Firm gives back to community, young engineers

SSOE Group, based in Toledo, Ohio, talks about some of their programs designed to help the community from a charitable standpoint.



Firm: SSOE Group

Location: Toledo, Ohio

Employees: 1,000

Company description: SSOE Group is an international engineering, procurement, and construction management (EPCM) firm, with chemical, civil, electrical, environmental, instrumentation and controls, mechanical, site, and structural engineering services. 

Q: What are the goals of having engineers participate in community outreach? 

A: Through our community outreach, we are looking in our own communities for the opportunity to encourage the next generation’s interest in math and sciences. Who better to get today’s youth interested in a technical career than engineers and architects themselves? 

Q. What are a few examples of how SSOE gives back to education? 

A: There is a shortage of engineers, construction professionals, and architects, which is compounded by declining enrollment in these programs. In 2009, SSOE established the SSOE College and University Matching Gift Program, which encourages SSOE employees to donate to colleges and universities with the incentive that SSOE will match funds donated. SSOE has also been a proud supporter of the University of Toledo (UT) throughout its 64-year history. 

Our commitment to our community, both as a company and as individuals, shows through the results of our community outreach initiatives. This includes our most recent endeavor for United Way. In 2011, SSOE raised nearly $190,000 through individual and corporate donations. In addition, last year SSOE and a local construction partner established the education challenge in which the company will match all donations to United Way designated for education up to $50,000. 

Q: SSOE works with the University of Toledo. How did that program come about and what is your level of involvement?

A: This partnership was built on the legacy of SSOE’s founder Alfred Samborn. As a professor, he helped to develop a cooperative program in which engineering students would alternate quarters of study and engineering related employment while earning their degrees in five years. Today, SSOE has a strong co-op partnership with UT, currently employing 32 UT interns/co-ops and nearly 200 UT graduates. 

Established in 1968, marking the 20th anniversary of the university’s founding, SSOE set up a scholarship program in Samborn’s name, which is now fully endowed with a fund total of more than $100,000. This scholarship is distributed annually to the two highest ranking juniors in UT’s College of Engineering. Income from the second scholarship (SSOE Minority and Female Scholarship) supports outstanding entering freshman majoring in engineering. Also established in Samborn’s name is a Distinguished Lecture Series in which select speakers address the subjects of professionalism and ethics in the field of engineering.

In 2009, SSOE presented UT with a gift of $629,000. The blend of in-kind services and monetary donations are benefiting numerous projects around the UT campuses and continues to provide significant scholarship dollars for UT engineering students. Of that $629,000, SSOE pledged a total of $129,000 in support for the College of Business Administration, College of Medicine, Athletics, and a project to honor veterans outside the newly renovated Memorial Field House. UT’s College of Engineering is the recipient of the remaining transformational gift of $500,000. 

Q: How does your partnership with UT fit into your succession program?

A: We use UT adjunct professors for our in-house leadership development workshop training for our staff. This includes programs like Executive Coaching, Getting Results, Career Development Workshops, as well as our Next Generation Leadership Program. Also, our partnership with UT allows us to fill our leadership pipeline by bringing successful technical students onboard early and by keeping them employed. This allows them to establish professional roots and a professional network in this area early on, which will keep them interested and engaged in the engineering field and SSOE. 

Q: Explain the “ENGINEER IT” science exhibit. Who is the program focused on and what does it involve? 

Imagination Station’s ‘Lab’rador Gizmo stands in front of the Catenary Arch, an exhibit reflecting the engineering style of the St. Louis Arch. Courtesy: SSOEA: “ENGINEER IT” is a science exhibit at Imagination Station, a Toledo science center geared toward children and families, and features 25 exhibits about engineering. The exhibit’s three main topics areas are wind, water, and structures. All involve educational and entertaining interactive learning activities that present science as an open-ended discovery process, meaning, there are no right or wrong answers. Through this sponsorship, SSOE hopes to encourage interest in math and science and inspire the next generation of engineers, perhaps the next generation of leaders of SSOE. 

“ENGINEER IT” caters to people of all ages and encourages families to explore the engineering process together and compete as a unit against other families through its series of Family Workshops within the exhibit.

SSOE’s three year sponsorship of the exhibit enabled Imagination Station to bring it to the Toledo area. 

Q: Highlight a person or department on your team. What kind of projects have they completed, or what kind of success have they had? 

A: Jerry Carter and Zach Platsis, both of SSOE’s sustainability group, have volunteered their time and expertise to support Missions International of American (MIA). MIA is a local 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides medical care, education, microeconomy, and basic supplies to the people of Haiti. Both Carter and Platsis helped design a solar power system for use at the Brad Reddick School in Savanette, Haiti. Additionally, they are helping the school with some modules to provide power to a well on their grounds. 

Another project occurred after the earthquake hit in January 2010. As a result of the earthquake, there was no diesel available to run the pump at the well in the village that provided clean water to hundreds of families. Fortunately, MIA already had solar panels there and a solar driven pump. In a matter of two days, Carter and Platsis worked with a Toledo-based electrician and solar provider to make sure the electrical system for the pump was designed to be safe and to obtain parts necessary to fix a few panels so they could begin to pump water. Parts and information were then delivered to the electrician and he left within a few days to meet MIA at the village.

Once functioning, the wells supplied water not only to the locals, but also to the people of Haiti who left the earthquake zone to avoid the nightmare that followed. 

Q: With the newest generation of engineers (“Generation Y”) entering your workforce, has your community outreach changed? 

A: Generation Y is more passionate about the environment than preceding generations. Proven by traffic to our website on our green articles, and interest we receive in our work on U.S. Green Building Council LEED projects, alternative energy, and biofuels. This hasn’t necessarily changed our outreach, but has certainly enforced our focus on supporting sustainable causes. When interviewing candidates of any generation, but especially Generation Y, it is very common for candidates to cite SSOE’s community involvement and is given as one of the main draws of working for the firm.

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