1. I recently accompanied a ‘Roadshow’ and presented the following topics; Arc Flash Protection, Industrial Data Comms in Hazardous Areas, Lightning and Surge Protection and Process Loop Tuning Fundamentals and ....you can access these presentations at:
2. I continue to receive much correspondence every week (both bouquets and brickbats) for which I thank you all. But one which caught my eye was from Adrian Carrington who added some thoughtful comments to my blog last week on hard won experience. His contribution follows with thoughts of my own:
* The status of technical professionals is rapidly waning due to the lack of any effective, unified marketing of the profession and this includes areas of expertise handled by technicians, technologists and engineers. Joe Public hasn't a clue what an engineer does and generally doesn't care. The fact that we build the bridges, keep the electricity and water running and invent all these (sometimes) wondrous items is quite irrelevant to most. As Adrian says: “Joe public will recognize the skill of a carpenter, but fail to admire the hidden wonders of the jet engine or the mobile phone or ever imagine how it got there and how it was designed. Us underpaid, unrecognized, unloved engineers are invisible to the public who almost never see that much of the reason why their lives are so comfortable is as result of engineering.” If you are a doctor, lawyer or accountant, we all know who you are and what you do.
* It follows that young people are increasingly reluctant to enter the profession - whether as engineers or technicians. Engineering is perceived to be boring and poorly rewarded with little esteem (or perhaps “sexiness”) inherent in it.
* Theory taught at universities needs to have a strong practical focus. And courses need to be taught by tying the theoretical principles directly to real practical issues to provide us with a more hard-nosed commercial training. Adrian goes onto say: “I look back with regret that my formal engineering training concentrated on scientific principles and mathematics without incorporating a business angle (contract law, marketing, finance, project management) as well as some material in understanding the basic principles of all branches of engineering. More emphasis on understanding and reasoning rather than merely focussing on difficult maths would have been appreciated. Can we get a lecturer to explain the reason why a turbine blade exhibits different angles of incidence at different radii before resorting to maths. It is often the case that lecturers see the need to intellectualise everything where some basics would really help. OK the pure academic approach does have its merits in that it does help to teach you how to think and often gives a wider perspective in studying a range of quite diverse subjects, but the diversity is restrained within engineering itself which is a mistake.”
* The importance of being multidisciplinary in our engineering comes through in the following comments from Adrian: “Another great annoyance I have with engineering is with the engineers themselves; once you have worked in one industry for some time you are almost completely precluded from moving into another. Many years ago I encountered something very strange when I went for an interview. The interviewer asked me if I had used A/D converters in circuit design, which I had. He then asked me which ones I had used (there are possibly hundreds available all using the same set of principles) and expressed shock and disappointment that I hadn’t used the one that he had used. This is an extreme example, but it is true to say that if you have worked for ten years in say medical equipment design you would find it most difficult to move into defence, for example. Despite bringing fresh ideas to that industry and well-honed engineering capabilities - potentially better even than those the other candidates have from the same industry. Indeed the culture is to hire someone from a part of the same industry even though the experience and skills necessary are utterly different from those gained in a different industry. i.e the same industry may have highly disparate technologies. We should, as engineers, be looking with prudence at the potential of someone and their transferable skills rather than the; ‘have you done exactly this before’ mentality.”
So what do we do about this?
Let's be proud of who we are and what we do in engineering - and advertise it vigorously. Take every opportunity to speak of your endeavours with pride. Be passionate about what you do as your contribution to society is commendable.
Drive our teachers and academics to teach theory related to real practice by volunteering to teach part time in universities where we can focus on practical issues.
It is an admirable practice to be multidisciplinary - treat engineering as an holistic environment. Gain skills in as many different disciplines as possible.
In conclusion, we have to eliminate this long running perception, which has been around since Shakespeare's day (quoting Hamlet):
For ‘tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petard…
We have simply accepted this oversight for too long and need to seize the moment and make today the time of the engineer.
Yours in engineering learning