Church leaders have long encouraged members to get all the education that they can. And with emphasis on men taking a primary role as providers, and my having four sons, encouraging my boys to get a good education and picking a good career has been frequently on my mind.
My education and career has centered around engineering, specifically mechanical engineering. And I have often wondered if I would, or should, encourage them to pursue engineering as an educational and career choice. Currently my recommendation would be no. There are several reasons why.
The Myth of a United States Shortage of Engineers
The editor at Machine Design magazine has recently exposed this myth for what it is – a big lie. There are tens of thousands of unemployed or underemployed engineers in the United States, with good education and experience. They could be very quickly trained in any specifics of most engineering jobs. Yet they are not being hired in spite of cries about an engineering shortage. Why? Because there simply is no shortage of engineers in the United States.
But why would they lie about this? To understand this, one must asses who is claiming an engineering shortage, and what benefit they would gain from such a lie. Those claiming a shortage are business leaders and universities. Business leaders claim a shortage in order to justify outsourcing engineering services to places like China and India. What they really mean is that there is a shortage of engineers that are willing to work for a dollar an hour with no benefits (or whatever the going rate is).
Universities claim this shortage because they are experiencing a shortage of incoming students. These students are not dumb. They know where the jobs and the money are, and it is not in engineering careers.
A Dim Future for U. S. Manufacturing
Manufacturing in the U.S. has been in a steady decline for many years. It is becoming increasingly rare to come across people who work at a place that actually makes a product on site. I wonder if we are entering into an era where the manufacturer will go the way of the farmer as we enter a new age.
Engineering is not as ‘Romantic’ as it Appears.
Designing and building new things is not as easy as most people think. There are millions of decisions that go into every significant project. Everyone thinks the can design and build stuff. ‘Who designed this?’ is a frequent question asked by many who suppose they could have done much better. If anything does not work perfectly the first time, the engineer is the one who gets blamed for it. Many fingers of blame point at an engineer. Credit when anything does work is quite rare. It should work right the first time, right?
Engineers as Co-workers
One of the possible down sides of being an engineer is working with other engineers. This is not always a bad thing, but it sometimes is. Engineers are notorious for being arrogant know-it-alls with low social skills. Having to work with a team of such people, where consensus is expected, and deadlines are tight, is often not very pleasant.
Well, I really did enjoy my engineering education, and I frequently enjoy my time at work. But I can not generally encourage engineering as a future career in the United States. If my little explanations here are enough to persuade you to choose another career path, then you can thank me later. But if you are passionate enough about becoming and being an engineer to dismiss my complaints, and go through with it anyway, then you probably have what it takes to survive in this field.