Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What's happened to American Engineering?

As a boy, I dreamed of being an engineer. Like my father before me, engineering was (and still is) my passion. Engineering was a profession that people respected. As a young man, people like me were proud to announce "I've decided to become an Engineer." It was worth the many hours of hard study and giving up the social life that many of my non-engineering student friends were able to enjoy. And, at graduation, I felt the pride of knowing I made it and was about to begin an incredible journey.  But I don't think people feel that way any more. What's happened to American Engineering?

Let me tell you about George, my father and my model for engineering. Before he retired, he was a chemical engineer. He worked virtually his entire career for the same company. He was salaried. He went to work early in the morning, came home late afternoon for dinner, spent some time with our family, then retired to his room to work a little longer. He did this because he loved what he did. He didn't get extra "direct" compensation for his effort. But, he was treated as a professional, with respect, and as a valued member of the community.

Although chemical engineering wasn't my interest, I knew that I wanted to be like Dad and have the same kind of career. After all, engineers had just put a man on the moon! Engineering was a respected profession.

We face a great crisis. Have you looked around lately? We are losing our technical edge. Young American kids don't want to be engineers. Most of the advanced engineering degree students are foreign. Even those that do choose the engineering path do not seem to view the profession that same way I did when I decided to make this my career. I hear, "Engineering is just another hourly skilled trade." The country that produced the engineers that put a man on the moon is losing it ... our technical edge and professionalism. You may find a few engineers like my father, men/women who do this because they love it, who think and act in this profession with the same level of professional responsibility and respect as a medical doctor.

So, what has happened to engineering? Do you concur with my thoughts? What can we do about it? Your comments are appreciated and welcome.

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