I am not sure about colleges helping place engineers into jobs. Between myself, my peers, and kids I know in college now, no one has been hooked up with a position at anything. Not even nonpaying internships. It is a bit tougher out there than you think.
You're doing a great thing by talking to those prospective engineers, bobjengr. Most high school kids don't have a clue to what an engineer is (although they do seem to know that engineers are nerds), and many adults don't either. Years after I had graduated from college, one of my good friends told me he thought engineers and refrigerator repairmen were the same thing. It had never occurred to him that someone was needed to design appliances.
The Chattanooga Engineers' Club actively recruits high school students for the engineering profession. On these recruiting "sessions", it amazes me every time I go, to find junior and senior students who have no idea as to what engineers do and the salary levels they might achieve. We discuss the varying branches of engineering; i.e. mechanical, electrical, industrial, etc etc and it's like Moses coming down from the mountain. Also, the number of students who do not know ANY engineers is truly baffling. To many, if not most, engineers drive trains. Mention STEM, and you get blank looks. One great thing--after you start the discussion, the kids really become engaged. They WANT to know more. This is the most gratifying thing about our visits. I am definitely all for recruiting to drive qualified students into our profession. Great post Charles.
Also, keep in mind, college is a great place to network and work with others. Countless ventures began in college, among students. Some successful, others not. Nevertheless, it is a good place to begin the networking process.
I agree with you Cabe that the biggest role of the degree is to help get a foot in the door. But let's not forget how important that is. As you point out, jobs are scarce today. It's also worth noting that much of the math we took in school, which I initially thought was useless, turned out to be relevant in certain advanced areas of engineering. Like you, I worked with engineers who didn't have degrees and who turned out to be very good engineers, but I would still advise my own kids that it's better to have the degree every time.
Industry wide, the degree is predominantly the foot in the door for most people. So, getting one is a good idea.
But, I am leaning towards no traditional education needed. I know quite a few self-taught engineers that are more adept than most I know with degrees. If I were to hire someone for an engineering job, I would base it on merit as opposed to the degree. However, that is me.
I know a few degreed engineers that are sleeping on couches, as you said. Jobs are scares. If you don't have the tech experience, most companies don't want you. I also know so many of my peers that cheated their way through college and received a degree. Hate to be the "lucky" company to get one of those people.
As I write/interview/research tech, I notice a lot of the "hot" products and some niche success companies are run/founded by people without degrees. They had an idea and lucked out.
IDK, a degree will get a lever throwing/button pushing job eventually. Others can rise to success based on their ideas. Others wind up doing nothing. It doesn't matter what path one takes.. it's always a catch 22.
@Cabe: Okay, but again, how many college dropouts wind up becoming Bill Gates and how many end up sleeping on their friends' couches? In the aggregate, getting an education is a far more successful strategy than not getting an education.
It seems to me that the extreme shortage of talent that so many claim is a large problem today is actually a shortage of "really cheap" talent. If a good engineer were typically paid as much as some of those financial weasels there would be no shortage of good engineers. The failure is in the lack of government regulation of the financial industry, which has allowed those who are willing to cheat the chance to make huge profits and get away with it. That is what has led to the terrible damage done to our economy.
Just tighten the regulation screws a few dozen turns and take a few of the "wild cowboys" out of the saddle, and things will turn around, making the scientific profession, which includes engineering, much more a source of better incomes. Suddemnly the shortage will be history.
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In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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