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Reversing the Loss of Science and Engineering Careers 375

Posted by samzenpus
from the hiring-for-the-future dept.
walterbyrd writes "In response to the alleged shortages of qualified American engineers and technology professionals, numerous initiatives have been launched to boost interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers and to strengthen STEM education in the United States. Unfortunately, these programs have not proven successful, and many blame the laziness of modern students, the ineptitude of their teachers, poor parenting or, when there are no other excuses remaining, they may even jump to moral decay as a causative agent. However, the failure of STEM is because the very policies that created the shortages continue unabated. This is not a uniquely American problem. The best way to increase interest in STEM degrees is by making certain that STEM careers are actually viable."
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Reversing the Loss of Science and Engineering Careers

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  • by hambone142 (2551854) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:22PM (#39358957)
    I don't believe there is an engineering shortage in the U.S. If there were, engineer's wages would be increasing. They are not. I work for a very large computer company and wages have been pretty much stagnant for 10 years here. The real "problem" is there is a shortage of cheap engineers. Ones like those in India and China. US companies are hiring overseas like crazy and reducing employee count domestically.
  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:31PM (#39359043)

    who are truly passionate about it, whats your incentive? average pay? 40 18+ hour days with no days off? spending weeks at a time away from home and family while being anally examined by a customer?

    who doesn't want a part of that?

  • by snotclot (836055) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:31PM (#39359061)
    Why study engineering?

    1) Hardest course loads through college (excepting perhaps hard sciences and premeds).

    2) No girls in classes (5-14%, falls as engineering major gets harder (ie electrical))

    3) No girls in companies you will end up working at

    4) Facebook friends list is 80% men, most of friends are men. Great if you are networking, crappy if you are trying to network to find the perfect gf/wife. Other majors make balanced set of friends naturally through classes. Their networking, as a result, is exponentially easier.

    5) You end up working at a multinational company that pays you less (much less) than finance, law, BUSINESS. Argh. Note that business, finance, and law types went through the OPPOSITE of #1-#4, meaning they end up knowing way more girls, earning more, and having had a better life.

    6) Yet, you feel as if you contribute way more to society than money movers, patent leeching lawyers, and smoothtalking male/female bimbos/bimbettes.

    You tell ME how f*** up engineering is.

    You ask why I do it? Because I love analysis, creating, designing, and doing.
  • by decora (1710862) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:32PM (#39359065) Journal

    every article written about 'the decline of american labor x' needs to wake up and realize that 'american labor x' ceased to have meaning when corporations became globalized. NYSE is not the New York Stock Exchange. it is NYSE-Euronext, with its tentacles in pies all over the world. They can have their headquarters anywhere. Companies like IBM are not 'American Companies'. They are companies that happen to have a lot of managers in the United States, but they really don't need to.

    There is only one 'STEM labor supply', and it covers the face of the Earth, and that is where corporations and governments get their labor from. We are all in the same boat. The only way to 'save American labor X' is to save global labor x, and that means fighting against corrupt, repressive governments like China, where STEM people are thrown in prison if they criticize the system.

  • Supply and demand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jpobst (262199) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:32PM (#39359069)

    It's simple supply and demand.

    Anyone who is smart enough to do STEM is also smart enough to get an MBA for a lot less work, and have 10x the earnings potential.

    When CEO's making tens of millions say they can't find engineers, they really mean they can't find engineers for what they want to pay them. If you start paying engineers like executives, management, or sales, you'll have plenty of people stepping up.

  • by Phantom Gremlin (161961) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:33PM (#39359087)

    The decline of engineering as a career in this country is primarily because of two groups: a) top management and b) government policies. MBAs control top management, lawyers control government. Nothing will change until and unless those two groups understand that things need to change.

    I'm not optimistic.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:34PM (#39359093)

    Simple answer. Almost all "hard science" is completely outsourced to other countries who can do code for pennies on the dollar compared to US hired. Need something done domestically? H-1Bs are easy to get with "secret requirements".

    For people heading to college, there is really only one lucrative major if one doesn't want to be in a tent at some Occupy convention with some sign asking where one's job is, waiting for the next Pike to give them a faceful of pepper spray. That would be law. If you can do programming or IT, you can sit through the classes, get your JD, pass the bar, and have yourself an actual profession, not a job. Law isn't going to be outsourced anytime soon.

    There are two ways to make money in the world: Make a bigger pie, or take a piece from someone else. The pie isn't getting any bigger in the US with zero technology advances, the fact that China kills any US industry that seems promising (solar? Hack the US companies, slurp up the trade secrets, then dump the panels for cheaper than they can be made. A PRC victory achieved), and the fact that the US politicians are more interested in "terrorists" and political infighting than actually doing anything to advance the countrey. So, might as well take your pie from others and make a living somehow, because we are in a phase of history of "everything has been invented", and this isn't going to change much for the next 20-30 years.

