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A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada
6

A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

(OP)
The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers has (finally) released a new report, giving evidence of the massive under-employment of engineering grads and immigrants here in Canada.

http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.ospe.on.ca/resource/r...

Per the census data evaluated in the report, more people possessing degrees in engineering are employed in jobs which do not require a university degree of any kind (much less an engineering degree), than are employed as engineers. More are under-employed (33% of grads) than are properly employed (29%). The fraction of the rest (who are working in something requiring a degree, but not necessarily an engineering degree) are just ignored, because we can't know from the data how many of them chose the job they're in rather than being forced into it. But what we also know is this: a survey of 4th year students here consistently shows about 92% of these students INTEND a career in engineering. It's impossible to imagine that 70% of them change their minds entirely by choice. And if they are making that choice voluntarily, they're doing it against their economic interests: the report also finds that while some engineering grads escape to greener pastures in non-engineering management, those eng grads working outside engineering earn far less, on average, than those who do.

The graph at the bottom of page 8 should tell the story quite clearly to any engineer: the proportion of engineering grads working in engineering has been in dramatic decline over the 20 years studied. Why? Supply growth, both by means of immigration and increased graduation rates, which massively out-stripped economic growth and retirement/replacement demand. Engineering now has the lowest match rate, i.e. the proportion of its graduates working in the field for which they were educated, of any of the regulated professions- by far. That's a far cry from the public perception of engineering being a profession in demand!

Employers here still b*tch publicly about "skills shortages". They are short the people with 10 years of relevant experience that they themselves didn't hire as fresh grads 10 years ago. No quantity of fresh grads or fresh immigrants could fix that situation, but since more of these people suppress wages for everyone, they're not going to complain about that.

Fortunately, the profession has woken from its stupor and is finally saying something about this. I've known about it, and had the data to demonstrate what was going on, for more than a decade. But too many of us, engineers particularly, believe our own anecdotal experience to the point that we're not interested in the data. The data tells the real story, in unambiguous terms.

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

"Employers here still b*tch publicly about "skills shortages". They are short the people with 10 years of relevant experience that they themselves didn't hire as fresh grads 10 years ago. No quantity of fresh grads or fresh immigrants could fix that situation, but since more of these people suppress wages for everyone, they're not going to complain about that."

This is the same in all the employment fields I have heard from the people working in them.

Garth Dreger PE - AZ Phoenix area
As EOR's we should take the responsibility to design our structures to support the components we allow in our design per that industry standards.

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

When I started engineering 25 yrs ago and demand was high I was kinda struck by how many jobs were called
engineering which really didn't use any of the 4 year degree. I though " they don't need engineers for this"

Now I think it has come to light. Two year college and associate degrees are able to do large swaths of the work
that employers use to hire ABET accredited engineers for. And who can blame them. So while we still crank out
4 year ABET graduates who cannot find work making proper pay the president calls for more community college.

This is what the physical stuff industry ( everything except software ) wants more of to fill the $15.00/ hr slot.

I am definitely NOT optimistic. Technology is a double edges sword for engineers. We get work putting others out
of work but then many new technologies do the same to us.

Today more factory automation technology is plug and play with lower and lower skill levels needed.

It seems to make the situation where only the very best get to engineer anything anymore.

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

Yes, but then that is what we are supposed to do, develop methods so that we can do our jobs better, or someone else can do our job and get the right answer. Perhaps the (unpleasant) truth is that you don't need a structural engineer to design a portal frame shed.

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

The scary part is that it isn't a waste of talent, it's a waste of potential. The talent hasn't had a chance to develop, and possibly never will.

