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# Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads44

## Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

(OP)
I was hoping I could get some feedback from some of my fellow civil engineers on this board. I am an engineer working for a small firm. I have grown as an engineer over the years and have been fortunate enough to be able to aid in the hiring process for our firm. What I have come to notice is that the quality of new hires/recent grads have been less than desirable. I'm not saying that they aren't bright or not motivated because they are. However, in my humble opinion colleges today are just not doing a good job preparing these graduates for the work force. And I don't think this is anything new. I didn't feel particularly prepared for the work force when I graduated either and I had a leg up on most of my classmates. I was a second generation engineer and worked through college at an engineering firm.

In most cases the new graduate lacks the following skills.

• Limited if any CAD skills
• Lacks practical knowledge of most types of design
• Does not have a good grasp of the design process
Again, I don't want to seem like I"m coming down hard on these people as I was probably in a similar state when I first graduated. From talking with my family (many of whom are engineers) this just seems to be the norm and has been this way for many years. In our case it seems like we have to spend 1-3 years training the person up to be an effective engineer for us.

With that being said, I would like to get hear some of your opinions on hiring new graduates for your firms. I realize we are in a small market and that could affect the talent pool, but in general I would be interested to hear what some of your experiences have been and if you have any solutions that helped you train your employees.

Also, is there anything in particular you do to reduce training costs and get them up to speed quicker? Do you have a specific training program for new hires? etc.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

I didn't go to university to learn to draw on a table (no CAD back then), why should you expect expertise in /your/ CAD system from a graduate? You are asking them to waste several weeks learning the wrong CAD, surely it is better for you to figure out how to train them your way in your CAD?

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: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

I'm a hard-core CAD wiz, and yet I would be among the first to say that CAD skills should be way down the list. Easy enough to acquire with modest training if the candidate has overall good geometry and visualization skills.

The right talent is hard to find at any level. For entry level, punching a list of ready-to-run skills is probably not an effective recruiting strategy. I would focus more on trainability and adaptability, with a good dose of self-motivation.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

Rather than learning how use a specific CAD system I'd prefer that they learned how to present an engineering drawing. I don't mean to turn them into draughtsmen, but rather to grasp the fundamentals so that they understand the difference between a good drawing and a bad drawing because at some point they will likely be reviewing or approving drawings for others to use. Once you can draw the CAD bit follows relatively easily.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

Incidentally here was my 'trade school' drafting curriculum: velocity diagrams. Concept diagrams of new designs. First and third angle projections and sections through castings.

I was taught to draw to BS308 by my employer, there was no expectation at uni that my drawings would pass muster by a checker, although the optional castings segment was close, that is we were partly graded on formal use of shading etc.

So, given you want your graduates to have spent weeks learning and using what is almost certainly the wrong CAD package, what part of the curriculum do you suggest they drop?

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: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

(OP)
Thank you all for your comments. I understand and agree with what you are saying about learning the wrong CAD platform. I think in the line of work I'm in (civil engineering), there's really only 2 CAD platforms. Most of the places I know are either using AutoCAD Civil3d or Bentley Microstation with Geopak.

I don't necessarily expect the new hires to be extremely proficient in either one, but I would hope they would have the basics of drafting down. But many times, working here is the first time they have been exposed to either one. Since there's really only 2 CAD platforms, once you are somewhat proficient in one, the other is not too terribly difficult to learn. It's just a matter of learning the new tools and how to use them. The end goal and process is very similar.

As to what we should drop in our curriculum I would drop thermodynamics. In the world of civil engineering this is almost never used (maybe on a very outside case). I would rather see a course in microstation or autocad that would help them put a plan set together. I think that would be much more useful to them in the work force.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

5
I looked for the proper date on the OP and was surprised not to find 65 BC as the year. Engineers doing the Roman Roads and Aqueducts had the same complaints. When I graduated in 1980 new hires at large firms spent the first 2-3 years in training classes, doing small parts of big jobs, and observing work. Then they worked for a couple of years before some independent Oil & Gas company hired them away. There were 280 engineers that started with Amoco on the day I started. By year 10 there were 2 of us left (the industry downturn in 1986 had something to do with that, but not everything). All of the majors had the same issue, and it was a decades-old problem then.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

I routinely get candidates for mechanical designer positions with degrees in mechanical engineering that cannot:
1) Explain how to bolt two bits of metal together given a bolt and nut.
3) Draw a square block with vanilla Autocad.
4) Calculate the area of a circle. Seriously.

Some of these guys are not fresh out of school, either. Baffling.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

3
Find one with common sense, can answer order of magnitude questions without much hesitation (does that tree over there weight 200 lbs or 2000 lbs?) who thinks before they speak, and who doesn't touch their phone at all during the interview.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

2
For mechanical engineers ...

Look for those who have somewhat related hobbies and pastimes.

The one who grew up working in dad's machine shop or auto repair shop, the one whose hobby involves racing go-karts or motorcycles or whatever, will have some clue about how real things are actually built as opposed to how things theoretically work in the ivory tower. Disclaimer: this description sounds like myself.

For civil engineers, it's not my area but the one whose high school job was helping out the local building contractor, the one who helped his folks build an addition on their house, is likely the one you want.

These people are rare. They are out there.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

Wolves1,

When I was in college, I was told that upon graduating, I would need about a year of on-the-job training before I became productive. In my case, I got no training other than trial and error, so it took considerably longer.

College is an appropriate place to teach math, physics, chemistry, statics, mechanics of materials and stuff like that. Companies are not well equipped to teach this. They are well equipped to teach practical stuff like their specific CAD, and design process, and to communicate knowledge specific to their industry. College graduates are, and should be generalists.

--
JHG

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

You can't change the ocean. You can't change the fish. You can only change the way you fish.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

A famous philosopher (or was it Yoda?) once said: "That who knows only about engineering, not even about engineering does he know..."

Keep the juicy and hard stuff in the curricula. Else, you'll end up with civil engineers who are great CAD and BIM drafters but who don't have a clue on how a fridge works.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

2
As others have said, this complaint is passed on as the generations change. "They don't teach as well as they did in my day, sonny." "This generation doesn't know how to work." "They're soft."
It's a real shock going from university life to the "real" world. College training does not make you into an engineer, it just gives the basics. And don't get me started on CAD.
I only hope that college doesn't over emphasize the computer aspect of engineering and neglect the understanding of the concepts. I get resumes of recent grads and they have a list of 15 computer platforms that they're familiar with. They think that engineering is computer gaming.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

I believe in general you should be looking for a candidate that you see promise in, some one that will work hard and learn/grasp things quickly, rather than technical ability. I don't think it is a fair to expect a new grad to start working and be immediately productive and independent.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

For engineering it seems like the easy part would be learning how to draft. And I don't think drafting is an easy thing either. I don't remember meeting any graduated engineers that could draft well and they all did fine. Same as the design process. What I learned in school gave me the ability to figure out what I needed to learn on the job. I would expect something similar from a new grad.

B+W Engineering and Design | Los Angeles Civil Engineer and Structural Engineer
http://civilengineer.la

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

I look for someone who -
1. Seems generally trustworthy.
2. Seems generally intelligent.
3. Can think logically through most situations.
4. Is self-motivated.
5. Is a lifelong learner.
If they exhibit all of that, I think I can work with them, and show them how to become successful people, and successful engineers.
Dave

Thaidavid

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

If civil engineers are generally prepared to drop thermo in order to do a few tutorials on CAD then I am not surprised by the pay differential between them and other disciplines. As Barbie nearly said "Thermo is hard." but so are power electrical, reinforced concrete beam design, partial differential equations and dynamics, all of which my trade school thought a mechanical engineer should know.

Anyway we seem to be focusing on CAD, I think the OP's other two points ARE worth discussing, why do we get through uni without ever having had to design a good bolted joint? Admittedly, now that boltscience exists, there's not much excuse for screwing up. haha.

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: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

2
If I see one more request for curricula to include CAD...of any sort....I'm gonna scream!!

That's ludicrous (not Ludicris...as in the rapper). Yes, you need to be able to convey concepts graphically. You can learn enough CAD or do hand sketches to do so. Don't take up important academic time with such trivia. Yes, it is trivia to a properly thinking engineer, whether design or not.

CAD is just a tool. If you were a professional photographer, would your interest lie in the workings of the camera or would it lie in the composition of the photograph? If you are concentrating on the workings of the camera, you're not a photographer. Similarly, if you are concentrating on the mechanics of drawing, you're not concentrating on the mechanics of engineering.