    I know this isn't something /. people want to hear, but you have to go where the money is, and both government and industry have their back turned any US-based engineering. So, you have to change and go with what makes the cash, and that's law.

  • Mod parent up. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:35PM (#39359109)

    If there really was a shortage then wages would rise.
    Rising wages mean more people try to get into that field.
    We're still hearing about the "shortage" but wages aren't going up.

    Instead, there are a lot of companies lobbying Congress for changes in the H-1B visa program to get more cheap engineers from overseas.

    It's about profits. Not a shortage of engineers.

  • Supply and demand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MetricT (128876) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:37PM (#39359141) Homepage

    I can't find someone who'll sell me a Corvette for $10. That must mean there's a Corvette shortage...

    The MBA's, pols, and lobbyists that run our society can't seem to understand that supply and demand applies to other people as well. If the reward for several years of grad school were equal to the risk and cost, you'd see more people in STEM. That's why they went into finance, because that's where the money was.

    When the scientists and engineers make more money than the MBA's running the company, I'll imaging you won't have any problem finding them. (And I have both a MBA from a top 25 school and 12 years in high-performance computer. Guess who makes more around here...)

    When you say something is unimportant, and yet treat it as unimportant, people are smart enough to see through that.

  • by stanjo74 (922718) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:40PM (#39359157)
    Most jobs in a service economy are protected in some way by the government, with the exception of engineering jobs. Anything in medical, law, finance, accounting, etc. is protected from fierce international competition by local and federal rules and regulations.

    So, unless one's heart is really into it, why would anyone consider a career in engineering and science?

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:43PM (#39359179)

    Its not the late 90s anymore folks. You will have to make yourself stand out to be hired.

    Or, you can just do what today's smart kids are doing, and avoid the field altogether.

    It's actually a pretty good field if you're a people person, and really like schmoozing and sitting in meetings all day. You just have to struggle through all the hard engineering classes, get an MBA to go with it, then struggle your way through the first few years of work experience as an engineer while you develop your contacts and work your way into management, then work your way up the management ladder. The sky's the limit there; you can go all the way up to CEO if you're a really good schmoozer (though to be CEO of a really big company, you'll probably need a degree from a more prestigious university, but for the lesser companies this isn't necessary, any old MBA will do).

    But if you're a technical person, are not that great at chit-chatting and bullshitting with people while playing golf, don't like sitting in meetings all day, and actually like doing technical work, engineering's not a very good field.

  • by siphonophore (158996) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:45PM (#39359195)

    Geez, go work for a small company. I have about 1 hr of meetings per week and work with my hands (not just typing keys) daily.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:58PM (#39359291)

    3) No girls in companies you will end up working at

    This isn't true. It depends on the company of course, but in my experience, at the large companies (like Intel), there's tons of women.

    However, 1) all the women in engineering are married, and most of those in arranged marriages (i.e., if you're a white male, you're not even eligible to date them even if they were single; big culture barrier). 2) the rest of the women are in HR, marketing, finance, etc. So you'll see them occasionally in the hallway, or in the company cafeteria, but you won't see them much in your work areas or even your wing of the building. Heck, they might all be in a separate building.

    At the small companies, there might be a few women, but they'll be older and married, and working as the HR person or receptionist or the owner's wife (yes, this was a real position at my first company; I'm not sure what her official title was). That's if you're lucky, lots of small companies don't have any women at all.

    4) Facebook friends list is 80% men, most of friends are men. Great if you are networking, crappy if you are trying to network to find the perfect gf/wife.

    Exactly right. IME, if you're an engineering major, you better make some time in your busy college schedule to find a wife before you graduate. It's just like how people used to say women went to college to get their "MRS degree", except these days it's reversed as there's more girls in college these days than boys. Make sure you pick well and don't get stuck with a girlfriend you end up breaking up with after you've left college and entered the workforce, because suddenly your choices of available single women has dried up.

    6) Yet, you feel as if you contribute way more to society than money movers, patent leeching lawyers, and smoothtalking male/female bimbos/bimbettes.

    Totally disagree. This one completely depends on luck, and maybe a little on your own choices. If you go to a big multinational (since the pay is generally better), chances are very good that whatever project you're working on will be shitcanned because it was a crappy copy of a competitor's product, or it wasn't well planned, or they screwed up execution and "missed the market window", or there was a competing project within the company that got chosen instead, etc. Even if it does get out the door, how well it succeeds in the market is anyone's guess; it might be the next iPhone or Facebook, or it might be the next OS/2, or it might be the next Pontiac Aztek. If you end up working on some revolutionary product that becomes a giant hit and changes the world, count yourself lucky. It's quite likely you'll waste your entire career doing nothing of real note, and nothing you worked on will be remembered by anyone.