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

(OP)
Way back in high school, the problem of automation became quite clear to me. I worked in an injection molding plant during the summers, where cheap operators (like me) did the manual parts-handling tasks that were needed to keep up the productivity of the expensive molding machines: demolding parts, fixturing them for cooling, cutting parts off sprues and sorting them into boxes by type etc. At the time, these folks were cheaper and more flexible to short parts runs than the automation that even then could have replaced them. These folks had no education and no skills and earned a pittance- but they likely didn't have too many other options. It seemed at the time to me that these "jobs" were beneath human dignity- when you think about what a person is capable of, reducing them to performing the same mechanical tasks done in sequence on a 25 second cycle, 8 hours per day, seems so trivial that it's on the verge of being inhumane. But it was also clear to me that those jobs were going by the wayside as automation improved, and that the people doing them had few economic options. I didn't see that outsourcing to China would be the real destination of much of this type of work- cheaper people instead of better machines...But it did get me thinking about the inevitable result of "productivity improvement": there would be no possible way for consumption to keep up with our ability to make things faster with fewer and fewer people.

Even then, it was also clear to me that unless we had a better way to redistribute wealth, the people with no skills or education (which there will always be) would end up on the scrapheap- the profit would go into the hands of the business owners and society at large would be responsible for the upkeep of the people left behind. It was also crystal clear to me that the same would eventually happen further and further up the value chain. So while I was very motivated by that experience to become a robot-designer rather than person who would be replaced by the robots, it was also obvious that this hiding place too would be temporary. It's shocking to me now that I had this figured out so young...

By no means do I think engineering is unique in regard to being massively oversupplied with candidates relative to the number of real jobs available for them. But it's clear that we've been victims of magical thinking on a number of fronts. Our parents, who saw how hard it was to keep a blue collar job going into your 60s, wanted us all to get an education so we could get a "real job". We've imagined that our economy could generate so many cushy white-collar job opportunities that the limiting factor was merely educating more people to fill them. In fact, these opportunities are precious, being generated no faster than the economy can grow, and are in shorter and shorter supply as productivity increases, but we've been exporting them via both outsourcing and economic immigration with wanton abandon.

It's clear to me that we should cease economic immigration of "skilled workers" immediately. When we can generate more than sufficient numbers of educated people to fill the positions available, it makes zero sense. There will always be in-transfers from branch to branch of multinational corporations, and people with pre-arranged jobs, and those folks don't concern me- but the mass in-migration of educated people per this idiotic "human capital" immigration scheme that Canada has, just makes my blood boil. You guys in the US have a much better system with the H1B visa, as easy to exploit as that system is! Employers should be forced (because they will not do it willingly!) to take people at the entry level and train them, or to re-train more senior people displaced from other industries. But right now, businesses have the ear of government, and governments only know how to turn the supply taps in one direction.

The sad thing is, even with a total ban on in-migration, we'd still be graduating more engineering candidates than are needed for the replacement demand and economic growth by a large margin. That's a societal problem of enormous magnitude in my opinion. But the first step to solving any problem is acknowledging that it exists, and we're just starting with that!

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

""Even then, it was also clear to me that unless we had a better way to redistribute wealth, the people with no skills or education (which there will always be) would end up on the scrapheap- the profit would go into the hands of the business owners and society at large would be responsible for the upkeep of the people left behind.""

Yes 100% correct. How to resolve it is one helluva question. I wonder if world leaders somewhere are working on this.

Why is this simple truth so "under the radar" today. New types of jobs being created today cater mostly to those on the upper side of the bell curve
in intelligence and those toward to the low end of the curve are being, and will continue to be, ground up in the machine.

The limit to economic growth is not what we can build or make but what we would actually trade our labor to buy. A large portion of the economy
now is in "toys" in my opinion. Entertainment through gadgets. Will people grow tired of working to keep up with the latest gadget??



RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

(OP)
2dye4- absolutely. I wonder what will underpin this new economy where goods creation is for the most part taken out of the picture. People can't just trade services to one another- at some point, somebody making goods has to trade virtually the entire value of the goods they made for the services of others. It makes no sense to me- it seems like the fundamental value creation that underpins the whole works is becoming disconnected. And as far as outsourcing is concerned, the likes of Apple survive by making a huge margin on the cheap labours of others, keeping almost all of that margin for themselves- same with apparel and numerous other things where style trumps underlying substance. It seems unlikely that such a system can continue in the long term either.

It's also clear I just don't understand economics at all. I'd argue that I'm in pretty good company- that nobody really understands it. It is merely used to explain things after they've happened.

