@RaceTruck: According to the last Design News salary survey, engineers aren't doing too bad for ourselves. Compared to most people in this economy, I can't complain. Could I use more money? Sure. But, like you said, I enjoy the opportunity to solve complex challenges every day. I'm able to provide for my family while doing what I love. How many people are able to say that?
@Chuck: Is it true that the University of Illinois gives preference to international students? I live in Illinois, and I'd never heard that, nor was I able to find any news articles about it. My understanding is that preference for both admissions and financial aid is given to Illinois residents -- especially (until recently) friends and family of influential politicians.
Many incoming freshmen are admitted into the university, but are not admitted directly into the College of Engineering. They need to prove themselves in another program before they can transfer into the engineering school.
A much smarter, and less costly, option is to start out in a community college. Most Illinois community college engineering programs allow you to transfer directly into a four-year university with third-year status after completing your associate's degree. The cost is at least 5 times less.
Of course, universities like international students because they pay more tuition. Also, because of the conditions of their visas, they provide universities with a captive labor force. On the other hand, it's also true that they tend to be much more serious about academics and have better study skills. They don't tend to share U.S. cultural attitudes about going to school to party or to "find themselves."
I don't think that it's necessarily true that international students are displacing domestic students. If international students raise the academic level of the university and attract additional research funding, this should result in growth of engineering programs, which should provide more opportunities for both domestic and international students. It's not a zero-sum game.
I entered engineering at the beginning of the space race. Reason was simple. Invest 4 years of hard work and get a top paying job for life. Bonuses were the challenges and intellectual growth that came with solving hard problems. But the key was I could make good money.
THe best and the brightest aren't stupid they go were the money is. Want cheap engineers? Then you will get dumb engineers.
Eric Niemi raises a good point when he says, "The U.S. educates the world, why not give our own students an edge?" In Illinois, there's ongoing debate over the fact that the University of Illinois gives admission preference to smart foreign students, while many students of Illinois taxpayers are unable to get into the engineering school. The upside of this policy is that the university's engineering school is rated in the country's top five by U.S. News & World Report, year after year. The downside is that U.S.-born students who grow up in Illinois often end up going out-of-state to study engineering because they can't get into U of I's program.
Functional illiteracy is a problem, but fixing it will not be enough. We may not need everyone to be an engineer, but we do need widespread scientific and technical literacy as well as functional literacy.
"Routine jobs" going away isn't a good thing, I don't think there is any question of that. It will be terribly hard to create the millions of specialized jobs needed to replace the jobs displaced by automation. But it is also economically inevitable. Unless we can come up with a successful economic model that is non-competetive, they will go. That being the case, we must prepare our children for a world without them, and we must prepare a good world without them for our children.
When my son reached high school and I found that their only "computer" class available covered word processing, spreadsheets, etc., I was very disappointed that no programming class was available.When I was in high school, I had a computer science major before I graduated (2 semesters of programming in the high school and 6 semesters – 3 hours a day for a year – of programming at a cooperative program with a nearby "career center").When I went to college for electrical engineering, this was a significant advantage – though the languages were different, I was able to pick up and use the new programming concepts much faster – and generally better than most of my classmates.
I found that no high school system in our county or the neighboring counties offered ANY programming courses.Microprocessors are part of a high percentage of all products – from phones to refrigerators.It blows my mind that most school systems have not made this available in one form or another in high schools.I seriously believe that high schools should be offering classes for PC oriented programming and firmware oriented programming – e.g. a robotics elective.I would think that these would be well accepted by today's students and many might actually get excited about learning because of this availability.
Think of the mentality change - from looking for an "app" for something - to creating an "app" for something.Isn't that the mentality change we need for our future innovators?
I love Mythbusters, and I volunteer with a group of youngsters that build robots for challenges. I think as nice as it might seem to have Hollywood help I think it is up to the likes of you and me that must help STEM become cool. We can all help geeks and nerds become cool.
I too am for the government support of STEM programs. I also agree with the concept of no gaurantees. I think the key lies in efficiencies. Right now it is believed that outsourcing is the way to go because it is cheaper. However, anyone that spends any amount of times working with vendors, suppliers, whatever overseas quickly discover the total cost is actually increased by going over seas. It will take some time but I think the accountants will figure out that the key lies in efficiencies, not in short term cost savings.
Mentoring of STEM students would seem to be the best way to stoke tech future. I have been fortunate to have taught engineering economics to sixth graders through Junior Achievement, and mentor a robotics team for BEST (Building Engineering, Science, and Technology). The way the kids responded to teaching/mentoring was incredible. Folks, many of us were fortunate enough to remember the achievements of the "Space Age". Young people these days don't have anything like it that is front and center, but they are very excited when an engineer takes time with them! Government won't fix this completely; it will be each person making a difference, one on one.
The "Three Rs" may have been enough 60 years ago. It isn't any more. We are getting into an increasingly technical society. I have to deal with more and more people who can't use a computer. They read and write fine. Basic math is not the obstacle. They can surf the Internet like champs. But, they have no clue as to what a computer can do operationally speaking, and it is keeping them from effectively doing their jobs. If they are struggling just to use the tools, they will never be able to compete with those who can. A business that doesn't implement an MRP system because they don't see the value will find themselves at the mercy of a company who has 30% fewer employees because they can use the computer effectively.
Competition is a ruthless race. Companies that can't make the best use of their resources will quickly find themselves falling behind. That means increasing automation, whether we like it or not. That, in turn, means that people have to be able to make good use of that automation, or they will be out of a job with nowhere to go. We have to be teaching kids how to create intellectual property and how to understand it and use it. The simple truth is routine jobs are going away. If you aren't an artist, an engineer, a technician, a sales person, or a CEO, your job is at risk (even lawyers are getting more desperate). All of those jobs, except certain kinds of artist, require technical understanding. Even sales people need to understand what they are selling, or they will never be able to sell to a knowledgeable buyer.
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