Get your priorities right. We are engineers....not artists.....not drafters. Architects can draw pretty sketches....can they make them stand up to wind and earthquake loads?

I am a part-time professor in a regional university. The political structure of academia sickens me. We need to have a balance of practical and academic exercises and THEY MUST MEET. I see courses taught by unqualified academics who don't know their asses from a hole in the ground....yet they teach from a prescribed course outline and they meet the predetermined curriculum requirements for acreditation. Meanwhile, the student don't know hit from Shinola about how engineering really works. Geez...don't get me started! ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads 2 I'm embarrassed to say how stupid I was on my first job. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads In the spring of 1969 during my Freshman year, we took what had been a "drafting" class. It was explained to us the world had changed and that Engineers no longer draft, so we were going to be taught how to provide sketches to the Drafters. We were the first class to experience this curriculum revision. As a 3rd generation Civil Engineer I got my chops busted by Dad, two uncles, and Grandpa because I needed to learn drafting. And those conversations were mild compared to when they found out that Summer Surveying had been reduced from 11 weeks to just 3 weeks. Then, my 1st assignment on my 1st job, with a small Structural Consulting firm, was to draw precast concrete shop drawings. My supervisor had drafted until he passed the PE exam. Fortunately we had real design jobs as well, so I did start learning engineering after that precast job was done. In a career that spanned 40 years with seven companies, I did some drafting at 5 of the 7 jobs; including having to learn CAD at the 4th location. I could never pretend to compete with the truly skilled Drafters, but at crunch time when the design is done and all that is left is getting the drawings out, helping out was not beneath me. gjc ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads While in school I worked summers as a mechanical draftsman (this was in the pre-CAD days of the mid- to late-60's) where I learned the ropes as I never had any formal classroom training, neither in high school nor college. And while I still had to make some of my own drawings at times, when I started work as a full-time design engineer after graduation, I had already proven myself with respect to my 'drafting' skills. John R. Baker, P.E. Product 'Evangelist' Product Engineering Software Siemens PLM Software Inc. Digital Factory Cypress, CA Siemens PLM: UG/NX Museum: To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads I'm one of the fastest and most capable cad drafters I know, and I didn't learn a lick of it in school. Learned it all on the job. Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Wolves1: look for kids coming out of co-op universities. Their previous work term employers will have taught them some of the things you want them to know. Better still, hire some co op students and train them. Pick the best ones and hire them. That's how we've grown our engineering group over the past decade. We never experience shortages, and I'd like to think we've also helped improve the quality of the crop of young engineers in our market significantly too. Stop expecting others to do your work for you. Schools should teach them fundamentals- and while a little CAD is probably in there, lots of other stuff essential to working as an engineer isn't, can't, and never will be. It's the duty of experienced engineers to train and mentor the next crop. Businesses forgot that for a long time, and need to learn it again! ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Having taught a civil engineering grad course to fill in for an instructor who never showed up (not a professor), after I was age 60, I was amazed at the attitude of the graduate engineers, mostly not of USA homeland. Their main aim seemed to be get high marks, not learn anything practical. The were stumped if I gave them a homework problem that was not solvable by "going to the book". The library as a tool or professional engineer society publications never entered their minds. The field trips I took them out on were the first they ever experienced. In summary, it would seem these students would be much better served if the univ would only hire engineer professors who had several years of work experience before being hired. Hey Ron, right on. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads I've hired 5 grads in the last several years and by and large I'm pleased with their intellect, drive and teachability. Each one of them wishes they had received more practical guidance in university, but so do I. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads As a programmer (and often a part-time hiring manager), a small part of me died when I saw the latest generation of hires coming in with absolutely zero background in the C language. They knew Java, but that was useless for over 90% of the jobs I've held/hired for. A number of schools have completely removed that language from their curriculum, instead choosing to concentrate on the algorithms, theory, etc. Sounds great, until you realize the grads have no idea how to program in the real world. We move with the times... Dan - Owner http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads MacGyverS2000, What language were they programming in? I thought C was the basis for just about all modern programming. I am on a couple of computer mailing lists, and I observe that computer languages are like women's hemlines. The current, fashionable language keep changing. -- JHG ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Java was the major language of choice, though some others trickled in. Python was the major "scripting" language used by all, which is fine, but the core language varied quite a bit with Java being the top contender... it has been years since I've heard a student tell me C was a required language in their curriculum. Not even C++ or C# (and one would think with how Microsoft loves throwing its free compilers towards students in the classroom, C# would come out on top... but no, Java). Dan - Owner http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Their is no way a university could offer enough specific design training to satisfy all the minutia of design that exists in the market place. Gets a project designing a building in college - not qualified to design a comm tower after graduating Gets a project designing a water delivery system in college - not qualified to design a drainage basin after graduating etc, etc. I think geotech is probably the most closely tied to the academia of all the civil disciplines since it is not codified and you just can't know how to be a consulting geotechnical engineer until you become one. Same should hold true for all the subsets in civil. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads 5 Been in the field for five years now. Our new hires for the most part have been fine, maybe we've just had tremendous luck. They're hungry and really want to do well, but are understandably raw. They're fresh out of college with typically zero real world experience, they're supposed to be raw. If you want someone who isn't raw and can be productive like someone with a couple years of experience then you need to hire (and pay for) someone with that experience. And if the employer takes away the safety net and puts them on jobs where they need to perform quickly and correctly the first time, they're going to fail. And that's not their fault or even necessarily their supervisor's fault, it's the employer's fault. It's not the fresh grad's fault for failing to meet bad expectations. To be honest, we've had much better luck with fresh grads than we have with people with experience. You can mold fresh grads into what you need them to be. It takes time, but it can be done and if you invest that time you end up with someone who really knows what they're doing and both thinks and acts the way you'd like them to think and act. With experienced engineers they may be damaged goods by the time they even get to you. Since I started at my company we've hired at least fourteen other engineers fresh of college. Ten of them still work here and are all solid contributors. Of course contributions vary, but there are none that we flat can't count on. I don't think our success rate for experienced engineers in our field is even that high, let alone experienced engineers coming from other areas of structural engineering. Going down the list: - Limited if any CAD skills. My university taught CAD but it was nuts and bolts stuff. For engineers it was AutoCAD and Inventor. I think they've since incorporated some Revit. We learned to draw both by hand and on the computer and (perhaps most importantly) think in three dimensions and how to convey that in two dimensions. We did not learn to set up drawings. I had no clue what an xref was. I would call what I had 'limited if any CAD skills', especially since by the time I graduated with the master's I was four years removed from the course. I don't think my University should have spent any more time on it than they did. Doing a little is important to get the feet wet. Doing too much in an academic setting takes time away from more important things (not all of which is even engineering). - Lacks practical knowledge of most types of design. I've seen this complaint a lot and my personal opinion is that a lot of it stems from wanting someone who can step right in and understand the code and the different building systems right away. The issue I have with that is college is about providing a base, not specifics. For instance, my degree is in Civil and Environmental Engineering. That's a huge field. When I get out I could be doing structural design of buildings, I could be actually constructing the buildings, I could be designing earth dams, I could be doing transportation planning, I could be designing airfield pavements, I could be designing storm drainage systems, I could be researching microbe dispersal in rivers. My department provides graduates to each of those functions. At my University you didn't choose your 'primary' area until junior year. So by the time each student pares that list down to one, college is half over. For my field (structural), once you pare that down they *still* don't know what you're doing. I could be doing structural design of buildings, could be doing structural design of bridges, could be doing structural design of more industrial structures (utility lines, transmission towers, pipelines, etc.). Hell, a lot of my professors had grants from NASA, I could be doing structural design of freaking spaceships. And each of the 'primaries' is like that. One degree conceivably covers them all and the University has to keep that in mind when designing the academic coursework. Individual employers know what they're looking for, but you're going to Universities that provide graduates to a ton of different employers with a ton of different needs/wants. - Does not have a good grasp of the design process. They're new hires fresh out of college. They've never designed a real world project and gotten real world feedback in their entire life. I'm not sure why they would have a good grasp of the design process. They might know what it is. They may have practiced it in school, I know I did. But until you actually do it with real world consequences and real world clients breathing down your neck and real world contractors telling you none of your crap works while screaming about the schedule, it's never going to sink in. Some will catch on quicker than others, whether they're quick or just have a knack for it. Some will burn out (and as the employer it's your job to recognize that and combat it). But I'd be surprised if you found very many fresh grads who really understood the design process. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Mr. Hershey - that was the best post yet. We can't expect schools to send us 2 year engineers. And in my opinion - that is what the OP is looking for. Give them time and help them learn how to be an engineer. There is a reason why they don't qualify to sit for the engineering exams - no one is ready at that point. IMO California (and I'm sure there are others) needs to change their 1 year experience = 1 year of graduate school. No one should have a PE after just one year working in the industry. CRAZY!!! ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Beg to differ, but only a bit: kids graduating from a co-op university will have two years of work experience before you hire them. Pick the right ones and you'll be much further ahead. They may not be as seasoned and will not be as mature as engineers with two years of solid post-grad on the job experience that every employer somehow hopes to poach from others. That said, gaining relevant work experience while studying can be valuable in a superadditive way- it certainly was for me, and we find the same thing in the co-ops we ultimately hire. For one thing, you won't find too many of them that have a crisis related to "why did I choose engineering?" part way through their employment with you- those folks tend to figure that out during work terms and then seek other employment on graduation- or transfer out of the program entirely. Some kids at non-co op universities are lucky with summer jobs- but six terms of required-for-credit work experience beats three terms of good luck (or nepotism!) 90% of the time. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads I do see a marked decline in the potential of fresh grads. Now, as BrianPetersen touched on above its not about what universities are or aren't teaching them. I see it as an unavoidable sign of the times. The thing that seems to be missing from the younger generation is any hands-on experience. No, I don't expect you to come out of college having already significant design experience, or to know the software we use... I expect you to be interested enough in your discipline to have some personal, non-schooling related experience. I asked the only rookie I'm working with right now during her interview, "What was the last fixit / buildit / modifyit project you did yourself?" She told me about building a stand to hold up a motorcycle while removing the wheels. I asked her to explain the process, from fabricating parts to assembly and her eyes lit up as she explained what she had done. Embedded within her explanation I could see spatial ability, problem-solving skills, and a basic understanding of how things go together. A rookie at a friend's firm recently said, "I became an engineer so I could make enough money to pay other people to work on things for me." That's the problem I see. The younger generation doesn't seem to get their hands dirty anymore due to: - planned obsolescence: We as a society just throw things away and buy new ones instead of fixing or maintaining them. - instant gratification vs delayed gratification: The internet has modified our expectations to no longer accommodate waiting for anything. Why build my own thingamajig when I can order one that'll be on my front porch in two days, and I can still get some gratification of watching someone make one on YouTube? - over-protectiveness: You might end up on the news if you are irresponsible enough to let youngsters actually touch and use tools these days (sarcasm, but you get the point). - technology dependence: Seems that everyone under ~30 years old only knows one way to solve any problem... a computer. This often leads to over-complicating problems, or at the very least an inability to simplify a problem for a cursory, first-pass hand calc. I remember one of my mentors once saying that you simply can't engineer a practical and constructable timber building design if you've never swung a hammer or used a saw. That may be an oversimplification but it does contain some real wisdom. Co-op students will have often picked up some of this experience, as long as their co-op jobs didn't just have them sitting in a cubicle or in front of a copier all day. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads "I expect you to be interested enough in your discipline to have some personal, non-schooling related experience." Perhaps, this the outcome of the constant drumbeat "Go into STEM." Possibly too many people are going into engineering because that's where they think the good jobs are. And, possibly, the extra instructors needed to feed the extra engineering students are also not quite up to snuff. TTFN I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! homework forum: //www.engineering.com/AskForum/aff/32.aspx FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads I think it predates the 'Go Into STEM' - or even common use of the term STEM - for a long time guidance counselors etc. have been encouraging folks good at maths & physics to go into engineering, regardless of if they had any real interest. Some come to love, or at least appreciate it, other don't seem to and are the ones prating on here about how they wouldn't encourage anyone to become an engineer... 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: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads theonlynamenottaken: this is a very old problem, not a recent one. Only a very small percentage of the chemical engineering students I went to school with (several decades ago) had any meaningful hands-on experience prior to university. Most of them even dropped the high school shop classes as soon as they could. A great number of their parents were professionals- a lot of those parents were engineers. A lack of hands-on was just as prevalent amongst the boys as the girls. Our university curriculum included zero meaningful hands-on work of the type you're talking about. But we did get two years of co-op work experience while we studied- and if you picked the right work experience, it was possible to develop some hands-on during that time. But in many cases, a kid could be grieved on the job by a union tradesman for merely picking up a wrench- so those kids hit the labour market grass-green in terms of understanding what it takes to build something that they've designed. The tendency to divorce design from fabrication has been a strong one in our profession for a long time, and the reputation of our profession has suffered as a result. There were a few exceptions in our class, myself included- I grew up around repair and fabrication and had grease under my fingernails from an early age. There are still a few kids who are similarly fortunate- you can find them if you look hard enough. Kids who grew up on farms tend to have a much higher chance than those who grew up in cities, but that's not a firm rule. Helicopter parenting has been a growing issue over the past few decades, but fortunately it's not universal. Concerns over liability, health and safety concerns, and a tendency to "stream" students into either an academic or technical curriculum, have all reinforced this weakness right from the first days of high school. And when your cut-off for admission to an engineering program is an average in the high 80s, the tendency to get classes consisting of mostly hands-off book-learners is even higher. We actually try to teach some basic fab skills to our young engineers- and to some of the older ones too. Some of our tradesmen embrace this opportunity to share what they know, seeing the value to them (and to the company) of a greater appreciation of their skills- and needs- from the people who will ultimately be designing what they must construct. But others are more short sighted, or consider the whole exercise to be a joke. I'm interested in what others are doing in this regard too. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Just from personal experience, I'd be hesitant to hire someone with super high grades, I'd ask a lot of common sense questions first. In my class working on the design project, those kids honestly didn't know which way to turn a wrench to tighten a bolt, so they ended up writing the reports, and sometimes justifying our work with calculations after the fact. Which actually can be a useful skill, but can also be dangerous without a good feel for whether or not something SHOULD be justified. Not the type of people I'd look to for a difficult yes/no decision. "Is it safe" or "will it work" can't be answered by someone who still starts every sentence with "ideally" or "if we assume that..." ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads 2 1gibson, Generalities based on anecdotes are pretty scary. I spent 6 years as a mechanical operator in a nuclear power plant before I started college. After U.S. Navy Nuclear Power School, college was a joke and I missed a 4.0 overall GPA by a "B" in a "human factors in organization" class. The other nucs that I kept in touch with had similar experiences. All of the vets in my class in college outperformed the kids out of high school simply because of increased maturity and a better-established work ethic. Good grades are not a function of a lack of common sense, often they are a function of above average maturity and a willingness to work. David Simpson, PE MuleShoe Engineering In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads I second David's sentiment. You really have to talk so someone to get a feel for their common sense attributes. My grades were very high as well. But since I was 24 years old when I started college, I made it my priority. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Additionally, I've had a few complements from folks on the shop floor etc. and I'm not as hands on as many members here. So while my gut agrees about the whole needing hands on experience etc. my personal experience doesn't necessarily match it. 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: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Like many, I'm leery of a CV that only lists academic and social experience. Once you establish that the applicant has done SOMETHING other than school (e.g., military service, Co-Op, some non-retail job, etc.) then I'm willing to talk to him/her and will see good grades as a positive. Without any evidence that a candidate ever worked for a living I get really skeptical (and personally I don't cut any slack for drama club, debate society, etc. I see that stuff as just school without grades). I've had good luck with both vets and Co-op students. David Simpson, PE MuleShoe Engineering In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Stereotypes are dangerous, but it's understandable why people use them as a crutch sometimes. When looking for co-op students, I actually look for kids with very good grades, and I reject kids who have failed a term unless there is some very obvious reason for it immediately evident in their application package. The program is actually quite easy to pass- and difficult to excel in. Good grades show both a high native intelligence and a willingness to work when it is needed, and enough maturity to know when that is, as you can't excel in the program without at least a little of both. I then weed through the kids with good grades for the ones who actually have truly practical intelligence. I do this by asking technical questions which examine their access to a conceptual understanding of their studied subject material, as well as examining how they make assumptions, how they reason, and how well they think on their feet etc. These tests do tend to trip up the purely academic kids who lack commonsense, who are the ones that people who throw out the top 10% of the class are trying to avoid (throwing out some of the cream of the crop in the bargain!) I've found my technique to be extremely effective, especially now that I've had years of experience correlating interview responses with on-the-job performance in our work environment. By the way, I too had excellent grades- I was always in the top 5-10% of my class, and I wasn't any older than the rest of my classmates. Without blowing my own horn too much, I was smart, unafraid of hard work, and much more serious than most kids my age. I'd also had the good luck to be in a graduating year in my high school which was unusually full of high achievers, and we competed with one another which upped everyone's game quite a bit. I was also fortunate to have an upbringing that gave me very strong hands-on experience to go with it. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads 2 I think, if I had one thing to contribute to new grads or new hires, it would be that you need to be able to: (1) Think. (2) Solve a problem so that it goes away. (3) Understand the consequences of your decisions and solutions to yourself and to other stakeholders. Me: To a large extent, I failed at all three, and now live with a lifetime of the consequences. A came out of high school at the absolute top of the class, spent a year in college on the President's Honor Roll, a year in university on the Dean's List, and then I figured, "Great, I've got this, I can be a full-time athlete now and still get great grades.". It turns out, I actually *didn't* "got this", and I managed to stay just above academic probation in my second year of university. That was pretty stupid. Worse, the way to become a competitive athlete with a bright future in my sport would have been to grow another foot taller and take anabolic steroids. Stupid as I was, I wasn't *that* stupid. Anyway, due to the cumulative progression of the complexity of the academic subject material in my last two years, my overall GPA ended up short of acceptance into graduate studies, thus closing the door to an MSc. or PhD. So, there I was, in the recession of 1983, no job, no money, no athletic career, and in my valiant attempt to excel at something in which I was not excellent, I lost the other thing in which I *was* excellent (at least once upon a time). The consequences of that rather stupid decision-making process have included relegation to a career in EPC with the other dumb grunts who were not considered intelligent enough by the operating companies of the world to work for *them*, and a great deal more onerous a task ahead of me if I ever chose to immigrate to countries like, say, the United States, because there are scores of thousands of people just like me there already. In short, I closed a lot of doors on myself. You don't see these things when you are young, stupid and "living in the moment", and you ultimately pay a price for it. Sure, I've done lots of things, played lots of sports, done well at some cool track meets, dabbled in a professional entertainment production that performed in front of 14,000 people, made some podium placements at agility Nationals and, yes, even in my lowly peon EPC career, achieved a few commendable things; in retrospect, I wouldn't trade them. But, I certainly didn't set myself up for fortune or fame, and it's a little late at this juncture in my life to be calling for a Mulligan. If I had one message for bright, young Co-Ops, graduates or graduate candidates, it would be to advise them to invest what it takes to keep all of their doors open. That said, I've never worked with a young person who disappointed me. The kids today are smarter, better, more balanced, more articulate and more mature than I ever was at their age. Training them is both simple and extremely gratifying: all you have to do is show them the target, make them understand what the target would look like close-up, and turn them loose. If your vision is clear, their path will be straight. It's like sighting in a gun - once you do it properly, you seldom miss what you aim at, and often, you surprise yourself with what you can hit and from how far away you can hit it. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads You can edit them you know... ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads I find this thread offensive, but that's cool. I stand firmly behind the old ideas of W. Edwards Deming. The problem is not with the willing workers but with the system. Everybody has to learn and if your company needs to rely on supermen then you don't have a fail-safe system of doing work. You want a wide group of people to apply practical knowledge and know-how? Get into Knowledge-Based Engineering or continue whining! ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads KevinDeSmet, Offensive? What about it offends your delicate sensibilities? I certainly didn't see anyone requiring the application of super-human skills. I really would like to know what is offensive. I have skimmed through the whole thread this morning and it looks like well-meaning, experienced engineers sharing their insights. I don't know who W. Edwards Deming is, but often the problem really is with workers whose expectations are not in line with the requirements of the job. Claiming that some amorphous "system" is at fault is just the blind search for someone else to blame for our shortcomings. David Simpson, PE MuleShoe Engineering In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads I don't know. I guess what offends me was the post about trustworthiness and intelligence and self-motivation. I think a lot of things are 'attributed' to people, when they are not truly intrinisic attributions at all! People can be as motivated as you enable them to be or as unmotivated as you force them to be. And these don't even need to be very extreme things to demotivate! The simple notion of having to work from 9-to-5, of work needing to be stressful or you're not "working hard enough", the hierarchical divide between managers and workers, seniors and juniors. The idea of 15 years work experience at something as a 'good' thing instead of as the boring reality which by then it will surely have become. People who wanna do finite element analysis get no chances and people who have done it for 15 years are bored of it. All these things lead to de-motivation! In my opinion, degrees and in fact even work experience artifically restrain individuals naturally trying things out and gravitating toward which interests them. This directly affects human resources hiring policies which place wrong people in wrong jobs, and this as nothing to do with skill or knowledge, this is intrinsic motivation which every single person can feel for themselves. This over-arching "system" directly influences the outcome: untrustworthy, uninterested behaviour in workers. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads I personally had a hard time trying to understand where @KevinDeSmet was coming from in his last response. It felt like he was reading his own frustrations into other people's words. I didn't sense in the string of any of these replies any of the negativities he was complaining about. Maybe it's my age, or maybe it's just me, but he seemed to be coming from way out in left field with those criticisms. I thought that many of the other replies were well thought out, and heartfelt. And I even picked up a few good thoughts along the way. Thanks to everybody who added their thoughts - please keep contributing to eng-tips.com! Dave Thaidavid ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads KevinDeSmet, And that adds up to "offended"? I have to tell you that your discussion sounded like a spoiled, entitled brat who would fit in very well at Mizzou right now, but I didn't get "offended" out of what you said. David Simpson, PE MuleShoe Engineering In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Don't know about the reasons behind KevinDeSmet's being offended, but can say that some attitudes on this subject that I've seen here and elsewhere have peeved me in the past. A lot of it generational, doesn't make me feel real great as a recently fresh engineering grad when the older, more experienced types complain that new grads don't know how to design anything and don't have any practical knowledge. Actually makes me very grateful for the older, experienced types at my firm who are decidedly NOT like that and have done and continue to do a tremendous job with the younger engineers we hire. But at the same time it makes me upset and disappointed for the younger engineers who have to work for these types. Seems like it would be a depressing work environment and would be difficult to get motivated or develop as an engineer. Can't imagine getting out of college, being really excited to finally go do something with this degree I just paid a bunch of money for and this education that is 20 years in the making. And then end up working for or being managed by someone who thinks I don't know anything. As I noted above, we've had tremendous luck with new graduates. And maybe it is just luck and we'll have a string of bad young hires here soon to balance things out. But if it's not luck then we must be doing something right, which would imply that the firms and companies having these issues are doing something wrong (or at least have room for improvement). Would probably be a good idea to figure out how to change that, and quick. With the boomers continuing to retire and workforce continuing to get younger, this isn't going to just go away. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads MrHershey I for one never intended to imply that new grads were any different than previous grads. In fact I started my first post in this thread with a reference to the engineers working on the Roman aqueducts complaining about the "kids these days". Reading through other's posts I'm thinking that you are just reading curriculum complaints as complaining about "today's kids". I don't want CAD taught in undergraduate programs. I don't want "film appreciation" to be an acceptable elective. I want a new engineer to be able to set up and solve a 3D kinematics problem. I would like a new ME to know what the ASME codes are and to be able to calculate a gas velocity from a volume flow rate stated in standard units. I don't expect a university to teach her my company's exceptions to the code. It takes time for a new engineer to learn how my company does projects and engineering in general. That is why new hires are rarely productive in the first couple of years. It was true when I started, it was true before WWI, and it is true today. David Simpson, PE MuleShoe Engineering In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads I can appreciate that. Less 'kids these days', more 'kids all days'. And one thing that the more experienced where I work at do a great job with is recognizing that there's things the younger types can teach as well. Usually with technology, but there are other areas as well. One is code changes and sometimes even specific code language, especially for engineers that are studying for exams. The younger generation growing up with the Internet age is used to constant change. They don't know anything else. Codes changing every three years isn't a big deal to them, even when changes are major. And picking up the changes is a lot easier for them since they don't have the backlog of information that the more experienced have. A mix is important and I'll rail against the younger types complaining about the olds set in their ways just as much as the other way around. And disagree that film appreciation shouldn't be an acceptable elective. One of the major points of college is to produce well rounded individuals and the arts and humanities are vastly important in doing this. Some of my most fulfilling courses in college, the ones that really taught me how to think (and I'm still not that great at it), had nothing to do with engineering. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Thaidavid40, Damn straight I'm frustrated! Do you think I'm a frustrated individual? Well, I'm not. Stop attributing things to people as if it's what they are, instead of what they have become due to circumstances. I have become frustrated because of the experiences I have gone through in my short career so far (been working for about 7 years) and one of them is precisely the topic of this thread. People sizing other people up. Only hiring the "best" young graduates who are 'self-motivated', as if that comes out of a person's butthole, as if planted by magic wizards and leprechauns of the lush green lands of Motivae??! If you have created a system of universities that are not aligned with the needs of business you only have yourselves to blame. Putting the blame on young people is easy. But you're the ones that fucked shit up to being the way it is today. Again, I haven't been employed at every company in the world everywhere, so I can't say for all. But certainly I've been at two OEMs so far as well as several SMBs and they all fucked up. Either the hierarchy destroys them, or the lack of resources destroys them, for OEMs and SMBs respectively. Yeah I'm not a very logical person, more of an emotional type of guy. That's probably why me replies are a bit more "floating with the my feet off the ground" type responses. But hey, I hope I can contribute at least something, even this way. If not then fine I'll shut up. But don't expect me to put on a mask that goes "everything is a-okay, with Kevin!" or "Kevin, loves the business world that has become the reality, today!" Because no. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Regardless of the surrounding, external circumstances, self-motivation (and other, similar, personal characteristics of successful people) is one of the keys to that success. One doesn't absolutely have to like a situation in order to be successful in it. Think about how some people successfully survive natural disasters, when others in like situation don't. None of them liked it - but some of them were motivated to succeed anyway. Competition - for jobs, for food, for life itself - is an innate part of our existence here on earth. Dissatisfaction will not remove that ubiquitous competition from one's life, it will simply make succeeding and thriving under it more difficult - and even more stressful. As my football coach at Furman used to tell us, "Stop complaining, and hit somebody!" It was a bit direct, but it carried a great truth: complaining rarely solved a problem. Dave Thaidavid ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads I understand your point of view. I'm not condoning complaining, I am condoning finding the root causes behind the issues. Natural disasters is a different story in my opinion as it climbs down the Maslow's hierarchy tree, which is a very simple model that says that when our basic needs are threatened we will let go of all other worries and ambitions to tend to restoring our basic needs. It's like when you have the flu. I do not believe in success being possible if you're a regular Joe or Jane living within a system that stiffles innovation. Most of the people who got stuff done in the past (and the present) have not been alone and have worked together in an entire ecosystem to make things happen. I also do not believe in competition, it assumes a fixed piece pie. Collaboration expands the pie, so everyone wins. Again these are my beliefs and I hold none of them to be "the" truth, but I have thought about them deeply and won't be shaken easily. Just as I am sure you have yourself about your beliefs. And that's good, otherwise we'd be flip-flopping politicians! ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads "Damn straight I'm frustrated! Do you think I'm a frustrated individual? Well, I'm not. " I'm trying to make sense of that little rant. I suggest you grow up, grow a pair, and put the keyboard down. Nobody is even slightly impressed by your swearing either. 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: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Fresh grads are fresh grads. All have varying interest and talents. The biggest problem I have seen is the complete lack any sort of mentoring, both technically and towards career guidance. If I was running a small firm or my own department, I think my first priority would be training and mentoring. It helps with so many things across the board: quality and engagement in the work, general morale, retention, and development of new ideas. ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Greg, If you don't see it you either 1) live in a better part of the world than me, 2) work at a better company than the ones I have worked at, or 3) have very low standards for best practices and world-class quality. To the other post, I think small firms that truly know what they're doing, on a worldwide competitive knowledge-base, seem like a really small percentage. Because how could they? You tell me. You need manpower, in numbers, to do truly amazing work. Everybody contributes their skill for the better of the whole. In a small company, say 10 guys just basically screwing around a little, what's that gonna do for the world? Maybe I'm just too cynical... ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads #### Quote (KevinDeSmet) Darn straight I'm frustrated! Do you think I'm a frustrated individual? Well, I'm not. [snip] I have become frustrated because of the experiences I have gone through in my short career... Yeah I'm not a very logical person, more of an emotional type of guy. If you don't see it you either 1) live in a better part of the world than me, 2) work at a better company than the ones I have worked at, or 3) have very low standards for best practices and world-class quality. I think I see the problem... too much fly-off-the-handle and poor-little-o-me emotion, not enough logical detachment. Not to mention you may see things a little differently when you're in the position (after years of experience) of hiring folks (who are at the level you're coming from recently) to work on your projects. Hindsight being 20/20 and all of that... Dan - Owner http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads Well excuuuuuse me that I'm not Mister Spock! It's precisely this kind of rock-solid no emotions allowed, that's giving engineering a bad name. You can't bulldoze people into doing whatever it is you want, I don't care if you own a business and need to hire people or not. The matter of fact is all this impression mangement and repression of emotions kills trust. If you don't have trust, everything else falls down sooner--or later. Everything is flawed: money as a motivator, rank and position as a differentiator, etc... Is skill gaps and experience difference a factor in business? Yes. Is money a factor in business? Yes. But these should not become primary points of focus because they do not go down to the level of intrinsic motivation. What makes people really tick? What makes one person in love with designing machines and the other person thinks they're boring? It's not knowledge nor money related yet of primary importance. And then you have these "rock-heads" (no offence) that are like: ohhh no, little emotional baby just man up. You guys are everything that is wrong with the situation and in matter of fact, like administrators of the world, perpetuate and police its very continued existence. *makes a rude Italian hand gesture* ### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads 2 Guys. KevinDeSmet is right. Our engineering education system is inefficient at creating engineering experts. Yes, successful engineers do make it through the system...but it is usually do the heroic self-motivation of the individual. And that's not a great recipe for success. Hanging our hats on outliers and overachievers is a recipe for decline. Ask the average engineering graduate to recall his education and apply it practically...and what do you find? (I hear the snickers from across the Eng-Tips readership.) "You really have to work a few years before you can start to understand..." is a common response or reaction. That's crazy! To think... that a student spends 5% of his or life and100,000+ on an degree program. Faculty and staff spends a lot of energy as well. And students can't remember and apply what they have learned? So much wasted effort. It's the greatest inefficiency in our society.