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

I once looked at the graduates of the engineering institute that went to on Linkedin to see how many were still engineers. I do not remember the exact numbers but after about 5-10 years they started to drop off. By 15 to 20 years they were really low.

One biggest problems behind these problems is that so few people go into school knowing anything about what a job in their field of study is like.

However, It is interesting that we expect a high number people with engineering degrees to be engineers. Other fields of study, like history or English, expect all most none of their graduates to wind up in their field of study. I wonder what the data would look like for psychology or a liberal arts degrees?

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

(OP)
"It is interesting that we expect a high number people with engineering degrees to be engineers. Other fields of study, like history or English, expect all most none of their graduates to wind up in their field of study. I wonder what the data would look like for psychology or a liberal arts degrees?"

We expect a significant number of engineering grads to work as engineers because engineering school is training for a profession- it is not anything like a liberal arts degree! Furthermore, that's what the kids are being told, or rather sold, along with they popular myth that there is a shortage of engineers, in order to convince them to enroll. Parroting a myth is one thing, but denying the data when it's in front of your face is another- we'll have to see if the tune changes after this is shoved under the noses of various people in government.

From the report, p. 8

Employed Canadian residents in sample
Total Match Rate (%)
Optometry 3,100 89
Chiropractics 6,090 87
Medicine 43,905 81
Occupational therapy 9,905 81
Dentistry 14,215 78
Physiotherapy 14,475 76
Pharmacy 24,780 75
nursing 92,030 71
Veterinary medicine 8,805 69
Law 93,910 62
Teaching 444,655 59
Diet/nutrition 3,660 55
Architecture 21,555 45
Accounting 114,855 43
Engineering 325,190 31
Total 1,221,130 53

This data is from 2006- the last time we will ever get good, granular census data on this due to the deliberate destruction of the National Household Survey by our lovely Convervative Federal government. Understandable, as it's tough to make policy based on ideology if there is pesky data available to challenge it with! In this data, you can see that engineering had the lowest match rate of any regulated profession, and not just by a little. Even teaching, which had been in oversupply for at least a decade by the time this survey was taken, had almost twice the match rate that engineering had.

You cannot argue that there's something unique about engineering that makes it better suited as a pre-training for other fields of work than, say, medicine, nursing, law or teaching. Rather, those fields all manage to place a much higher proportion of their graduates in work more directly suited to their training, simply because of supply and demand. The engineering profession has been dead silent about this- until now.

The situation has gotten nothing but worse since 2006: the proportion of engineering grads to engineering jobs can be extracted from the census data we do have, and the trend is unmistakeable. The slope of supply growth curve is several times that of the slope of the demand growth curve, which is obvious at a glance. Regrettably I can't post the graph here for formatting reasons, but it too is on p. 8 of the report.

Contrast that to the survey of 4th year engineering students in Ontario: 92% of them either definitely or probably intend to seek engineering work on graduation. Only 8% of them either definitely or probably would NOT seek engineering work. So the notion that half or three-quarters of these kids having already decided to pursue work outside of engineering, is not borne out by the data. Nope- most of them are never getting a foothold in the profession in the first place, despite wanting to- and over time, even more leave as HDS has noted. And if they're leaving by choice, they're doing so against their financial interest as noted previously, since the average income of the ones who gain entry to and remain in engineering is significantly higher than that of those who don't- even though some of that latter category include people like CEOs and patent lawyers etc. who clearly are not hurting for cash.

Some engineering educators have indeed begun calling engineering "the new liberal arts education", which makes my blood boil. What they mean is that since the proportion of engineering graduates to engineering job opportunities has been climbing so steadily and dramatically over the years as a result of increased engineering enrollments and engineering immigration, they no longer feel any responsibility to link the type of education they provide to the intended work outcome of the kids taking their program. If that is the case, they should be shouting it from the bloody rooftops in 1st year so the kids have the information to make an informed decision!

While no education is a waste, it is indeed a waste of societal resources (via tuition and university operating subsidy) to train 3x as many people for a profession than the profession could possibly employ. We need to get real about this quickly.

