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The Engineering Development Program

Developing Successful Successors Operations Division (Ops) faces a unique challenge in trying to attract experienced, credentialed employees. Ops have undergone significant changes to its organizational structure as a result of outsourcing strategies introduced in recent years. To meet this challenge, Ops developed a Youth Recruitment initiative in 2001 that introduces recent university graduates to MTO through a rigorous four-year program.

As discussed in "Hiring for the Future", from Road Talk's February 2002 issue, the Engineering Development Program (EDP) was designed to address staffing challenges caused by demographics, attrition, issues of mobility, and competition with the private sector for skilled, knowledgeable workers. In the first round of hiring in 2001, Ops hired 12 EDP participants, also called EDPs. In May 2004, Ops hired 7 civil engineering graduates to fill a variety of positions across the province, bringing the current number of EDPs to 37.

Qualified applicants to the EDP must have graduated within the last five years with a civil engineering degree. Each year, out of more than 300 applicants, Ops select engineers who stand out because of their problem solving, communication, planning, and leadership skills.

After four years of working on various regional and head office assignments, the engineers will have acquired their Professional Engineer license and are then eligible to compete for permanent engineering positions at MTO during the ensuing two years. The EDP exposes participants to a range of working environments in their respective regions and head office, including engineering, construction, operations, and maintenance. This provides them with the opportunity to acquire a variety of technical and behavioral skills and to develop an understanding of the ministry business.

The EDP benefits MTO, Ops, and EDPs in several ways. It rejuvenates MTO's engineering pool with highly trained, self-motivated individuals who can fill a wide range of engineering positions within the ministry. It also provides a strategic approach to the management and recruitment of engineers in the ministry, ensuring Ops has competent staff needed to deliver the ministry's business priorities.

With their supervisor, EDPs document a Business Performance Plan for each assignment; these details results expected upon completion of each assignment. Under the guidance of a mentor, EDPs also complete a Learning Plan, which outlines desired objectives to be met during an assignment. Both plans provide guidelines that EDPs can use to monitor their performance against expected goals.

The mentor-EDP relationship is a partnership between an experienced Professional Engineer who offers guidance, advice, and support, and an EDP who is motivated to benefit from this assistance. The mentor is a source of information to the EDP about MTO's mission and goals, as well as other organizational knowledge. The mentor also provides feedback and coaches activities that add to the EDP's experience and skills development.

The schedule of rotational assignments integral to the EDP is one way of maximizing opportunities for career development. Rotating positions every 6-12 months over four years, EDPs learn cutting-edge technologies, such as digital terrain modeling, ignition oven testing, Intelligent Transportation Systems, and more. This experience is gained through on-the-job interaction with professional staff in the delivery of the largest highway capital construction program in Canadian history.

"I've enjoyed the opportunity to gain practical experience in civil engineering so soon after graduating from university," says Aimee Tupaz, an EDP hired in 2003. Alain Beaulieu, one of the original EDPs hired in 2001, remarks, "The opportunity to experience different aspects of the ministry gives us a better understanding of the ministries business and lets us better plan a career path for ourselves."

Recognizing that human resources planning is critical in order to have competent, skilled employees, the EDP is just one program that Ops is using to meet short and long term business needs. The EDP addresses a range of needs, including succession planning, recruitment, and learning and development. The flexible nature of the program will allow it to evolve to support changing business initiatives.