There is a way to improve the overall system without overhauling it. Higher education does alot of things right and we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. I am actually in the beginning stages of a project called Inside the Mind that can improve the system. I will be asking for help from the Eng-Tips community in the coming weeks and months.

But in the meantime, a few points:

1. We need to redefine our engineering education process as a road to expertise. If we can do that, we can help students understand and control their inevitable loss of confidence. Seasoned educators and professionals loose sight of this... but we can't. It's a thing.

Cue the cognitive psychologists. The Dunning-Kruger effect is an idea that compares confidence vs. expertise. The main takeaway is you are never as confident as when you are a novice (read: don't know anything, read: students). We graduate very happy and self-assured students. Which is crazy, because it actually means that they are as far away from expertise as possible.

As soon as students start to realize this (perhaps after working for 2-3 years), they become very bummed out. No one wants their self-esteem balloon deflated... especially when you have already viewed yourself (and been graded in) a positive light. Many will take to learn this decline in confidence and shift away from engineering altogether during this time (many deciding to go to law school, oh Lord). This guts our profession of talent. It wastes the time effort spent getting them there. It's inefficient for everyone.

And while the confidence swing isn't avoidable, it can be identified early and managed. Our education programs should focus on graduating kinda-bummed, but proficient engineers (on the road to expertise) instead of happy ones. No one wants to bum out students but if expertise is the goal (instead of a good grade in individual classes), it's necessary. Besides, it's better to have your world shaken in the class room... instead of when you're paying rent and asking your employer for a raise.

2. We need to expose our students to drawing, drafting and modeling. HAVE TO. Engineering (structural engineering, at least) is 50% communication and a student that comes to me that can assemble a stiffness matrix but cannot communicate a design... is nearly useless. Engineers are no longer analyzers as much as we are tailors and worriers. We are hired to see and create what others cannot and take responsibility for the structure when its done. That vision has be to communicated constantly (both internally in the design office and externally to contractors, owners and municipalities). Communication is a lot of the job.