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

moltenmetal,
In some ways this is good for engineering graduates. There are many companies, particularly financial, who like to hire engineering graduates because of their analytical skills. This makes an engineering degree more versatile than many other technical degrees, particularly medical degrees. I have two acquaintances who are doing very well in non-engineering jobs. They would not have gotten these jobs with a liberal arts degree as opposed to an engineering degree.
A pharmacy or nursing graduate, let alone a liberal arts graduate, has fewer transferable skills. I would like to see those numbers 30 years ago.

I completely agree with you on the larger point that there seems to be a lot of talk about an engineering shortage when there clearly hasn't been one in some time.
All of my friends with engineering degrees seem to have landed on their feet with decent paying jobs, whether in or out of engineering.

Finance seems to be where the money's at.

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

This subject acts like an eraser of your good mood.
One reading is ok. Three iterations put you in a state of profound depression.

"If you want to acquire a knowledge or skill, read a book and practice the skill".

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

This report is surprising, and shatters some of my own beliefs.
While I've always said that kids should go study engineering only if they're really interested in it, I've also said that this field of study has benefits even if the graduate doesn't end up working there. Apparently few financial benefits, according to these results.

One thing I'd like to point out, and I think a mathematical formula is appropriate:

engineering degree ≠ engineering job

There are some degrees where there is no job prospect at all (arts, philosophy, history) but the professions given the most attention in the report are more thoroughly regulated, like medicine and law. Fulfilling those roles requires a degree because the regulations of that profession are set up with that assumption. Engineering is just on the knife-edge: it can be done by those who don't have the degree but do have the skills (I am one of them) but engineering does not enjoy the depth of partnership that hospitals have with medical schools.

Is there any traction for the idea of an engineering "practicum" or "residency"? It would go above and beyond the scope of a "co-op" or "internship".

To make matters worse, for the prospective student considering his/her options, or the prospective immigrant, the playing field is uneven.

engineering job ≠ engineering degree

On the part of the employer there is a game of "specsmanship" played, where the applicant for a job must be perfect. We just have to specify the required qualifications as exactly as possible, to get the perfect candidate, right? I've looked at many job ads over the years, and so many of them are crammed with jargon. It smacks of a weak will in management, inability to communicate, people doing their job not understanding their business.

So I see a relationship between the two factors where, on the one hand, only a fraction of grads actually get their foot in the door, and stay, and on the other, where managers and HR select their engineers on the basis of a very narrow set of skills. Against these odds, I can see many many young grads, with their energy and creative minds, arriving on the shore of the sea of cubicles, turn back without taking the plunge, or deciding to get out after briefly testing the water.

So it sounds like we're doing it to ourselves.

STF

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

"Is there any traction for the idea of an engineering "practicum" or "residency"? It would go above and beyond the scope of a "co-op" or "internship"."

SparWeb, it could be argued the EIT/FE + experience before sitting for PE license approximate to this - at least in the non exempt industry (US) or in jurisdictions which don't really have the same exemption and most engineers are required to get PE equivalent etc..

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

Hi Kenat,
This varies from country to country, state to state, etc. of course. Could you elaborate on the "exempt industry" that you refer to (I'm not an american, but I do get mistaken for one when travelling abroad). If I take your meaning correctly, to get one's PE licence one has to actually have some experience, not just the degree. Yes, I see the parallel, and the same applies here in Canada. But I think many of the practicing engineers in Canada don't actually have a PE license. Those whose employer doesn't require it may not bother to get it, and those whose employer doesn't pay the annual dues, may not maintain it.

Frankly I don't know why the idea of an engineering residency doesn't have a stronger foothold, since many tradespeople (often overseen by engineers I might add) like welders and vehicle mechanics will work as apprentices before gaining their certificate. If trades do it, and other professions like medicine do it, almost universally, then why don't more engineers?

Did anybody notice in the list of professions being compared, that 2/3 were health-related? Is there maybe an economic or regulatory factor at play that cannot be discerned by the analysis, but gives the health professions an advantage in matching the grads to the jobs?

STF

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

(OP)
I agree: this topic makes me depressed. And angry. That our profession has totally abdicated its responsibility to its future members is disgusting to me.

