National Engineers Week Kicks off February 15
DEARBORN, Mich., February 9, 2009 — President Obama said recently, "investing in science, research and technology" are paths to financial recovery.
And Congressional leader Nancy Pelosi said in a recent radio interview that if you want "four words to describe" the economic recovery package "it's science, science, science and science. The science, technology and engineering...to keep us competitive in the future. This is not your grandfather's public works program of the 1930's..."
So in today's beleagured-by-Wall Street economic climate, it would seem that bankers are out and engineers are in.
This renewed national interest in science and technology couldn't come at a more opportune time as National Engineers Week kicks off February 15-21, 2009. Each year, this national campaign is designed "to raise public understanding and appreciation of engineers' contributions to the larger society."
And just what do engineers do? Engineers develop the machines and processes that help make our lives easier and certainly more interesting. They dreamt up the technology in your 3G phone to your four-wheel drive. They also build the tools which help bring oil and gas to consumers.
They create such job-building innovations as nanomanufacturing, or manufacturing on an atomic level. Nanotechnology has the great potential to become a $3.1 trillion new industry by 2015.
Above all, engineers create real wealth by solving problems rather than creating "paper" wealth by playing with the stock markets.
But right now, there aren't enough of them to fill available jobs, let alone those that will be left vacant by millions of retiring baby boomers.
Part of the problem is the lack of qualified candidates who must have a solid knowledge of advanced math and science. And there aren't enough qualified candidates because U.S. colleges are graduating only around 70,000 engineers a year when there is a need for more than 100,000, according to industry experts.
Wayne Mausbach, a Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) member and manager of manufacturing systems at oil and gas drill manufacturer NOV ReedHycalog, has a few ideas why there is a disparity between the number of engineering and liberal arts degrees.
He says of his ongoing role on the advisory boards of a Houston-area community college and university, "We can't find enough students to pursue engineering and tech careers often because they think it's too hard."
He adds that sustaining high-tech training and coursework at the college level is also difficult because, "We can't find enough teachers to pass on technical knowledge and training because they can make more money in industry."
Mausbach believes that there's a general lack of interest in science, math, engineering and technology from many of today's young people.
"I think it has to do with our American culture and what's valued," he says.
Not even the prospect of earning good salaries has been able to change some students' minds. But Mausbach contends, "Technicians [or those with training at the community college level] can make a good living."
"I know of one individual who started as a technician, used his experience, went back to school for his degree and opened his own company. He's a self-made man."
To change student and educator perceptions about science, technology, engineering and math, organizations like the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation (SME-EF) are working to change these images.
For its part, SME-EF offers summer and school-year youth programs, online resources such as www.manufacturingiscool.com and scholarships. Since 1979, SME-EF has advanced manufacturing education with $25 million in awards to students, colleges and universities.
"We have parents who hope that their children will grow up to be doctors, lawyers, maybe even Wall Street bankers. For girls, parents often hope they'll grow to be actresses. But it's our ongoing mission to add engineering to the career wish lists of young people. There's nothing nerdy about innovation," said Mark C. Tomlinson, CMfgE, EMCP, executive director and general manager of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.
Another result from too few engineers and other high-tech professionals is a surplus of available jobs even in this rockiest of economies. As the ailing economy of 2007 and 2008 limps into 2009, engineering has already made Yahoo's "10 Hot Professions for 2009" list.
Tomlinson says, "Engineering and high-tech jobs are available – maybe not in all parts of the country or in all fields, but they are looking for qualified people in aerospace, defense, oil and gas as well as mining and construction. SME's Job Connection Board currently has more than 1,800 openings. That's a significant increase in just the last three months despite reports of job losses. But, we typically only average three applicants per job."
Mausbach concurs about the availability of high-tech jobs, "but you have to be qualified...We rely on very expensive machinery, and we can't have someone with a limited education operate one."
Even when qualified candidates can be found, Mausbach wonders about the future.
"I'm a baby boomer. I'm worried about who'll be there to replace guys like me when we retire."
The future, however, may already be looking up. A recent BusinessWeek article revealed that some math and science majors are giving engineering a second look after once considering jobs on – where else – Wall Street. To search more than 1,800 jobs, please visit Society of Manufacturing Engineers – Jobs / Careers / Resumes. Or, to learn more about applying for one of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundations many scholarships, please visit www.smeef.org. All high school, undergraduate and graduate student scholarship applications are due by February 1, 2010.
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The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (www.sme.org) is the premier source for manufacturing knowledge, education and networking. Through its many programs, events and activities, SME connects manufacturing practitioners to each other, to the latest technology and the most up-to-date processes spanning all manufacturing industries and disciplines, plus the key areas of aerospace and defense, medical device, motor vehicles, including motorsports, and oil and gas. A 501(c)3 organization, SME has members in more than 70 countries and is supported by a network of technical communities and chapters worldwide.
About the SME Education Foundation:
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation was created by SME in 1979 as a means of transforming manufacturing education in North American colleges and universities. As one of the nation's leading non-profit organizations dedicated to advancing manufacturing education, its approach is to inspire youth to pursue careers in manufacturing; support students studying for a career in an engineering-related field, and prepare these students to participate in a global economy. The Foundation has provided more than $25 million in grants, scholarships and awards. Visit www.smeef.org.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact SME Public Relations at 313.425.3000, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fax: 313.425.3403.