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Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

I live in Canada, and I am currently in Engineering Physics major with Electircal Engineering option. These days, I am trying to find a specific area of field for my career after graduation. I am trying to stay in Canada if possible.

One of my questions is, since the technology changes so fast especially in computer and electrical engineering field, is there a tendency that old people(+45) who are working in electrical engienering tend to be replaced with young people who just learned new technology and are more flexible to learn new stuff, eariler than the people in mechanical engineering? For me, it kind of makes sense since the knowledge the old people got at school would be obsolete as time goes by. And also, as people get old, it might be harder for them to keep up with the new technologies than young people.

But then, I also think, since the old people have seen the history of changing technology at work, they may have more insight about what they are doing and those can be a benefit over the young people?? I want to hear from Electrical engineers that if this kind of early shift to the young worker really happens in certain field of electical engineering job. And what kind of area in electical engineering is more prone to have that kind of shifting.

I appreciate all your replies in advance.


RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

There is a tendency for unmotivated people to not keep learning new things as they age. They are replaced by younger unmotivated people whose learning ended more recently.

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

The sad thing is the young people just out of college think they know it all, and few understand there learning so far is years behind the cutting edge.

The worst thing is that most electrical graduates don't have the skills of the retiring engineers. Which is why we are rehireing the retired, and not hiring the newly graduated.


RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

You're confused about the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  The former transforms into the latter as one gathers experience.

Young people may have knowledge but lack wisdom.  Old people may have wisdom but may lack current knowledge.  To truly succeed, they must work together.  There's something in it for both to do so.

One wisened old b*stard can provide wisdom to many knowledgeable young people.  So, in a properly functioning organization, you need fewer of the former and more of the latter.  That means the older folks have to actually retire, or move on, and the firm has to hire young people.  This has to happen continuously, or else the wisdom is lost.

Over the past 20+ years, many industries have failed to understand the need for proper succession planning.  They didn't hire young and train because they could draw on experienced people from a flooded labour pool whenever they needed help.  Labour market-addicted organizations can only function effectively with a crew of old folks.  That's just great- until the older ones retire.  Then these businesses scream about a "labour shortage"- but there is no way to save them.

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?


First of all, young people out of college do NOT think they know it all.  Please do not label all of us as such (not so much me, as I'm 4 yrs into electrical now).  In my time, I've yet to see someone question authority, or a decision thats been made or to even suggest they might have a better way of doing something.

The second thing you hit on IS the truth though.  I'm in electical power and I see it everyday.  I think there exists an excellent opportunity to establish continuity between generations that is being blown in the worst possible way.  There's no excuse to be "re-hiring the retired" when universities graduate THOUSANDS of engineers semester after semester, year after year.  The failure is on the part of both the companies and of the industry.  There should be several things in place to help the progression of young engineers but there really isn't.  Perhaps some of the older people should quit being "keepers of the knowledge".  This is my experience..might be different elsewhere.

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

Power is a good field, however most electricals don't go into power. I did years ago, and I haven't regretted it.

The problem seems to be the mismatch in universitys offering power, and the locations that one can start a new job. Around the universitys there may not be power jobs, but else where to is.

We have tried hiring electricals without the power option, and the training needed to understand parts of power seems to take a long time.

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?


I definitely agree that the training to understand the principles take a long time.  I'm 4 yrs in and while I've learned a lot, I still consider myself quite clueless.  I also think the power program at my school fell way short in preparing me.

Its been frustrating for me because I've always been a self taught/self learning type of person and this shows up in EVERY other thing I involve myself in but for some reason its hard to me to use that ability to progress in power because I haven't been able to find a resource to help with the process at all.

Having said that, I still think power is the best field to get into for electrical for now and the future.

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

Thank you very much for all your replies. But I think my question was a bit misleading. What I wanted to hear was, compared to the Mechanical engineering, if there is more tendency that young people are replacing older workers because the technology changes so fast in electrical engineering. And I think I should've said I am not very interested in Power related field. If power field is excluded from the list, is that gonna be much more this kind of tendency in electrical engineering compared to mechanical?


RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

If you expect steady employment for life, you might as well switch to chiropractor school now.


Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?


The term you should use to do your Google searches is "greyed out" or "gray" if you spelling preference leans that way.  You will find lots of information about what industries are facing that problem and how they are dealing it.

My take on your question is this:

You are not going to find a huge difference in how Electrical or Mechanical areas handle the issue.  The reason is older workers have INDUSTRY knowledge that is simply not available in school.  While a new graduate may possess fresh ideas and perspective they are, by and large, clueless as to how to actually produce a complete product that can be sold.

