The high rates of retirement, combined with a projected growth in the railway industry and renewed interest in high-speed passenger rail research and deployment across our communities, have considerably raised the railway industry’s need to hire new civil, electrical and mechanical engineering graduates.
Since 2008, the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) has responded to this need by hosting the biennial Railway Engineering Education Symposium (REES).
The first four symposiums focused on introducing professors of civil engineering to the railway industry and its needs for engineering graduates and research. Professors from universities with established railway engineering programs presented class-period-length modules intended to be inserted into existing introduction to transportation engineering classes. A keynote presentation and tour of a major railway facility reinforced the importance of this industry to the economies of North America.
While the previous three symposiums have introduced users-group features and networking, professors from colleges and universities without railway content in their engineering programs are still recruited. They gain access to the class modules and are introduced to professors with established railway content or programs, allowing them to identify opportunities for railway engineering education and research at their institutions.
After being cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, REES will be held June 15–16 at the University of Illinois Chicago. It will be a combination of networking for railway engineering programs and outreach to professors looking to start or expand programs in teaching undergrads and railway research. The first day includes presentations by industry leaders on the future needs for railway engineering graduates and in railway research. The second day will feature tours of the Chicago Integrated Rail Operations Center and Canadian National Railway Co.’s facilities in Homewood, Illinois.
I am the project manager for REES, and this will be the sixth symposium I have managed for AREMA. The last REES event in 2018 was hosted by the University of South Carolina. Dimitris Rizos, a professor at this university, attended one of the early REES events as an instructor new to the railway industry and has since developed a great railway engineering program. AREMA now has 25 student chapters, many at institutions that have attended REES.
For more information on REES or to nominate an engineering professor to attend REES in June, please contact me at email@example.com. Thanks to generous railway and engineering consultant company sponsors, the event is free, meals are included and a limited amount of stipends are available to offset travel costs.
Mike Pochop is a vice president, a senior project manager and the railway operations lead at Hanson.