The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) posted a rap video on its Web site to promote HVAC&R careers. Intended to reach a young audience, “License to Chill” comes complete with ASHRAE-inspired gang symbols and teenaged “MC A/C” pimped out in faux rapper bling including a golden ASHRAE logo around his neck.
This ill-conceived outreach ploy illustrates the long-standing disconnect between the Baby-Boomer Generation and those of us in the MTV Generation trying to break into the energy engineering field. To add insult to injury, ASHRAE even blackmailed a few young professionals to appear in the video, espousing the benefits of an energy career.
The ASHRAE rap video insults young people interested in energy engineering. Engineering organizations think we are pretty dumb if they believe we can be enticed into jobs by MC A/C and his low-budget rap (crap) video. Maybe the ASHRAE geezers are looking for an army of dumb kids to get coffee, make copies, and change their poopy diapers because they can’t afford secretaries anymore.
I am a highly-educated, soon-to-be-graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has been job-hunting for more than nine months with little success. While the Business Council of New York State and the National Institutes of Health are pleading for more American scientists and engineers to enter the job market, my peers and I can’t seem to find real jobs in industry or academia. Some of this disconnect is brilliantly explained by Michael S. Teitelbaum of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in an excellent piece, “Do we need more scientists?” which argues that the American brain drain is a false perception.
Why will the ASHRAE rap video fail to entice more students into energy engineering careers? More fundamentally, why do so many students switch out of science and engineering before finishing a degree? Furthermore, why do so many engineers and scientists leave the profession to become lawyers and consultants?
Young people seeking careers in science and engineering want to be respected for their intellect and ability to contribute to the profession. This respect begins with a salary commensurate with our level of education and experience. My generation perceives (correctly) that our society values lawyers, consultants, and actors more than engineers and scientists. Members of these other professions get paid substantially better despite the need for less education. So, why should young people endure extremely difficult educational paths when the easy way out pays better?
One thing is certain: ASHRAE’s pathetic rap video is not going to help young professionals find well-paying jobs in engineering and science.