  • by siphonophore (158996) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:00PM (#39359297)

    +1 Cathartic

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:05PM (#39359329)

    Yeah, but when your girlfriend is as much an engineer as you, LIFE ROCKS!

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:09PM (#39359383)

    In my youth companies would hire a talented engineer out of school and have him work with an experienced designer in the field to develop skills in a technical specialty such as this, and hang on to him for dear life once the skills were developed. Now the idea is that these specialists are just spring up to meet need and can be let go the instance such needs are fulfilled.

    Well what happens is the skills don't get developed that way, and nobody is interested in going $100,000 in debt to get what amounts to be a temporary job.

  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:11PM (#39359405)

    Other than the richest 0.1% of the population who is seeing wage increases these days? It's called the wage productivity gap and basically, everyone who isn't running companies is getting screwed, it's not just engineers. The wealthiest 1%, 0.1% and 0.01% are getting wage increases sure (though more the top 0.1% than 1%, but anyway)

    http://currydemocrats.org/in_perspective/american_pie.html from 2007 and obviously slightly biased but it has a couple of good figures on it. Pay since about 1988 has been significantly decoupling from productivity, and where has it been going? Right, not to the people at the bottom.

    Therein lies the crux of all of the problem for people who aren't in the upper class in the US (and to a lesser extent everywhere else). If you worked more productively you would get more money, but not so much anymore, since someone else will work for less.

    Engineering, and CS are still good programmes (yes, english spelling) to be in, since you still get more money than other fields generally. The other sciences are sort of a crap shoot, if you can't get a PhD, or can't get a technician job they're really bad to have done, but otherwise they can work out ok. The problem is that a construction worker with no education past highschool will make as much as a degree in biology or physics will during say, a post doc, and the scientists will have needed 10 years to get to that point, where the construction worker starts out close to that.

  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:12PM (#39359417) Homepage
    The decline of engineering is primarily because of a structural problem; you need a finite number of them, and after a certain point more don't really do much (not criticizing engineering at all, that's how EVERY field works).
  • by slew (2918) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:15PM (#39359439)

    In my experience, the problem you are observing with STEM career track is a systematic problem.

    Often the folks that are coming into industry from graduate or post-graduate university are looking for a job where they can apply their newly minted skills (let's call that a mid-entry job for argument's sake). Most managers in industry are looking for people that can help them work out problems and are willing to hire smart people and throw them on the job to learn (let's call that an entry-level job for argument's sake), or folks that can help them that are already skilled in the industry who already have lots of experience (let's call that a job for an highly experienced person). Which is basically what you have observed.

    Of course there are some jobs for folks that work on advanced projects that require more than entry level experience, but perhaps less than highly experience level. Maybe that is some type of "entry-mid" level job you might be interested in?

    Here's the dillema. If you were a hiring manager, would you promote someone that you've seen working on an entry-level basis for a few years to that new advanced project, or hire what we like to call a new-college-grad++ for that position? Well, I can tell you that NCG++ had better knock my socks off before I'd take the risk to hire that person over promoting someone that I know is a smart and a hard worker. That's because hiring new folks is really a crap shoot (sometimes you win, sometimes you lose). Also, if I hire the NCG++ from outside, an inside person that I might have promoted might decide to take off to another company and we'd lose the institutional knowledge that came with that person as they walk out the door to a competitor. As a result, some of these positions just aren't open to outside folks.

    Basically, it sounds like you are trying to "retrack" a STEM career from academia to industry. That's is one of the problems built into the system. Mid-career track in academia generally involves lots of publishing and research (which tends to be in one narrow area if you are only doing something for 3 years) where industry tends to value generalized knowledge or dotting "i's" and crossing "t's" on problems on its mid-career folks.

    The only advice I have is that if you want to re-track your career at mid-track, you need to get data points on your resume where it shows you can dot i's and cross t's and have lots of general field knowledge (not 2-years of papers in a very narrow area). If you don't you probably have to wait it out until you get 5-10 years of experience at something specific where you can qualify for a highly experienced job in that more narrow area on its own merit, or you can take an entry level job and hope to wow someone. Sometimes that works too. In most successful companies, it doesn't often matter at what level you are hired in, as long as the company lets the good people bubble-up (and most successful companies have this attribute in common). Good luck.

  • Passion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ocratato (2501012) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:22PM (#39359489)

    Most of these solutions seem to be getting the cart before the horse.