And it's the one area where a new hire can immediately assist the design team he or she joins -- they can help the team communicate by drawing. Technical writing skills are important too.

The new hire can also help the team worry. Because someone needs to. There are too many things that can go wrong (both in design and construction) that someone needs to be constantly vigilant and keep things on the right side of the line. As engineers, we can't beat a computer in analyzing something (of a known geometry, anyway)... but a computer doesn't worry. I again put a premium on neurosis, consciousness and curiosity of a new hire over their ability to apply the stiffness method to a 6DOF system.

I value the opinion of several of the very experienced engineers here who believe otherwise... but to me, drafting (communicating) and engineering ethics/case studies (worrying) need to be taught to students, IMHO.

So, this is a little long winded-- but I don't think there's a topic in engineering that's more important. I'll update you all on Inside the Mind soon.

In the meantime, please don't attack the young pups for identifying key defects in a system that is supposed to churn out the engineering experts that our world needs. They're right... and tough love along the lines of "suck it up" is unimaginative at best and crippling, at worst.

"We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us." -WSC

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

KevinDeSmet,

Admittedly it's always a challenge to balance the human side of things with the "rock head" side of things. That said, companies have work to do, the work requires skill sets, people are interviewed and hired or promoted on the basis of having those skill sets - those very people even put whatever strategic spin they can on their qualifications and interests in order to be the one hired or promoted to do the work. So, potential employers are often duped into hiring or promoting the wrong human beings into the wrong life roles, but who then is lying to who?

I usually tell my direct reports that engineering is simple. We put stuff on paper. Other people then change the stuff on the paper by marking it up with red. Eventually, when everything on he paper is black and nothing is red, you sell the paper to someone who pays good money for it. The path from red to black can be as emotional or emotionless as people want it to be, but me, I tend to zone out and look for another job when it becomes more emotional than paper-red-black.

This is why I have spent decades *NOT* pursuing roles in management. I didn't sign on for babysitting, mediating arguments, dealing with tears in my office trying to bring people to some kind of happily-ever-after group hug. Trust has nothing to do with an emotional state of mind. It has everything to do with accuracy, repeatability and predictability. So, to advance my cause, I just try to be the guy that, when the paper is spawned, mine will be the one with the least red on it.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

MJB315,
I don't see anyone above "attacking the young pups", just the opposite in many cases. Expectations of experienced engineers in this thread is that out of the gate, new hires never have (and never will) be able to contribute to projects at the level they will be able to contribute after learning the company's internal processes and procedures.

Engineering is about communication and I think that engineers should learn paper and pencil drafting before they ever touch a CAD program. That way they learn to communications part of it and later learn the ALT-CNTL-D portion that is specific to a particular package. An ME who learned Solidworks in lieu of drafting will be at a major disadvantage going into Oil & Gas because the CAD we use tends to be AutoCAD. That is my problem with teaching CAD, you are not learning drafting principles you are learning how to tickle a particular robot.

You've put pretty words around the OLD saw "hire teenagers while they still know everything". If you think that your Inside the Mind paper/book/whatever is going to make that saw any less true or more manageable, then good luck to you. If you think you can protect the delicate young darlings from the vagaries of life then you are dreaming. I'm not going to let a poor design stand to keep from telling an idiot he's an idiot (or telling someone that they might have missed a key element in their considerations). If I sugar coat it, then they will make the same mistake next time. If I throw it in their face and make them find the fault, then they will remember. It is way better for all to stop protecting their feelings.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

MJB, very interesting I think Total Quality Management from Edwards Deming can work well in an education setting as well, there are a few Youtube videos that gloss over the main ideas there.

SNORGY, I understand your point of view. But I see quality as a process that includes at its core motivation and learning. Continuous development is something every individual desires in life and thus also work. If you only hire people who have all the required skills from the very beginning this seems to run counter to that. For that applicant there is nothing to gain other than make a new employer happy with a "least amount of red" required on his work, as you so put it.

I don't like babysitting either but in the end, I think there is no other way. We are not born with any knowledge but we are born with intrinsic motivation, and people experience roadblocks like necessary degree's or x-years of experience trying out things they intrinisically know they might like and enjoy--and become good at, mind you! It is a direct consequence of liking something, you're bound to have a nack for it.

Organismic valuing is the idea behind that. Every individual will gravitate towards a position where he feels instrinically most comfortable and most empowered, most useful and likely to find individuals with similar motivations and points of view on work, and life.

I know it's a bit fluffy but...I think it makes sense on a deep level.

Zdas,

You're the idiot for not capturing corporate knowledge and practising a best-in-class knowledge management philosophy using tools such as knowledge-based engineering. You honestly don't think the old ways of knowledge being in every person's head is achievable in an ever more complex world developing ever more complicated products? Even simple products are not self-evident apart from to the person who knows how it works! I have seen this many times, some engineer guy says to me "dude, it's not rocket science?" and I'm like inside my mind going like "well, doesn't matter, if I don't know then I don't know."

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

Part of the difficulty here is that most young people come into engineering schools - and then into the profession - without ever having built anything. When I was in school, I already had experience digging ditches, installing water and sewer pipes, paving roads, stringing fencing, erecting small buildings, etc. And quite a number of my school mates had similar experiences - many of them had also spent some of their teen years being around construction, and actually seeing how things go together in the field (i.e.: the "real world", as some would say). I think that too many of our entering college freshmen lack any practical understanding of the simplest of construction practices. If more of them would take summer high-school internships at construction companies, and do Co-Oping during college, they would be materially better off to handle both the office demands on their abilities, and the practical expectations made of them.
My two cents' worth -
Dave

Thaidavid

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

KevinDeSmet,
If that is what you got out of my post, then I really don't think that we are ever going to communicate. We don't seem to be on the same planet let alone the same profession. I'll leave the last word to you.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

Fair enough, don't mind me, remember: I'm frustrated. I don't like it, I don't pride myself on it but I am. And I can not deny it, or ain't going to, either.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

#### Quote (KevinDeSmet)

Well excuuuuuse me that I'm not Mister Spock! It's precisely this kind of rock-solid no emotions allowed, that's giving engineering a bad name.

And then you have these "rock-heads" (no offence) that are like: ohhh no, little emotional baby just man up. You guys are everything that is wrong with the situation and in matter of fact, like administrators of the world, perpetuate and police its very continued existence.

*makes a rude Italian hand gesture*
And you prove my point so eloquently.

You seem incapable of thinking logically about the situation and continually fall back on the "Woh is me!" principle. Nowhere has anyone (myself included) suggested removing emotion completely, only understanding how overt emotion can muddy the issue to the point of failure to see the forest for the trees. If this is the type over over-reaction you display to your work colleagues, it would come as no big shock to most here that they frown upon your antics in general. In short, you likely are the cause of your own poor situation. A member of my team who shows such a lack of control would only be given a short period of time to get it under control before being removed... it would wear thinly on the others and everyone has their own demons to deal with, they don't need yours.

#### Quote (KevinDeSmet)

You can't bulldoze people into doing whatever it is you want, I don't care if you own a business and need to hire people or not. The matter of fact is all this impression mangement and repression of emotions kills trust. If you don't have trust, everything else falls down sooner--or later. Everything is flawed: money as a motivator, rank and position as a differentiator, etc...

Is skill gaps and experience difference a factor in business? Yes. Is money a factor in business? Yes. But these should not become primary points of focus because they do not go down to the level of intrinsic motivation. What makes people really tick? What makes one person in love with designing machines and the other person thinks they're boring? It's not knowledge nor money related yet of primary importance.

Your intrinsic motivator is irrelevant when I need a job done. Your whining about me not meeting your intrinsic motivator falls on deaf ears. I need a skillset and a certain minimum of experience... if you don't fit that set of requirements, you are relegated to lower-level projects until such time as you do meet those requirements.

I have/show respect for people who work hard and get the job done. I pay them (hopefully) what they are worth in the current marketplace. But you have somehow forgotten that it's a job. If you walk away at the end of every day and feel like you have made a difference, that's great, and I'll make reasonable allowances to ensure that continues. But if you think a company exists just so you can take home a paycheck every week and feel good about yourself, your sense of reality is entirely too warped to make it long-term anywhere. No one is there to hold your hand, and no one is there as a shoulder to cry on when you don't feel loved... everyone is to ensure the success of the company they work for, which means they get to take home a paycheck the following week, too.