This video clip from a Rodney Dangerfield movie is about business, not engineering, but the idea is pretty accurate in the context of older vs younger engineers discussion.



RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

The problem with the power side is that the good text books are all out of print, with a few exceptions. And you may overlook them because the concepts look old, but they still apply.

The biggest change recently (last 30 years) is the introduction of microprocessor relays. This also started a new class of engineers that must understand power, and logic, or programming.

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?


It might be surprising to hear this, but people over 40 can still go back to school and learn new things.  They can also go to training courses and learn on the job as they solve a current problem. They might even participate in forums like this.  Just because you graduate from school, don't believe your education is over.  

While there is sometimes a pointy haired boss who will decide he can fire an older employee and replace him with two younger employees "and still save money!!" in general, good businesses keep productive people, no matter their age.  And if your business model is that 45 year olds get booted out to make room for new graduates, keep that in mind as you'll find you will get to 45 sooner than you think.

Patricia Lougheed


Please see FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies for tips on how to make the best use of the Eng-Tips Forums.

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

One of the big things you learn getting a degree at a school is you 'learn how to learn', and how to solve problems that you initially know nothing about. You also pickup discipline in learning (or maybe school is a filter that removes those without discipline from the ranks). After that, a career becomes a lifetime of learning, and experience gives you wisdom - something that cannot be taught.

Yes, technology keeps changing, but the nature of materials and the laws of physics don't. Years ago, I made a decision not to have my career become too tied to a particular product/technology (remember bubble memories?). Instead, you should become knowledgeable in an area more fundamental and tied to the basic underlying science - like RF, Analog, magnetics where your experience is directly related to the use and manipulation of the materials or physics involved.

I've been at it 32 years now and have worked at a number of companies. Funny thing though - past employers that valued knowledge and experience are still around while those that that only looked at how much a "warm body" costs are gone.

I would say staying in engineering into your 40's or 50's is more of a problem for electrical engineers than mechanical engineers, but even mechanical engineers who are in it for the long haul need to keep their careers defined close to the fundamentals rather than tied to a passing man-made technology/product - that is define themselves as a "materials engineer specilizing in plastic" rather than solely as a "SolidWorks 3D designer"

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?


old people(+45)

Over 45 is OLD???  You're kidding, right?

While some of us "old" people try to keep up with technology, many companies have cutback on education and training budgets and no longer send their employees out to maintain or grow their knowledge.

There is also the issue of finding time.  With fewer employees, the existing employees are swamped, and continuing education gets pushed to the back-burner.

My last manager made me take a vacation day for a 1 day FREE class a local vendor was offering.  I no longer work for them....by choice.

This is normally the space where people post something insightful.

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

In my opinion, when starting out, the key word is "flexibility"- if you are able to move to field sites or other locations, you open up a lot of employment opportunities not available to those stuck in place.

The combination of computer + EE would suggest controls system engineering would be an excellent long term niche- thre will always be a need for controls engineers to installl and update controls systems , and the continuous progression of technology and implemented  theory seems to be most obvious in that area.

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

I'm in the UK and the main time I see a clear out of the older engieners is when we have a redundancy round.  Then there is an attempt at knowledge transfer to the mid level/grduate engineers.  

There is a lot of older power stations left which a lot of the graduate engineers (not all thank goodness) appear unwilling to want to take on work from as they prefer the new builds.  On the flip side most of our older engineers have a very good understanding of the basic priciples which enables them to keep up with progress.

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

AHH, that thing called Progress. It isen't all forward, unfortunituly. And it tends to leaves little pockets of older technology behind, of which we seem to not be able to do without.

The worst of it seems to be plastic molding, which is only made for a few years, then when it crumbles, you can't replace it.

The other thing is older software, which won't run on newer machines. Like database software which contains recouds that are seemly to laborus to retype into the replacment software.


RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

Competition comes in many forms ,open un-selfish sharing of our wisdom sometimes gets us replaced
by a piece of Software !

( with no common sense )

Who knows where accountants & cost cutting will get us .

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

Can't we replace accountants with Software? Or have they done that to an extent with Quicken, and Turbotax.

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?


"don't ask for whom the bell tolls, for it tolls for thee."

In this so-called post capitalist world, all  knowledge- based jobs are susceptible to outsourcing or replacement by a piece of software.

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

Experience and knowledge of the basics is the key.