A practicum or residency or other formal internship would produce far better engineers than the current system does. As it is, the eng students who get co-op experience are head and shoulders better prepared for the workforce than those who only have a list of summer jobs behind them. A formal regulated internship would also help to repair the broken transition between graduation and work, because it would be clear that any number of students who graduate beyond the number of internship spaces available would be surplus to the labour market and would have to find other work. Getting government to acknowledge that as any kind of problem worth fixing would still be difficult though, with all those eng educators talking about engineering as "the new liberal arts education"...

There is zero likelihood of such a system ever being put in place in Canada in my opinion.

Regrettably, even the anaemic licensure experience requirement we have in Canada is under threat and being eroded. In Ontario the current requirement for licensure is an accredited degree plus four years of total engineering experience prior, of which at least 1 year must be obtained in Canada under the supervision of someone already licensed (so they can assess the candidate's suitability for the legal and ethical responsibilities of licensure, not just their technical skill or competence). The other three years can include up to one year of pre-grad work experience (i.e. co-op work), and can be partially or entirely gained outside Canada subject to an experience review. As minimal, and in my view absolutely necessary as this requirement is, it is under threat as a "barrier to entry into the profession" for foreign-trained engineers, because of the rather obvious "no experience-no job-no experience" catch-22. Of course, this point of view arises DIRECTLY from belief in the myth of a shortage of engineers: if there were a real shortage, the only reason foreign trained engineers (FTEs) would be out of a job would be a deliberate or systematic effort on the part of employers to exclude them, i.e. as a result of racism or xenophobia. In reality, the reason these folks can't find work is that there are simply far, far too many of them for the number of suitable jobs. That our own local grads ALSO fail to gain entrance to our profession sadly is not viewed as any kind of problem!

It also presumes that you need a license to get work here. Licensure is NOT a requirement for employment at all, as a result of the C of A (where one signatory engineer can take responsibility for all professional engineering done by an entire firm), and the industrial exemption. The only person you have to convince about your credentials is your boss or their HR department- the only time you really need a license is when you're self-employed or working as either the sole engineer (as a prerequisite to get a C of A) or one of a handful in a small firm.

A requirement for a license is used by some employers as an easy alternative to actually assessing a foreign-trained engineer's credentials and experience though, and hence the complaint. People at the licensure bodies who are actually knowledgeable about the thousands of degree granting engineering programs worldwide are more qualified to make the assessment of whether or not a person's degree is equivalent or superior to that of a Canadian B.A.Sc. than any employer might be. The alternative, making ALL candidates for licensure write all ten 3-hour technical exams irrespective of where they went to school, is not appealing to anybody!

It is also quite clear that giving licenses to all comers with no review process whatsoever would NOT all of a sudden improve the employment prospects for foreign-trained engineers here. Rather, it would actually HURT the reputation of the good FTEs who have made it successfully through the licensure review process. Furthermore, the licensure body here in Ontario will grant a "provisional license" to a candidate who has met all the requirements for licensure EXCEPT for the 1 year of Canadian experience, which in most cases will satisfy a prospective employer's concerns about a candidates' credentials and qualification for a future license.

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

SparWeb, I tried to allow for difference in terminology etc.

Basically the countries systems I'm vaguely familiar with there is some 'experience' requirement to become a PE, PEng, CEng or whatever the local term is.

Now, whether the PE, PEng, CEng or whatever is/should be needed to practice engineering is another matter for another time and place - there are enough previous threads littered with the remains of that poor equine.

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What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

In the late 19th and Early 2oth century people worked many more hours a week than they do now.
Productivity is now much higher and we don't need near as many people to provide the goods and services society needs.
Solutions? 1.) Just let the 30-40% of the population not needed draw well fare and morph into some 3 rd world country?
or 2.) Reduce the work week and employee more people?
0r 3.) Reduce the work year to 9 months. The 3 months off would be spent one month each in vacation, public service and continuing education.
The problem is structural it's going to take a radical fix.

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

(OP)
BJC: One thing is sure -we can't do what we're doing now, which is to allow substantially all the profit of the increased productivity go to less than 1% of the population. Otherwise, we won't have any money to do any of the things you've listed as 1, 2 or 3 above.