    Back in the early '70s, in Australia at least, you could get a university education almost for free. The result was that students studied what they had a passion for without worrying too much about what career they would end up with. The lucky ones got the careers they wanted, others with a real passion started businesses, and the rest ended up as teachers where they taught with that same passion.

    Now a universtiy education is so expensive that it must be carefully tailored to where the good paying jobs already are. The passion has been lost, and along with it the good teachers and the innovative engineers - like those that started Sun, HP, etc.

    Society has to put the investment back into education if it wants to get the rewards. Give the kids that education and they will go out and dream up new businesses that we cannot even begin to imagine.

  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:22PM (#39359495) Homepage
    Well heaven forbid you actually train someone to do it. That's why you can't find anybody, every company wants instant gratification with no work.
  • by Corporate T00l (244210) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:25PM (#39359519) Journal

    Your #1-4 do certainly match my experience. Your point #5 though doesn't seem to be borne out by the facts.

    The notion that engineering majors make less than finance and business majors isn't borne out by the statistics. Law is an unfair comparison since that's an additional 3 years of expensive professional degree tuition, although their new-graduate employment numbers aren't doing that great.

    Let's compare stats. Here we have have an undergraduate business program, hyped as being in the top 20 undergraduate business programs (pay close attention to the mean base salary and % employment numbers):

    http://dyson.cornell.edu/undergrad/careers.php#placement [cornell.edu]

    Here we have an undergraduate engineering program, also hyped as being highly ranked, at the same university, for the same year:

    Computer Science: http://www.engineering.cornell.edu/resources/career_services/students/statistics/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=78827 [cornell.edu]

    Electrical Engineering: http://www.engineering.cornell.edu/resources/career_services/students/statistics/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=78828 [cornell.edu]

    Now, the business degree majors do have their data updated for 2011, the engineers are only at 2010, but take a look at the 8 year trend reports to satisfy yourself that the numbers are relatively stable:

    http://www.engineering.cornell.edu/resources/career_services/students/statistics/postgrad_reports.cfm [cornell.edu]

    Undergrad CS majors are making 28% more than the undergrad business majors. Electrical engineers are not doing as well as the CS majors, but still better than the business majors.

    The majority of business majors end up in just as boring and dead-end jobs as the majority of other majors. You can't look at the high-flying business and finance guys on Wall Street and think that those guys are "typical" for business majors any more than you can look at Bill Gates, Gordon Moore, or any of a whole range of tech company CEOs and execs, and think that they are typical engineers.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:27PM (#39359537)

    Way to miss the point. You're never going to get, working as an engineer at a small company, the kind of pay that you'd get as a middle manager at a large corporation. Plus, your career is over when you're 40; managers don't have to worry about that.

    Of course, the downside is that you do little of value and you sit in meetings all day when you're a manager, but so what? Bring your laptop/smartphone and play games and claim you're answering emails, and then enjoy the cash after work is over (while the engineers you supervise are still hard at work into the evening hours to meet the unrealistic deadlines you set).

  • by paleo2002 (1079697) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:37PM (#39359619)
    The government complains about a lack of scientists and engineers as it continues to cut funding to education across the board at the state and federal levels.

    K-12 schools can't afford to give their teachers cost-of-living raises or even hire new, competent teachers in some cases. Colleges are raising tuition year after year despite overcrowding because attendance is up but funding is down. Schools in general have trouble keeping their labs and equipment up to date due to budget cuts as well. Less money for science and math teachers leads to fewer students pursing science and math in college. This leads to fewer science/math professionals, including fewer good teachers. And so on . . .

    When a government begins attacking education - banning printing presses, burning books, defunding schools, demonizing teachers' unions - its because they want a stupid, docile populace. If you're raising sheep, don't expect to get anything more than wool out of them.
  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:51PM (#39359717)

    Out of curiosity, what are your geographic limitations? For a lot of careers, you have to go where the jobs are, to a certain extent. Certain industries tend to congregate in certain geographic areas (not necessarily just one, many times there'll be several). So, for instance, if you want to be a petroleum engineer, there's certain places where there's a lot of those jobs available: Texas, Louisiana, Alaska, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, etc. So if you're dead-set on living in Maine because your family is there, you're simply not going to find a job, and you were stupid to choose that major. (I'm assuming there's no oil in Maine.)

    Similarly, many engineering professions only have a good supply of jobs in major metro areas. So if you're dead-set on living in Bumpkinville, Wyoming, because all your family is there, again, you're stupid to choose that major or to even go into college for a professional degree. You should have just skipped college and gone to work at the local feed-n-seed store or Piggly Wiggly.

