Power Electronics Technology received the following comments in response to the Editor's Viewpoint, “IEEE Speaks Out on Engineering Careers,” which appeared on page 8 in the January 2009 issue. The article also can be viewed online at http://powerelectronics.com/mag/ieee-engineering-career-innovation-danger-0101/.
Viewpoint on IEEE Speaks Out
I see three major problems:
The people teaching science and math in elementary school don't understand it. It is as much of rote to them as it is to their students.
We are not engaging kids early enough. The programs I hear of are aimed at high school or, at best, middle school. Those kids have already decided what they like. We need to be aiming at second and third graders, and we need to show them how science and knowledge empowers them.
The biggest problem as a career is that managers don't know how to effectively use engineers. Engineers are creative, detail-minded people. Trapping them in an endless loop of meaningless product tweaks and allowing them to be jerked around by marketing people who don't understand the difficulty of what they are asking is simply a way to stress them out. Give them a new challenge and a good measure of control over the result, and look out!
Controls engineer, regulatory compliance
Automated Equipment LLC
I agree the education system is not adequate to train engineers. It appears the perception is that engineering is a more difficult curriculum and a Bachelor of Arts degree is easier. Perhaps that is due to the ease with which tests can measure learning. For math and science, it is very easy to set up multiple choice exams that accurately measure a student's progress; therefore, the standards are more black and white with little room for negotiation. For the fine arts, when testing English comprehension, grammar and literature, there is more room for interpretation, giving students the possibility of limping up to the next grade.
As an electrical engineering graduate in 1978, I have seen many years of our field in motion. Several things have happened to cause the continued reduction in U.S. born engineering students, but I believe there is one root cause: greed. Odd, but that reason comes up a lot.
Greed, because people in charge of large companies believe (almost always falsely, in my opinion) that they can get engineering work done just as well and much less expensively overseas. Greed, because those same people will hire H-1 visa workers preferentially to U.S. engineers, or in ratios to ensure the pay to U.S. engineers stays low. Greed, because students who face tens of thousands of dollars in education loans choose majors that minimize school costs and the number of years spent in school. Greed, because universities are over-enrolling without a care about students' ability to complete course work for a degree in a timely fashion, and engineering programs generally require the most undergraduate credits. Greed, because those same students see the real earning power of engineers significantly going down over time. In my life, the starting salary of an engineer in inflation-adjusted dollars had decreased by about one-half. As an experienced engineer in a household with two people working full time, I am also in a household that, according to IRS information, is about $15,000 below the national income average. Is it greedy to expect a career, where a single drawing approved signature can easily mean $5 million of income or warranty costs for one's employer, to return an income that would keep a 30-year-experienced engineer — whose wife also is working in a professional field — at the IRS national income average?
Children and students are not stupid. Until short-term bonuses are brought under control for executives and managers controlling engineering staffs, and long-term health of U.S. technology leads in our industry are put front and center (read investor greed), this condition will continue to degrade. In the meantime, we train foreign competitors by hiring foreign citizen engineers with H-1 visas and then forcing the resulting trained engineers to go home when their visas expire. How do we expect them to make a living when they return home? Is a nondisclosure agreement made in a foreign country by a greedy and abusive employer going to stop these engineers from using what was learned on return to their home country?
Electronics engineer III
Validus Technologies, LLC
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