Without the progressive taxation to pay for something else, you end up with 4) 30-40% of the population become a poor underclass, surviving on charity or crime.

I remember seeing those predictions of the 50s and 60s- people were worried about what we would do with all the extra leisure time that we'd be getting. Nobody was worried about how to pay for it- it was assumed that the new distribution of wealth and income championed by the Great Generation coming home from the 2nd World War would just keep the good times rolling.

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

I think the plight of degreed engineers not employed as engineers may be only a subset of the overall employment base, as the entire employment base is affected by the immigration policies of the gov't. While I suspect this is related to the plain fact that the gov't ministers play golf and have dinner and discuss policy only with business leaders and not with lowly employees, it is possible that there is some theoretical rationale that can be used to justify the obvious objective of ensuring competition for good jobs and its effect on lowering wages. At least the rationale pays for the golf game and dinner ( and other inducements) .

The risk associated with increased automation and robotics impacting employment might not so much be the direct negative financial effect on the employee class as that it further concentrates power in those that own ( or finance) the robots and produce the goods and services that are consumed by the populace. Most western democracies have already evolved towards a political model which only responds to the demands of the " upper 1%", and in the limit case where the remaining 99% are essentially unemployed and economically powerless, the transition away from "popular democracy" would be complete.

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad "

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

(OP)
davefitz, sadly I agree with you, and am a loss about what we could do to change it.

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

This is an interesting thread.

I am a newly employed engineer in British Columbia and I can attest to that achieving that wasn't easy.
I spent the large part of six months searching for jobs and doing everything to improve how I presented myself to employers, or myself. It just was never enough.

The large part of the graduating body were hired through the companies that they worked for during their Co Op periods. Others were, and are having a difficult time
find employment otherwise. The program directors knew this for the most part, and attempted to put an emphasis on Co Op searching and fitting, but the student
body was largely kept in the dark about why it was important.

My employer was, to my benefit, thoughtful enough to consider hiring a new grad as a way to train someone for different projects that needed to be accomplished.
However, so many of the jobs that are posted were looking for experience of 4+ years. Despite that I was told apply for these jobs regardless, I saw no
sympathy for recruiters.

From my point of view, there is demand for new grads but it is select few companies that contact the schools looking for internship or graduate students.
These companies have a clear agenda and by complying with the schools it shows. However, they are few in the majority.

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

The bit about the 1% is interesting, because for many two income professional families, $188k would not be outrageously high, which puts them in the top 5% in the US: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/01/15/busi... . As Pogo famously said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pogo_(comic_strip)#.2...


This graphic is kind of interesting: http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/newsgraphics/...

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RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

(OP)
A lot of people who are now in the top 5% think they're "middle class". And once, they would have been right!

The top 0.1% are the real parasites...and are laughing all the way to the bank.

http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-04-03/to...

As the fictional Bob Roberts sang, "The times they are a-changin' BACK!"

http://www.newciv.org/nl/newslog.php/_v119/__show_...

We're achieving levels of wealth and income disparity not seen since the 1920s. If we keep at it, we'll have the Dickensian workhouse back before we know it...

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

So Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet are all parasites? I did not know.

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

(OP)
OK, the thread has gone off topic... let's hope it returns! But I have to answer that question first- and apologize in advance for venting-

(OFF TOPIC RANT BEGINS)

Warren Buffet has been quite vocal about the need to reform the US tax system such that the earnings of capital are not treated preferentially to the earnings made by actually WORKING- and if we fix that alone, you'd be miles ahead in making the US a more equitable and just society in economic terms. (We have the same problems here in Canada, with just a bit more of the lingering welfare state from the 1950s that the neo-Cons haven't manage to kill - yet). Buffett has also made sure that he doesn't leave a dynasty. Both Buffett and Gates are huge philanthropists as well- I wouldn't give them a choice, preferring the certainty of taxation to the vaguaries of private philanthropy, but at least they're trying!). Both of those guys realize that they didn't- indeed COULD NOT- truly EARN all the wealth they've been able to accumulate. But these guys are the exception that proves the rule in my opinion: the majority of the 0.1% consists not of "self made men" out of some Horatio Alger story, but of dynasties which result directly or indirectly from entrenched privilege and the power that inherited wealth can give for generation after generation. Reform (should I say re-reform, fixing the Reagan-era stupidity?) of the estate tax laws would fix this- if the political system weren't also corrupted by the influence of this immense and ill-distributed wealth!