And rank is a differentiator. That's the entire purpose of it. The person at the top has a handle on a project as a whole, the people below continually split the work up into finer and finer detail until it hits the granularity necessary for actual work to get done. The low-level folks don't have the experience to see the project as a whole, and the high-level people have experience that is too valuable to waste their time doing low-level work. This is exactly why fresh grads do basic work and experienced people manage those same fresh grads. You seem to be under the impression that rank is a conspiracy to keep people such as yourself at the bottom... if you can't grasp the real reason why rank exists, exactly as I've just written, then you will always remain at the bottom levels and you will always have a chip on your shoulder.

I would have thought 7 years experience would have taught you some of this, but I can see you're fast on the path to becoming an experienced malcontent.... it's us against "the man", as it were. People with blinders on are near impossible to help, so I'm done trying with you.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

You're a scary person, man.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

Zdas,
Far from wanting to protect "...the delicate young darlings from the vagaries of life...", I want their ears boxed as early as possible. But I want to do it in a way that shows them (the paying student) that it's necessary step on the road to expertise. Not because they are stupid, or need motivation. The false sense of competence cannot live past the undergraduate level, like it does now. So I'm with you when you want to call a spade, a spade.

So, this thread took a bit of turn. But it's representative of the conflict that I see play out everywhere.

People generally want to feel a sense of pride and to feel like they are moving forward.

It's true-- when you are starting out, it's hard to feel either without a good mentor. The example that KevinDeSmart shares when he says, "...Some engineer guy says to me "dude, it's not rocket science?" and I'm like inside my mind going like "well, doesn't matter, if I don't know then I don't know." is not a good mentor.

How can you feel like you're moving forward if you don't know what forward necessarily looks like? What does a successful late-career engineer look like? That's not always clear to a young engineer.

How can you feel a sense of pride when you're made to feel inadequate? I don't advocate lying about competence... ever. But "Dude, it's not rocket science" doesn't help. Calling someone an idiot, doesn't either.

On the flip side:

MacGyverS2000: "Your intrinsic motivator is irrelevant when I need a job done." Is a pretty darned good point. Senior engineers have a hard enough time meeting client expectations and getting out a safe and technically sound product on budget and on time ... it doesn't leave a lot of time for emotional counseling.

Disillusioned engineers don't produce quality work. Employers can't pay someone \$30/hour to dream about a better life. I've been on both sides.

Everyone agrees that there's a problem. So I'm curious:

From the more experienced side of the aisle:
• What does success as a professional engineer look like?
• What does being an engineering expert feel like?
• How is your mind organized?
• How do you remember everything that you've been through and learned?
• How does your ideal mid-career (10-years experience +/-) engineer view the discipline?
• How does your ideal entry-level engineer view the discipline?
For those starting out or in the middle of their careers:
• What do you want out of your career?
• How much of your education do you remember?
• How well have you been mentored?
• How fast are you moving forward?

Let's start walking in this direction, and see where we end up.

"We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us." -WSC

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

3
MJB315,
As I was reading your post the thought finally flashed into my mind "If there was a recipe for engineering competence or career success some programmer would package it into an algorithm and we could close all the engineering schools". I can make some deep pontification that gets 50 little purple stars (my personal motivator) and it will reveal a "truth" that applies to dozens of people around the world. Someone will take the opposite position and also get 50 LPS and that will reveal a "truth" to several dozen others. This has happened many times on eng-tips.com.

I've seen some very successful engineers that are never not thinking about their work (I see one in the mirror every time I shave, bless my wife of 43 years for tolerating it). I've also seen successful engineers that have hobbies, friends, and seem to be able to turn their minds away from the last engineering problem that they were thinking about. I really can't say that either end of that spectrum will be more successful that the other end.

I'm going to assume that by "professional engineer" you mean "an engineer who has reached a level of competence normally called professional" rather than a "registered professional engineer", I am both (at least I think I meet the first first hurdle and have a piece of paper attesting to the second) and the questions become trivial if I took the second definition.

• What does success as a professional engineer look like? That is an amazingly personal answer. For me as a corporate employee, it was job titles and extra assignments (I was a Facilities Engineer for an Oil & Gas asset, but was also a member of several advisory boards and was the technical authority for a half dozen subjects). For me as a business owner it is the challenge of the assignments--no one pays my hourly rate for an easy problem so I get really-tough/impossible assignments. Finding solutions or work-arounds for the hard stuff is very satisfying.
• What does being an engineering expert feel like? It feels like me. I don't have a word for how I feel. It is not the same as any of the other successes in my life (raising kids, having grandkids that like to spend time with me, etc).
• How is your mind organized? My wife is quite artistic and I picture her mind as a Mac desktop. I picture mine as a Windows file system. I think the biggest reason that I've been able to accomplish the things I've accomplished is an ability to relate facts that seem to be very unrelated. You can read about some of these leaps in the Samples page on my web site.
• How do you remember everything that you've been through and learned? You don't. I went to Graduate School after 12 years out of undergraduate and there was never a day went by in grad school that I didn't think "I can remember having known that". I don't think I've ever forgotten having known something (but how do you tell?), but reacquiring the forgotten details can be as painful as the first time.
• How does your ideal mid-career (10-years experience +/-) engineer view the discipline? As a learning experience. When I thought I "knew it all" about my job, I went next door and filled in as a Measurement Engineer. When that seemed old, I took a job evaluating reserves. I found that in mid-career you need to always be looking over the fence at the rest of the picture. I sat in the same chair, with the same job description for the first 10 years of my career and did 2 dozen different jobs on top of the one I was assigned. The engineers that were focused on "mastering" a single job title always found themselves dissatisfied when the field moved beyond them. I never had the experience.
• How does your ideal entry-level engineer view the discipline? As a world too large to consume in a single sitting. I teach a 5-day class trying to impart the stuff I wish I had known when I started out. Typically each class is a mixture from new hires to 20 year guys. The entry-level engineer that I want to see is asking questions about every section. The people I don't want to see are the ones working in gas compression who sleep through reservoirs, drilling, and downhole operations then perk up when I talk about wellsite facilities and get excited when I cover gas compression, and then go back to sleep for water disposal. Specialization is for insects and in my experience successful engineers are not insects.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

Well, (1) LPS from me. (49) to go!

"We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us." -WSC

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

I think that it's short sighted and illogical to imagine that 4 yrs of college could possibly provide with EVERY possible scenario and design problem you could possibly encounter in the first years of one's career.

> That presupposes that everything that you get in school is what you wind up doing. I know that's not at all true in my case. When I graduated, I thought I had a career path laid out in IC design, of which I've actually done nearly zero. So, any in depth education in IC design would have gone completely to waste.

> There's absolutely no guarantee that what your 18-yr brain thought when it declared your major will actually stay enamored with its choice 30 yrs down the road

> It also presupposes that everything you're taught is the end-all and be-all. If that were possible, that would mean that there will no new problems to be solved, and that would be a boring world.

Instead, you should be given the ability to know how to learn and how to extrapolate your skills into new arenas. I get new problems every year, things that I wasn't even close to learning in college. But, I can extrapolate and apply my learning skills to get up to speed on things I've never done before. Few of us have predestined lives and careers, and that's the way it should be.

TTFN
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert!
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

One thing the best manufacturing departments and the worst design departments have in common is a religious adherence to Deming.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

TheTick,

What's wrong with the Deming approach for design departments?

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

In theory, nothing. In practice, it seems to be a favorite of managers that prefer to reduce their employees to ciphers. Hardly a productive approach for a creative environment.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

MJB315,

From someone in mid-career (coming up on 10 years):

For those starting out or in the middle of their careers:
•What do you want out of your career?
Ultimately, to be the fixer. A lead expert within soils & water.
•How much of your education do you remember?
Some of it. I've started working on my master's degree this year so I'm recalling a bit more than I was before I started with the classes. One class at a time and online (teleconferences & skyping with classmates about the homework.
•How well have you been mentored?
Almost non-existant with my current company. My first job out of undergrad I was working directly for a PE at a highway design company. Since I've been working with my current company I have had little to no guidance for the engineering side of my job. My boss is a great resource & help for understanding the business-side. I have also been on the road on field assignments for most of the past 6 years so I have little personal contact with the local ASCE chapters or other professional associations.
•How fast are you moving forward?
It feels non-existant. For the first 3 years with my current company I was picking up a lot from the field assignments, especially since I had very little background on the environmental remediation side. All of my previous work had been with highway and site design (parking layouts, waterlines, etc.) nothing to do with soil contamination, asbestos abatement and such. I've been frustrated for this last year and that has been building for sometime. Mainly it boils down to the corporate structure of the company. I'm not working in the same office location as the engineering group (which is in the main office). I've asked for help and insight before (ie ASTs, USTs, and SPCC-related items) on items they had experience on, but received no reply (I used both e-mail and phone). I've finally decided to move on from the company and I'm looking at how other companies could fill this void (ie is there a senior engineer that I can talk with?). This is also one of the reasons that I have started my masters degree.