    If you're dead-set on living in one specific place, you need to choose your profession around this limitation, and the industries available there. If that means working at the feed-n-seed because that's the only thing in that small town better than McDonald's, then you need to pursue that. But if you're really interested in working in a certain industry, you need to go where that industry is located, and give up on geographic limitations. Of course, there's middle ground; if the industry is only located in one place, then you either need to go there or find a different profession/major. But if the industry has many locations (like how electronics and software are big in Silicon Valley, RTP, Austin, Seattle, plus a bunch of other large metro areas), then even if you hate one of those places, you still have others to choose from and can afford to limit yourself to a certain extent.

  • by russotto (537200) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:51PM (#39359721) Journal

    I work for a major semi-conductor company in Silicon Valley (California USA), and we have been desperately looking for talented micro-controller firmware software developers and/or hardware engineers that are proficient with wired data-link protocols (UART, SPI, I2C, 1-wire, ISO7816-3, etc.) for nearly a year, and offering a 6 figure salary.

    So find someone with a clue and maybe some experience in related areas (e.g. kernel or device driver development), and hire them. I've done microcontroller firmware and had to bit-bang both SPI and I2C, and neither one is rocket science; I learned on the job from the data sheets. Stop looking for the purple squirrel -- the candidate who has exactly the experience you need on the tools you use -- and start hiring people who have the basic skills. This is still difficult, but it's a lot less difficult than looking for the niche candidate who probably already has a job with your competition.

    (I'm on the wrong coast and am currently employed doing something else, sorry)

  • by leftover (210560) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:53PM (#39359741) Homepage

    ad454 I believe you but think you are missing something. You, as the technical person, are not seeing any candidates because the generation who cut that technology with their own teeth are too old to get past HR.

    My experience spans the development of those protocols; there is a veritable museum's worth of 7816 prototypes in my basement; there are ARM, PIC and MSP430 projects-in-process in front of me right now and I would very much like a job as you describe. You would never even see my resume because I am sixty-something. Anyone who is not sixty-something would not have my experience. Anyone trained in 'software' now would have started with GUI toolkits and unlimited memory. Hardware people are using UML design leading to implementation in astonishingly capable programmable logic devices.

    Many of the posts above hit the nail on the head: the MBA managers deliberately under-value the contribution of engineering to their own wealth. They pretend that they somehow create wealth by having meetings. The same people use some of that money to buy politicians at all levels. They also write business textbooks to further solidify their dogma.

    Meh. I'll get off your lawn now.

  • Re:simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:55PM (#39359751)

    People aren't interested in shows like Cosmos. It's not like the TV networks are forcing people to watch Desperate Housewives; they show that junk because people like it and the ratings are high. PBS shows educational shows all the time, yet their ratings are lousy and they're constantly begging for money. Discovery Channel used to have lots of great educational programming, but then they found that people preferred to watch shows about moronic people building shitty motorcycles and arguing with each other constantly, so that's what they show now.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:02PM (#39359797)

    WTF? I2C and the like have been around for decades; I did I2C bit-banging on an MCU in college back in '95. The others aren't much different. The old-school HW engineers could easily figure that stuff out, these protocols are not complicated.

    Maybe your problem is you're too cheap. 6 figures in Silicon Valley is peanut pay. If you were in Nebraska or Tennessee or wherever, that'd be a very good salary, but that's nothing in SV. Any employee making that will have to commute 1-2 hours each way to find an affordable place to live.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:05PM (#39359815)

    I've interviewed people for all sorts of engineering jobs and I've never found anyone who was a "perfect fit." No one can ever tick off all your boxes. You have to pick someone with reasonably related experience who is smart enough to figure out what they need to learn on their own. If you are afraid that won't guarantee results for you, then hire two smart people instead of one and they can figure it out together.

    As a side note, what you're describing as far as job knowledge is not rare or strange. I work with people who could do that kind of work (as could I), but we're all happy with our current jobs.

    And as far as "6 figure salary." I assume that's a euphemism for around $100k/year. How much will this person's manager be paid? And that manager's manager? How about the executive team? How much profit sharing is there? What? There isn't any profit sharing for engineers? It's almost as if you don't give a shit about the people you want to work for you and you can't figure out why no one will bite.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:16PM (#39359901)

    You can build stuff when you're a manager too; just do it in your spare time after work, while all your engineers are slaving away late into the night to meet your unrealistic deadlines. While you're getting to work in your spare time on a project you enjoy and picked yourself, all those engineers are slaving away on some BS project they don't care about, that they had no hand in creating, and only picked because they needed a job to pay their student loans. And you can laugh at them for patting themselves on the back for willingly going into a profession where they can be paid poorly (compared to the educational costs and difficulty of completing the degree) and then get laid off when they're 40 because they're "too old".

  • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:25PM (#39359969) Homepage

    I have to respectfully disagree. People hire people because of market opportunities. Market opportunities exist because you can make a profit. The more capable engineers are of building more useful things in less time, the more demand there will be for your services.