I realize "parasites" is a loaded term- it's one the communists were a little too eager to throw around. But what else would you call 300 families who control 40% of the earth's wealth? Who could argue that people in general wouldn't be better off if the wealth possessed by those 300 families were redistributed more equitably amongst the people who are actually making the goods and services of real value in the world? You don't have to line them all up against a wall and shoot them- you just need to tax the bejeezus out of them when they die. Nobody's widow or children need to starve as a result of that reform, but nobody should be able to fund a dynasty for five generations either- it's contrary to fundamental justice in my opinion.

Steve Jobs? Don't get me started! That guy made his fortune charging a huge mark-up for style over substance, on contract labour done almost exclusively in China. He's a case in point!

(END OFF TOPIC- RETURN TO TALKING ABOUT THE SURPLUS OF ENGINEERING GRADS RELATIVE TO ENGINEERING JOBS)

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

"That guy made his fortune charging a huge mark-up for style over substance, on contract labour done almost exclusively in China. He's a case in point!"

I'll disagree on that point. He, or Apple, couldn't have over-charged if the demand were not there. Everyone who owns an iPhone is complicit in Jobs' wealth. You don't have to own an iPhone, but you do certainly have to make a living. So, while some people are stuck working for journeyman's wages, they could have bought some other phone for a lot less, which would have been commensurate with their wages.

Nevertheless, Jobs, through Apple, and others in Silicon Valley did revitalize what might have been a sad epitaph to the heyday of what Silicon Valley started out as. Apple, Google, etal, are providing the compensation that allows new grads to jumpstart themselves into the top 20%. When you look at the totality of compensation for a worker at, say, Facebook:
> free shuttle to/from work
> free meals during work
> free gym with massages (don't know if they're free or not)
> free junk food
> on-site medical, including OTC medicines
> on-site bicycle repair
> signing bonus
> AND stock options

so to that degree, the incentives bear out the notion that some shortage of some disciplines exist. However, were ALL of the STEM indoctrinated high school students to enter computer science, that job market would collapse in a heat beat.

TTFN
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RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

Just getting back to the dumbing down of jobs - to stick with structural engineering, where I know enough to be dangerous. Once upon a time somebody would hand analyse a structure before it was built (if only by eye). If they were good, then it withstood the test of time. If they were less good, but lucky or nervous, they overdesigned it, and the building stood the test of time, at some additional cost in resources. If they were less good, and not sufficiently lucky and not sufficiently nervous, it fell down.

So, mathematicians, engineers, and scientists and natural philosophers had a look at analyzing structures, and ultimately invented the sort of analysis we do at uni, and then in a further bit of dumbing down, generated tables of standard analyses and solutions and assumptions.

So what was initially a skill available to very few has now becomes essentially a clerical task, where the skill is in interpreting badly written requirements and regulations to find an appropriate solution rather than the mathematical finessing. As such we'd expect to design structures more quickly, but it is a less skilled job, so more people should be able to do it, so the pay should be less.

To counteract this diminution of the job, we (society) make things harder by proposing and demanding more optimised solutions which cannot just be generated from tables and codes, which by their nature are conservative.

Cheers

Greg Locock


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RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

I think you're over-simplying this a bit. The trick comes in:

> figuring out which equations to use, particularly, as is often the case, where the design does not have an applicable table.
> what the appropriate parameters are
> whether the results make any sense
> how to adjust the design to get the results to converge to the desired result

Most of these are outside of the purview of a typical analysis program. Now, Roark certainly has a lot of tables, but they are almost all exclusively for relative simple structures. Combine a few dozen beams and walls together, and the hand calculations become substantially more complex.

TTFN
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RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

(OP)
Yes IRStuff, Sheldon Cooper was right- we engineers ARE the Oompaloompas of science...

