build efficient systems, and implement valuable servicing techniques—all things that are highly important to Xylem.
As a complement to this one-on-one mentoring program, continuing education courses are instrumental in enhancing entry-level engineering skills. Xylem offers hands-on training courses at Goulds Factory School and Bell & Gossett’s Little Red Schoolhouse. In-person training provides extensive, first-hand system solution oriented instruction focused on the interactions among components within a system, and the technologies that make these systems work more efficiently.
MPT: With many of today’s engineering students focused on computer engineering and software, what are some of the concerns you hear from your clients and partners in the industry regarding an impending shortage of engineers working in infrastructure?
Paul Ruzicka: One challenge that we’re experiencing, especially through feedback from our channel partners, is that young engineers need supplemental education to understand all aspects of system operations. Recent college graduates enter the workforce with an abundance of knowledge about engineering theory, but many have not applied theory to total system design. Additionally, we’ve found that young engineers have extensive training in computer-driven engineering programs that often manage fundamental pump concepts for them. Because of this, the challenge is as much about ensuring these new engineers have thorough knowledge of these foundational concepts, as it is navigating the engineering shortage.
Our young engineers want to better understand how to create system solutions that provide cost, energy, and operational savings. Many millennial employees seek out online education solutions, which makes Bell & Gossett’s online Little Red Schoolhouse a great resource for industry training. It offers web-based, virtual learning that focuses on proper pump design, installation, and maintenance of hydronic systems. ◆
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