    I am seeing market opportunities for something new/better all the time; things I could even build on my own if I wasn't entirely too busy with work. Moreover, most times I've needed to hire someone in a situation where I was the hiring manager or if I was an engineer on a team in need, I can say that it has always been hard to find qualified people. I can only think of one time, ever, where there was a position and we passed on someone because of salary. (And I probably could have swung it to a hire, and I later regretted passing. I'd read too many articles like this and was convinced someone equally/nearly equally qualified would come along. Nope. Open position for 6+ months.)

  • by ace37 (2302468) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:30PM (#39359993) Homepage

    Rather than holding on for dear life, they could try giving the guy an unsolicited big raise when he's worth more money. Then he wouldn't be inclined to jump ship.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:37PM (#39360035)

    after a certain point more don't really do much (not criticizing engineering at all, that's how EVERY field works).

    Except for the law. The more lawyers they make the more lawyers we end up needing to fight the lawyers they keep making. Its kinda like the Borg...

  • by JackPepper (1603563) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:39PM (#39360047)

    Tax money spent on government education has more than doubled on a per pupil basis in the last 30 years.

    In K-12 education, no results have been seen since the customer, guardians, have no involvement in the pricing, i.e. tuition, pay. This leads to a lack of quality, since the customer is told to take the product, education, as is or pay an exorbitant amount of money, private schooling.

    Colleges are a mess due to the ridiculous subsidizing that occurs with their customer. The more customers the college gets the more funding, government loans, the college gets. This drives prices skyward.

    I'd say banning printing presses and burning books is in general a bad sign. Partially defunding schools without making alternatives available is worse than continuing to fund them. I say demonize the whole failed government education system. Teachers' unions are part of the failed government education system that perpetuates the ideas that only the government can educate children.

    The government complains about plenty of things in which it's already heavily involved. The last thing those sectors need is the government to start helping.

  • by hoggoth (414195) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:44PM (#39360449) Journal

    You can, you know, have sex with an awesome interesting woman instead.

  • Re:Passion (Score:4, Insightful)

    by magamiako1 (1026318) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:59PM (#39360527)
    There is, it's called not fucking our economy over for decades of a recession. It's a direct investment in our country's personal well being. Look a bit further than the tip of your nose when you make comments.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:15PM (#39360601)

    1. Huge strawman. Not only are these 'progressive forces' a very ambiguous group, but you claim to know what drives them and what they believe. This is worsened by the fact that you also claim that they've successfully managed to destroy American manufacturing in some sort of conspiracy. A conspiracy in which the movers and shakers have been largely bipartisan and probably too incompetent to actually pull off such a scheme.

    2. This idea that our political opponents are boogymen out to destroy the world is one of the main reasons our political system is so ineffective. The system doesn't work without compromise and compromise is no longer in vogue. The ineffective political system does a poor job of educating the populace, dealing with economic issues, and maintaining the peace. This causes not only less STEM jobs, but less STEM students. And less educated people in general. And more prisoners than anywhere else. I blame people like you, who contribute to the political vitriole that has deadlocked our system for decades while other first world nations advance ahead of us in every meaningful metric. Maybe if you took your self-righteous head out of your ass you would see that there is some merit in most theories of distributive justice and there is probably no intrinsically correct way for a government to deal with economic issues, there are only effective and ineffective ways, and these are contingent upon circumstance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:36PM (#39360707)

    No, please no. The financial industry is messed up and desperately in need of reform and better regulations. Getting rid of fiat currency is not at all the right way to do so. Fractional reserve banking [wikipedia.org] is (1) not evil (although it can be overdone) and (2) does not require fiat currency.

    A major problem with non-fiat currencies is that there simply is more wealth than precious metals, so you can't represent all of the world's wealth in precious metals. The result is necessarily deflationary. Also, you get people wasting their time mining which has no intrinsic value (at least Wall St. is creating liquidity and market signals... just poorly).

  • by CodingHero (1545185) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:43PM (#39360739)
    Your posts of:

    Or, you can just do what today's smart kids are doing, and avoid the field altogether.

    and

    Way to miss the point. You're never going to get, working as an engineer at a small company, the kind of pay that you'd get as a middle manager at a large corporation. Plus, your career is over when you're 40; managers don't have to worry about that.