It's important to realize that design codes and standards were written at least in part to ensure that limited design tasks could be accomplished by people lacking an engineering education and training, without resulting in death- most of the time- and that since improperly qualified people have always been doing that work, the codes and standards are a good thing on the whole! That too many engineers use them as a crutch to avoid the need to use their own engineering judgment is regrettable to both society and the profession. The tendency to require these codes, which we wrote, to be followed DESPITE engineering judgment as if they were carved on stone tablets by a deity, is also regrettable.

Yes, productivity gains resulting from technological improvement can climb all the way up the value ladder- only the CEOs and corporate board members and the investor class seem to be immune at the moment. That fact, plus globalization, is a threat to our ongoing ability as engineers to earn a living commensurate with the education, risk and effort required. There are holes to hide in and niches to exploit, but the trend itself is unmistakeable. At present more than 70% of us are working outside the profession for which we were educated, and that astounding number continues to shrink. 20 years ago it was around 35%, so it hasn't always been so. Engineering once WAS a profession in demand, in general terms- and we've kept treating it as such long after it ceased to be! This is a general trend in all professions, but it is most pronounced in engineering by far, based on the data in OSPE's report.

We once looked upon the reduction of labour input resulting from technology as a good thing- because we assumed that as a society we would more or less equitably share the resulting gains. People thrown out of work at the bottom of the labour ladder would find new opportunities created further up the ladder, for which society would be happy to train them. 1950s futurists imagined a further shrinking work week, without the stagnation and indeed retreat of standard of living we've actually experienced- to the extent that the lifestyle once possible on one family income can now only be supported with two- albeit with a few more technological toys thrown into the mix as "normal" rather than as luxuries. And indeed between the late '40s and the late '70s, the rising tide did seem to raise all our boats- more or less. Regrettably, since then, the gains from increased productivity have overwhelmingly gone to a small subset of the population. The "reflux" of taxation support provided by the benefitting subset to the society from which that wealth was extracted, has been steadily shrinking.

What the report cited in my original post proves too is that whereas once we thought that all we needed to become members of that subset were some good choices, an education and a willingness to work hard, those days are also gone. Not for every single person-the top 10% of any endeavour aside from professional sports or music and the like are still going to do well, and it is still possible to become a self-made person and leap into the top 0.1%. But in average terms, for most of us (or more properly for most of the people on this site- our kids or grandkids) those days are gone. The economy simply isn't capable of generating enough cushy white collar jobs to employ all the bright, well educated kids that our universities are capable of pumping out. This is going to generate a crisis of disaffected youth unless something rather dramatic is done about it- other than simply cranking up the university enrollments yet more!

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

Young eng does not know much about engineering, their knowledge revolve more around computers and software. They ask small salary but no one has money to waste.
Eng with good knowledge as a lot of money and no one want to pay it (except some cases).
Look from investor point of view. He want profit, PERIOD.
All of this is result of the political system. Politicians promise more jobs. But who is actually paying workers. They want less jobs, less people to make more and more. They want good money maker to work for little, which is normal in USA and Canada. Slavery in Canada IS OFFICIAL. No investor is interesting in making good machinery,... he want money, and it is all.
So where in that game are engineers... Who need them. No investor need "new" engineers. University is also a business factory, promising all giving none. NORMAL.
It is all about money in NA. Look at US money, read it the text...

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

The OSPE report wasn't mentioned specifically, but the state of employment of engineers and other trades and professions was discussed extensively on a 2-hour radio program today:

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/checkup



STF

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

Oh yeah: My point is that some people are already doing something about it.

STF

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

(OP)
Talking about it at least, which is a good start- as long as someone who actually knows the situation is there to deal with the inevitable mistruths and myths that are inevitably spouted in the media whenever this issue is raised.

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

@moltenmetal, you gitta do what Aerosmith says: "eat the Rich" cook

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

(OP)
Anyone with an environmental background knows that you should try not to eat too high up the food chain, so rich people would be a really poor choice!

Besides- eat the rich and you'll eat for a day. Tax the rich's wealth, and you'll feed a whole society!

RE: A Waste of Talent: Engineering Under-Employment in Canada

Careful MM,
There are albertans reading this forum, who might be offended by your "pinko" talk.

STF

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