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Go For It
racerjerry   9/18/2013 9:17:07 AM
I say that that this plan IS a no-brainer, because if your son/daughter has the inclination and motivation, there is little to prevent continuing their education part-time while being gainfully employed.  AND often their employer will help with tuition.

Such exposure to the REAL WORLD will also help them to make better course choices to align with their true interests and abilities and in the end, make them much better engineers through application of practical experience.

User Rank
That degree
Jim_E   9/18/2013 9:09:36 AM
When I was choosing colleges, I knew that I wanted to be an EE, but being a hands on guy, I considered getting the EET degree.  Penn State offers a great 2 year and 4 year EET degree (you actually get both the associates degree and the bachelors degree when you do the four year program) and it was a really hands-on program.  But, after talking with a family friend who was an EE who worked at Bell Labs, he basically told me that the 4 year EETs and the 4 year EEs end up doing the same work, but the EETs get paid significantly less.  I followed his advice and got a traditional EE degree.

Ironically, I now work in a manufacturing facility and over the years, I've seen the relevance of any degree evaporate, as experience and skills seem to be all that matter these days, at least for non-big companies.  When I interview people or review their resumes, their degree just doesn't matter all that much.

I'm still glad that I got the EE instead of the EET, as I had to take advanced math and other related courses (thermodynamics, material sciences, etc.) that I wouldn't have been exposed to in the EET program.  But, I do see the value in the EET program, especially in the manufacturing field.


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Flip Sides
Critic   9/18/2013 9:00:07 AM

Nice, thought-provoking article, Mr. Murray.

"We have all kinds of manufacturers in our state who can't find enough skilled workers?" "In Illinois alone, there are an estimated 30,000 job openings?" Are people really this ignorant? The number of available workers depends on the salary you offer.  If you offer a high enough salary, you will get more than enough workers.  The real issue is that manufacturers, to remain competitive, can't pay enough to attract workers!  The solution to this problem is not only to train people more.  Ultimately, you can only improve human efficiency so much through education.  Manufacturers also have to find other ways to remain competitive, such as automation. Automation does not necessarily reduce employment, because someone has to design and make the automated equipment.

It is true that manufacturing jobs don't appeal to young people. Low wages aren't appealing, either.  It is certainly true that many manufacturing jobs are dark, dirty, and dead end (and don't pay well).  There are exceptions, of course. CHange people's perceptions of manufacturing and people will suddenly want to work in those jobs?  No, smoke and mirrors won't do it.  More than perceptions have to change.

Most machinists and tool and die makers who operate CNC machining centers do not make as much as $58k. The median salary in the US is more like $45k, so there won't be many firms that will pay the higher salary.


Corona Rich
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Blue Collar Options
Corona Rich   9/18/2013 8:46:35 AM
NaperLou, you hit the nail on the head: 

"What this indicates is that the companies are still not seeing their employees as profit centers, but as cost centers."

One of our senior cost estimators at work went into an apprenticeship as a machinist after his stint in the navy.  In the 60's, the mill was offering free training!  He wound up being trained by a guy who, years ealier, was trained by his father!  Such were the rust belt mill towns...

Both my sons love engineering and technology but decided to not go the full blown degreed engineer route.  They both went to community college and studyed welding and machining.

We figured if times were good, they needed welders to build things.  If times were tough, they needed welders to fix things.

If they want to move up, weld inspectors are in dangerously short supply.  Ever try to find a Level III Inspector?

They may not be getting an MBA's salary, but they probably won't be working at service jobs far below their training and expertise.

User Rank
Re: Factory worker -- the new cool job
a.saji   9/18/2013 5:41:30 AM
@Murray: True mate but I think we cannot blame the parents since they feel for their children. I think educating via mass media would be the best part to start things off here.

Charles Murray
User Rank
Re: Factory worker -- the new cool job
Charles Murray   9/17/2013 6:23:46 PM
I agree, Rob. There are a lot of good manufacturing jobs today that aren't "dark, dirty and dead-end." It's hard to get parents (our generation) to accept that, however. One of the things discussed at that session was the number of college graduates (particularly in the humanities) who now go on to jobs as baristas at Starbucks.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Factory worker -- the new cool job
Rob Spiegel   9/17/2013 9:44:30 AM
Nice article, Chuck. I believe it's only a matter of time before the word gets out that the factory is a cool place to work. No more mind-numbing jobs where you spend a career tightening the same bolt over and over all day long. Now plants are run like video games. They're clean and relatively quiet. Once the word gets out, the factory job will rise in prestige.

User Rank
Who trains?
naperlou   9/17/2013 9:01:32 AM
Chuck, I think you are correct in that there are jobs going wanting which do not require a college degree.  In addition to manufacturing I have been told lately that web programming is one where a college degree is not useful.  The field is changing so much that the universities cannot keep up.  Another is operaitonal jobs such as Linux system managers. 

Getting back to manufacturing, I find it rich that the manufacturers say they need people they don't have to train.  Who are these people?  What do you think is happening overseas.  They are taking uneducated peasants and making iPhones with them.  These people come in without any training.  Of course, they are not "efficient" as we would define it, but they are cheap and plentiful.  I am not saying they are dumb, but they are not educated or trained in advance.

In past times, large companies trained ALL their incoming employees.  Xerox, IBM and many others had (have) large training centers.  These are mostly unused now.  At IBM, everyone did four six month rotations.  Everyone learned to program, even if you were going into sales.  If you survived, you were then a permanent employee.  If someone is going to make a career with a company, the training period is not a big cost.  What this indicates is that the companies are still not seeing their employees as profit centers, but as cost centers.  As long as that persists, we will have the situation you describe.

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