    Of course, the downside is that you do little of value and you sit in meetings all day when you're a manager, but so what? Bring your laptop/smartphone and play games and claim you're answering emails, and then enjoy the cash after work is over (while the engineers you supervise are still hard at work into the evening hours to meet the unrealistic deadlines you set).

    make me feel like you are an engineer who has somehow become embittered with the profession. I'm sure you have a reason you feel the way you do but I work as an engineer at a small company with around 20 other engineers and none of any age are nearly this cynical about it. As previous posts have mentioned, engineering classes are hard, there's no girls, and you probably will never get the respect you deserve from the rest of society, but we do it because we love it. To be successful as an engineer requires that you enjoy what you're doing. Once you stop enjoying it, then it's time to move on. Keep in mind here that "successful" does not necessarily equal "high pay" or "upper management" position; many would define it as having a job where they don't actually feel like they are going to work.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @11:42PM (#39361035)

    "Clients"? If you have clients, then you're probably not an engineer, but a businessman (who does engineering). There's a bit of a difference. It also means you're a talker; you can't get clients without talking to them at some point, instead of sitting in a cubicle or in a manufacturing facility and doing engineering work and only interacting with coworker engineers and your manager; dealing with customers is a whole different animal.

    There's nothing in engineering school that prepares you for going into business; you have to go take some business courses on the side for that. And by running a business, you have much less time to do actual engineering work. Nothing wrong with that, but you can't really call yourself a full-time engineer if you're not engineering full-time. More importantly, all these businesses and politicians screaming for more engineers aren't looking for people who want to start their own small business ASAP, they're looking for people to be workers in big corporations.

  • by jank1887 (815982) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @11:52PM (#39361077)

    sure I'm gonna burn some karma here, but I'm always entertained by the fact that when articles mention science and engineering, the majority of the comments are about computers, software and IT. That is but a small subset of engineering (well, if you consider IT part of it at all). The majority of engineering deals in some way with the physical world. And they've generally fared much better in the economic downturn (I've seen numbers ranging from a third to a half of the general unemployment rate), mainly because of the 'shortage'. or, at least, lack of excess.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 15, 2012 @12:03AM (#39361131)

    Stop looking for the purple squirrel -- the candidate who has exactly the experience you need on the tools you use

    THIS. I am capable of writing just about any type of software or firmware you can put in front of me - any of assembler, C/C++, Java, Scala/Clojure, Haskell, Python, etc., and steer my way around oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, JTAG units, ICEs, and so forth. Not only that, within 2-3 weeks of starting at a company I can be completely productive - writing code, documentation, code reviews, etc., and my interpersonal and communications skills with other team members is exceptional (I mean engineering exceptional, not sales/marketing exceptional.)

    I've been (almost) continuously employed during my career (outside of a 2-3 week sudden layoff a few months after 9/11), and I haven't had too much trouble finding employment, but getting my resume through corporate HR or hiring managers that are looking for specific buzzwords is really difficult. Most of them can't seem to fathom how I can pick up what I need to know in such a short amount of time.

  • Simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @12:32AM (#39361271)

    Instead of giving 700 billion to keep bank and finance types from going bankrupt and losing their jobs ( and creating a huge incentive to enter those fields), let them go belly up.

    Then those careers will not attract the smart people.

    For bonus points, have pure engineering and science programs to the tune of 100 billion per year.

  • Re:Looking back... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by darenw (74015) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @02:57AM (#39361755) Homepage Journal

    I've always been fascinated by that time in the mid-20th Century known as the Space Age. The public was excited about "atomic power" as it was known then, breaking the sound barrier, the moon race, and all that. That, and certain strands of modern art combined to make architectural elements echoing the themes of space and atomic/nuclear physics - orbits, star shapes, etc. These memes escaped their birthnests and could be found all over - restaurants, gas stations, signage, furniture, etc. Regular Joes and their families bought "transistor radios" - cool stuff back then! Color TV became real for most people in the 1960s or 1970s. Computers and anything NASA did were the ultimate in coolness. There was a lot to be excited about. (And of course, plenty of stuff best left ignored, as in any era.)

    Now that I think about it, seems like many areas of engineering and science made contributions that lead to product ideas that lead to stuff everyone could get in their hands or see while driving about town.

    Yeah, STEM needs to be cool and resume giving things to the people.

    What new gadgets, or imagined gadgets, does everyone yearn for? Tablets and smartphones, okay, those are cool. These are wonderful for practical reasons, but somehow not as amazing as small radios were fifty years ago, only the logical next step in miniaturizing known technology. We have amazing TVs/monitors now, too. What are the big itches to explore we can all rally together under? Orbit the Earth? Been there done that. What next? Deep sea exploration impresses some people, but hasn't influenced the arts or architecture or much of anything else.

    Any /. subscriber knows there's no shortage of awesome science and new technology today. But much of it is so remote from practicality, very abstract. Our most important ideas don't translate as easily into physical expression. What can a architect or industrial designer do with the idea of Higgs bosons? Have we made a decent effort with that? How 'bout nanotechnology memes incorporated into architectural decorations? Sadly, architecture has been lacking in any decorative drive the last couple decades (see Against the Architects of Empire [thepublicdiscourse.com], essay by theorist Nikos Salingaros) That needs to change.

