I trust 2008 is kind to you. A short one today, as I have to cope with the aftermath of two weeks of lying around on the beach with family and reading copious numbers of books and magazines. And now I am catching up here in the office.

Despite the dire predictions of a recession in the USA which will spread throughout the world, the need for engineering skills has never been more urgent. Even in Asia with its huge population, there are severe skill shortages developing (according to the respected Economist). So party and enjoy yourself (after all relaxation is critical in these harried times), but also invest in yourself. This does not merely refer to formal training courses - make it a daily mantra to sharpen your skills and know-how. Stretch yourself mentally in every task and project you do and naturally your dexterity, if you engage in manual tasks as well - such as laying out the cable loom or finishing off the panel design with even more economy and panache in the layout. And encourage your kids to do engineering and science subjects at school and projects at home.

I know the hardened cynics will grunt disparagingly, but surely we get tremendous career fulfilment in doing engineering. I know I do. And we truly build a nation’s wealth by engineering things.

As the old Greek sage, Epictetus, gently remarked 2000 years ago: Only the educated are free.

Yours in engineering learning,

Steve Mackay