Letters: Reader Feedback
On the subject article (05/07), it is similar to an engineering survey I read recently. In that article, it stated that mechanical engineers with 10 years of experience had an average annual salary of $58,000 and the lowest average professional engineering salary in the United States (electrical engineers salary was about $68,000). Needless to say, these statistics must surely impact the engineering school enrollments.
Until our society recognizes the engineering profession as an equivalent to doctors, lawyers and CEOs (as in many other countries), the pay scale will not improve, and the engineering services will migrate overseas.
A few U.S. companies have adopted a paralleled pay scale for their technically trained personnel with their management personnel. This program has worked very well to allow appropriate compensation and avoid the ubiquitous “Peter Principle.” Further, even the skilled trade unions make provisions for longevity and pension continuation.
L.L. Case ., P.E.Rochester Hills, Mich.
With respect to the engineer shortage, I’m curious why designers have not been mentioned. As a designer, I can design and “engineer” as well as or better than many degreed engineers. I’m not an E.E. or P.E., just a guy “on the floor” so to speak. But, I do the work and I do it with pride. It’s my knowledge and experience that makes projects move forward. It’s my understanding of things that make my designs work, practical and timely. I need someone to stamp my work, not critique it. I know codes and how to piece them together to form a conclusion. I can talk to contractors. I know when they’re trying to get me to do their jobs and bear their risks—and I tell them so. I’m never referred to as a designer—in fact, I call myself an engineer to avoid having to explain what a designer is or does.
Of eight electrical professionals where I work, two are degreed professional engineers. The remaining six talk about where our replacements are coming from when we start to fade out in 20 to 30 years. Where are the kids that are going to replace us who are doing the real work? I’m talking about competent designers; power distribution, lighting, etc.
I’m not criticizing P.E.s and E.E.s—hey, they did it. I tried and got busy with family; life changed and school took a back seat. The problem is still the same—someone needs to do the work and do it right. I have four young boys and I’ll do what I can to steer them toward a professional livelihood and a higher education, but they’ll know how to turn a wrench, too—they already do.
Regarding the perceived engineering shortage: I just don’t see it. What I do see is a lot of poorly supervised middle managers, uninformed top managers, poorly utilized existing engineers and a whole lot of folks who try to get by with no continuing education.
Thirty-three years ago, as the manager of engineering, I had just finished checking a new 500-ton traveling block for an offshore automated rig and had signed off on the drawings, making certain it was to be manufactured in only one accepted way, i.e., using numerically controlled machines for extreme accuracy. The vice president, a non-engineer, changed several items in the finished product and advised that block attachments would be manufactured in a cheaper manner with manual machining. I had seen similar instances happen, but they were minor compared to this one and this was unacceptable. I went to the president of the company and turned in the company car, gave two weeks’ notice and became an independent consulting engineer. From then until now, I have worked around the world on product failure analysis and international projects because of one important fact: I quit working typical work weeks with middle managers and started dealing only with owners of companies and CEOs.
Another item that adversely affects the engineering community is the proliferation of the many subclasses of the term “engineer.” You are either an engineer or you are not. These newly created positions of engineering technology, manufacturing engineer—the list goes on and on—have made many good draftsmen too good to draft, turn wrenches or run wires. If they can’t handle the calculations, know the codes and have the abilities to sign off on a project, they are not engineers. Quit the current practices of not requiring all people working in an engineering position to be licensed in the state where they are practicing and carelessly using the title of engineer. Call those employees something else, but do not call them engineers.
Larry E. Lee , P.E.Consulting EngineerHouston