    Everyone, your missions are to think up things that are amazing and that can, in principle, lead to something practical that Regular Joe can hold in hand or see while driving about on errands or weekend trips. Do the science, or invent something from the science, or find ways to express the key ideas in some artsy way within reach of the general population. Stuff on the internet doesn't count. Actual physical reality needs to carry the banner of Current Hot Science Ideas.

  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @03:20AM (#39361821)

    Way to miss the point. You're never going to get, working as an engineer at a small company, the kind of pay that you'd get as a middle manager at a large corporation. Plus, your career is over when you're 40

    Err what the? Actually all the engineers over 40 I know are private contractors, many have their own contracting firms with just one employee, themselves. Those guys are absolutely rolling in the cash. 25+ years experience in an industry, as long as your a chartered engineer or otherwise certified that's when you have literally limitless opportunities. You're a specialist? Even more so.

  • by rwa2 (4391) * on Thursday March 15, 2012 @03:52AM (#39361901) Homepage Journal

    Why study engineering?
    1) Hardest course loads through college (excepting perhaps hard sciences and premeds).

    Yep, I enjoyed the challenge. Actually took quite a few extra honors options that I didn't technically need to, and enrolled in a bunch of pretty difficult electives for the heck of it. Yes, I also failed / withdrew / incompleted some of them... over a few rough semesters I managed to collect one of every possible grade... but really, where else can you explore your limits? I didn't get into a hard school just to try to skirt by with the bare minimum easy classes and avoid all the challenging courses and professors. Besides, no one has ever asked for a transcript (maybe if I went the academic route grades would be important)

    2) No girls in classes (5-14%, falls as engineering major gets harder (ie electrical))

    Wish this would increase... but at least the girls that are there can be super nerdy++, which is a turn-on for some of us . Besides, this is a plus if you already have a gf from HS like I did. Can be tricky, since you can't really count on girls and relationships to mature until after college. I suppose I lucked out (esp. since my gf/wife ended up financing my last semester of college).

    But yeah, unless you get lucky with project teams, chances of finding love on the engineering quad are slim. However, a lot of our professional engineering societies were pretty much run almost exclusively by women... even the Society of Women Engineers wasn't sexist about letting guys join in if you get really desperate. Also, there are usually plenty of girls in classes / clubs like ballroom dancing who dig science / engineering types (particularly the foreign girls)... because face it, you don't really want to be talking to your gf about problem sets all the time.

    3) No girls in companies you will end up working at

    Given how much trouble people get into for shitting where they eat, this is probably a plus.

    4) Facebook friends list is 80% men, most of friends are men. Great if you are networking, crappy if you are trying to network to find the perfect gf/wife. Other majors make balanced set of friends naturally through classes. Their networking, as a result, is exponentially easier.

    Get a gf/wife in education, then their social sphere is the exact opposite, and you have achieved balance. Plus then your SO can have all her hot teacher friends over and you can impress them with your... whatever. (Teacher friends are easily impressed, or at least do a great job being super friendly about it even if they aren't.) Also you get to constantly play hookup master with all of your respective friends. (not recommended with friends you want to keep, but entertaining nonetheless)

    5) You end up working at a multinational company that pays you less (much less) than finance, law, BUSINESS. Argh. Note that business, finance, and law types went through the OPPOSITE of #1-#4, meaning they end up knowing way more girls, earning more, and having had a better life.

    Yeah, but those people are sleazy looking. Also you feel better when you find out they're all indirect overhead and the first on the chopping block when it's time to tighten belts.

    6) Yet, you feel as if you contribute way more to society than money movers, patent leeching lawyers, and smoothtalking male/female bimbos/bimbettes.

    Heh, yeah, people who make money out of money are in it just as long as other people buy into their bluff. But when it hits the fan, the resourceful ones with the ability will still be... working. Woo. At least it's something that will always have value, and not just evaporate.

    You tell ME how f*** up engineering is.
    You ask why I do it? Because I love analysis, creating, designing, and doing.

    And some people's life goal is to be able to go shopping on som

  • by reason (39714) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:39AM (#39362075)

    I think the parent comment's point in saying "your career is over when you're 40" is that at 40, you have reached the top of your career ladder unless you move into management (in a large corporation).

    I'm in science role, and at 38, have reached this point myself. I am in a large corporation, and have started the shift into management, though it isn't something I'm particularly good at or particularly enjoy. In the context of a large organisation, a 45 year old who has avoided management roles is likely to be perceived in some quarters as a failure, and may be first in line for redundancy when the next downturn hits.

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