--morgwreck243

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

I think and know first hand that the problem these days is not whether a student is a C student or A student but rather when the credit, "expires". I have found that C students can excel just as good as A students if not better. Degrees have become subjective and there is a lot of bias out there about where you went to college. Some of the bias being rooted from sports which is to put it nicely BS.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

#### Quote (morgwreck243)

Ultimately, to be the fixer. A lead expert within soils & water.

That's very interesting. Are you intrinsically motivated to become an expert on soils & water? It's not because you have no other choices, or the pay is really good?
To me the only instrinsic motivator are aerospace and automotive. Of course, different people like different things. That's great!

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

Kevin DeSmet,

I have always enjoyed getting my hands dirty and I have enjoyed these projects more than highway design type of work.

I have also observed that most engineering is roughly the same. The major difference is what do you like to tinker with? motors, airplanes, electronics, or in my case: building dams in creeks with the rocks or wooden structures for pioneering merit badge, etc.

One challenge I have given myself with projects is using as little silt fence as possible for stormwater & erosion control.

--morgwreck243

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

i think I'm early to middle of my career, with about 6 years experience (<1 at one place, 5 at another and now started at the third*) + semesters of internships during school.

What do you want out of your career?
I want to solve problems and learn new things. I want to have a well rounded view of the things I work on. I don't want to spend much time with things I'm very bad at like managing other people and playing power games. I also want to make a decent living and a life outside of work. Would not mind working part time if it worked out financially for my family, actually.
How much of your education do you remember?
Not too much. I tend to think that most of the work I've done so far could be done by anyone for 75% of the time, no engineering education required, but the remaining 25% are ful of traps this 'anyone' won't recognize. Maybe my image of anyone is weird, take with a grain of salt.
The parts important from my education where a) the foundations of math, chemistry, thermo, physics as applied etc. that I would not get around to learn now and b) understanding and analyzing things using abstrac concepts.
What I would have profited from would be simple design projects that cross discipline boundaries and involve communication of the result (drawing, writing) and building something. I don't know if schools should train using excel or script languages to solve and model problems numerically, or if this is one of the things where you learn the basics (=math as applied to <problem>) in school and the application as you go.
How well have you been mentored?
Not much. In my experience you have to learn yourself or pester others to teach you. I don't think this is the way it should be, but it is this in all places I've been so far.
How fast are you moving forward?
Hard to say. See my goals above, I think I'm mostly on track since they are basically to do what I'm doing now, but being better at it. The 5 years at my last job had very little progression, which was more of a problem because ultimately the job was more limited.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

I think that the subject of mentoring is related not only to the mindset of the older engineer(s) at a company, but also to the company size. At small companies, the interactions between older and younger engineers are naturally and more often on a more personal, and directed, basis. This gives an opportunity for better mentoring (if the older engineer is so inclined). And at large firms, there is often a directed program for mentoring, which at least keeps it on everyone's mind. I find that it is the middle-sized companies where mentoring seems most often to fall by the wayside. For companies in that size range, it becomes important that they address mentoring in a more directed fashion, just like the larger companies. At some point - and I'm not exactly sure how to quantify this - a company becomes more than a "little" firm, and has to begin to act like a larger firm in some respects. And I think that mentoring younger engineers is one of those aspects that must be addressed with some corporate specificity, and not to await attaining some arbitrary size and momentum.

Thaidavid

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

I think mentoring is a flawed system, it assumes the mentor is all-knowing and knows what he is doing. It puts him on a pedestal which he can only partially fulfill. I believe a better way to go are enterprise-wide formal training programs for engineerings, that are given by professional for-profit and/or not-for-profit institutions. Conferences are also an incredible way to learn, though in our Internet age getting less and less attended.

Not that I'm saying mentoring needs to go away. But it needs to take a step back instead of being shoved to the foreground as THE way to teach members of an organisation. It's a highly individual and manual process to mentor which highly limits its breath of applicability.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

I don't know of anyone whom I have met personally (in a working span of over 35 years) who considers themselves "all-knowing", or who is considered by others in their organization as "all-knowing". That sounds like some form of misdirected idolatry to me. Mentoring is not "THE way to teach", but it is one important way to teach. And the fact that it is individual (at least in its expression) makes it all the more attractive to me as a process.

Thaidavid

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

KevinDeSmet: if you assume that the idea of mentorship is that the mentor is assumed to be all-knowing, then you're also assuming that the person being mentored is all-believing!

Mentorship may be a flawed system, but it is infinitely superior to throwing young engineers into the deep end without guidance or mentorship of any meaningful kind, which seems to be the default in a lot of workplaces.

Formal training is useful for building particular skills. It is but one tool in building a successful engineer though. If this were not true, you could crank engineers fully formed from universities. Some businesses seem to expect that this is not only possible, but actually happening right now- but I think most experienced engineers would see that as I do- as total bollocks.

The way mentorship works in our organization is that we have young engineers work on projects in turn with several senior engineers, gradually taking on more and more responsibility. The young engineers learn principally by doing and by example, and occasionally by being taught directly one on one. Sure, we also have technical sessions, both internal and externally led- but they're just icing on the cake, not the real substance of the learning experience. After seeing how several different successful people work, the young engineers have a good basis for developing their own work style and approach to problem solving, running projects etc. There is no one right way to do this.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

Moltenmetal,
Well said. Everyone learns differently and one of the more successful approaches to teach someone who has demonstrated an aptitude towards abstract thought (i.e., by finishing a university engineering program) is to make them part of a team, accountable to experienced engineers for specific tasks. In Oil & Gas I frequently see new hires given independent assignments and more often than not they fail because college doesn't (and can't) teach someone the important touchpoints ("culture" if you will) of the company that they new engineer has gone to.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

2
"Your intrinsic motivator is irrelevant when I need a job done" ... "The low-level folks don't have the experience to see the project as a whole" ... "and the high-level people have experience that is too valuable to waste their time doing low-level work."

If taken too far, the quoted sentences above illustrate some fundamental flaws that crush departments. You are having humans do this work, not robots. A little bit of positive motivation and respect every now and then is probably THE best thing a leader can offer his team. Treating your entry-level employees as if they are too stupid to comprehend the project is disrespectful and will drive them out. I have news for you; 1- Your projects are not actually brain surgery 2- There are entry level employees with valuable ideas. 3- Including them in the process is necessary for you to get their help.
If you need me to elaborate on that theory, I can spell it out for you. Intrinsic motivation can provide your team with a high amount of energy, if you harness it. As an EE, you should probably be familiar with harnessing/converting energy. As a leader, you should be finding it in people, and wiring it into your projects.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

2
As I said, I give respect to those who are deserving of it (regardless of their position)... but if someone wants a pat on the head every time they show up for work, they're better off hanging on to their helicopter parents.

Jobs are an agreement... I pay you to accomplish work for me. Fail to provide that work often enough and I will fail to pay you. Is it nice to feel warm and fuzzy at work? Absolutely. But it's not part of the contract, it's icing on the cake. If you can find better icing elsewhere, then go get it. But it's not part of the contract. Warm and fuzzy is NOT the same as respect, and everyone deserves the chance to earn respect.

My comments were in direct response to Kevin's desire for an intrinsic motivator. What he failed to include in his equation was the job at hand. He wanted to be motivated regardless of the final product, and that's a disconnect that doesn't work.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

zdas,

LPS for you! This is on the wall in every job I have held:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough For Love

I have done all but four (five if conn a ship means a spaceship), and if I accomplish the last one, I won't be able to tell you about it. While I'm not necessarily good at all of them, I do feel that I excel at some.

Matt

Quality, quantity, cost. Pick two.

### RE: Quality Of New Hires and Recent Grads

I re-read that book late last year and enjoyed it as much as the first dozen times I read it. I've gotten more of my philosophy of life from Heinlein than Ayn Rand or Frederic Bastiat.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

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