Since my previous post, A 61 year old co-worker with years of switch-mode power supply experience has just been hired to work in a start-up company with good increase in pay. His degree is from a former eastern-bloc country and he never had access to a personal computer until comming to the US in 1999. He is a whiz at the math - not only the theoritical math but the practical math. He may have started years ago with triacs and SCRs, but has translated his experience into a world of MOSFETs and IGBTs. It's interesting to see him at the bench examine a waveform and then go at it with pencil and paper making numerical estimations faster than you can punch the numbers into a calculator - that is experience. Now with 10 years in the US, he can also make the spice models do what he wants.  

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

With the NERC and FREC regulations, we will quickly get to a point where an engineer won't have to think to apply power system devices. It will be cookie cutter.

And unfortunitly, it will likely be wrong.

The problem isen't the intent, it is the belieaf that one soultion can be applied to any suituation.

The result is a problem that is worse than the problem that was intended to be fixed.

I expect that software would do no better than the above stated regulations.

The real results will be simular to what has happened to the guys who figgured rates for life insurance.
The ones that are left, now make much more money, and are harder to find. But yes there are fewer of them.

But for now, we in power are few, and hard to find.  

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

@Thetick:i agree " Motivation".

In electrical workplace or any other organization pertaining to practitioners as an employees; As describe by M.A Eggert in his concise book "the motivation..", called two factors theory relating to motivation of professionals. 45+ or below that were able to hold their grounds in a certain company were classified as "satisfier" they were extremely motivated, focused,likes challenges and dynamic.whereas other called Hygiene factors where these individuals very accustomed to company Pay,job Security, status, working condition - leading to join with labor parties, or even challenge the company's interest, etc.

No wonder, the Hygiene factor individuals usually paid out and were replaced with newcomers-a younger generation professionals. Whatever technology advancement arrives in the Electrical field, the professional as a person's motivation per se will be counted.

"..the more, the merrier" Genghis Khan


RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

electrical eng get burned out more because we are continuously cleaning up mechanicals nonsense, so electrical tend to burn out sooner than mechanical bozos.  

I guess how many times can you program your way out of a mechanical nightmare before u say quitsses?

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

Uh, no.
The mechanical nightmares are made by electrical engineers, who feel fully qualified to do mechanical work because they understand the math.  ... of the gross approximations that are math models of mechanical stuff.  ... but they don't know about the limits of validity of the models.

... all of which provides more work for me, so it's not a problem.


Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

Must we dive into petty bickering?

The truth be known, the mechinicals are required to support our wires, bus, and conduit. And when they fail, the electrical goes boom.

But in the real world we use a civil engineer to do our mechinical design. At least he understands how much dirt affects what we call ground.

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

I think the biggest problem is that there is no long term plan.  Engrs in their last 5 yrs. before retirement should be working with under 50 aged engrs to groom them.  When one retires, another w/ 15 or more years left should pick up the mentor role.

But today's corporations are so "this quarter bottom line" driven, things like looking 5 yrs. ahead, grooming replacements for retiring engrs, is not considered.  There is no plan beyond this quarter.

It's tough for older & younger engrs.  Younger engrs need mentors.  When I started in the latter part of the 70's, I was mentored by older EEs.  This doesn't seem to be happening these days.  I'm 55, & I did provide some level of mentoring in recent yrs.

But I was "temporarily" furloughed at age 54, & I am "on the recall list".  They just don't know when it will happen.  Meanwhile I am completing my Ph.D.  Who knows where I'll go should I get the doctorate within the year at age 56.  Hopefully my years of effort will pay off.  I believe it will.

To young engrs: get as much formal education as you can.  Grad credits can transfer.  If you end up losing a job & moving, the courses you took are not in vain.  Education & advanced degrees are needed to compete globally.  Our engr counterparts in Asia are studying like crazy.  We must do likewise.


RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

Whats even harder is my boss has announced his retirement, and then have not announced anyone for him to mintor for his job. Being the principal in the group, I am concerned they will look to me to fill that position.
  Quite frankly there are some politics that make me to not want the position. And besides that there are some people that might want that position that will make me want to make a move.

How a company can not train people, and foster toxic politics is beyond me. But having just changed jobs a few years ago, I need to wait only a couple of years to make another move.

  Not that I recomend moveing every few years, but it seems the people hired to manage engineers is also a problems in many companies.

 The shame will be that I like the community here.

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

Sometimes I am proud to call myself an engineer...

... other times I come across threads like this one.   

RE: Young people replacing old workers in Electrical Engineering?

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