Letters: Reader Feedback
Editor's note: In the July Letters (CSE 07/04 p. 9) William Fell wrote in response to my May "Ah, Ute!" column in which I encouraged readers to reach out to kids at the high school level to get young people like my engineering-curious son interested in careers in the professsion. Mr. Fell argued there was no future in engineering for young people due to offshoring and other business trends, and...
Education a must
The education of our young in the engineering fields MUST continue, but with savvy! Unlike the narrow professional orientation that is taught today, we need to train engineers in wide-aspect comprehension. In one lifetime they will jump from classical engineering—ME, EE, IE, etc.—to nanotech, biotech, biochem, sales, maintenance and more. Every 10 years or so the average engineer will see a major change in career. Hence, we need to return to emphasizing the basics at both the B.S. and M.S. levels, and reintroduce the engineering degree to give the next generation the ability to: a) move laterally at will; b) draw insights from one field into another—easy after some experience; and c) perform inventiveness instead of low-risk repetition, as the latter all too easily gets offshored. This is not to say offshore engineers are not inventive—quite the opposite—but in the United States, an inventive engineer at least has a much more formidable infrastructure to rely upon. This is an extremely important consideration in a period such as ours where a major transition is occurring: from classical engineering and IT, to boutique products and the technology of the ultrasmall.
HARRY A. SHAMIR, R&DA CO., PLYMOUTH, MASS.
Mr. Fell is understandably worried, but even if your son does not pursue an engineering career, perhaps he'll be able to do something that most in this system aren't able to do: focus on empirical reality. A basic engineering education will help him to do that. Mr. Fell should not be overly concerned, since 60% of all U.S. workers are already at the level of third-world skills.
It is clear that the situation outlined in Thorstein Veblen's 1922 The Engineers and the Price System hasn't changed much. That is, finance capital calls the shots, and the technically based decisions of engineers definitely play second or third fiddle. This should not prevent us from doing our best to present our better ideas for solving problems. When the systems bomb because of the decisions of finance idiots, we can at least say, "I told you so."
DAVE THOMAS, P.E., FIRE PROTECTION ENGINEERING, PH.D., ANTHROPOLOGY