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How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?
8

How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

(OP)
This is a problem me and my company have been struggling with for sometime now. The people who interview with us, especially straight out of school, lack the experience in taking a full aircraft design through from requirements to delivery (like a small 1 pound UAV) . I know for most schools, that is a hard problem to solve, and as such we have looked for a good solution. However, after an extensive search the best we found was a disjoint set of notes from MIT explaining some theory behind aircraft design, and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Homebuilder's Tip website. While both are fairly good at giving the user either an overview of how to design aircraft, or in the case of the EAA Homebuilder's Tip website, actionable tips, neither seamlessly integrates it to take a newbie engineer through to mastery. My company is small, and needs the engineers we hire to start work immediately, and when they can't cut it, we have to cut them loose. It is a bad problem, and now starting to affect how quickly we can work since the people with us are overworked as is.

Hence I am posting here. What do your companies do for training newbie engineers? Do you all have the problem of having to fast, on the job training for new graduates?

*By training I mean where engineers can go from requirements to a detailed design to a physical part that flies, within budget and schedule. By mastery, I mean where they can quickly gauge from the requirements stage how much money and time the project will take given current technology.

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

Not possible. Engineers learn to design aircraft on the job in an aircraft program working under experienced engineers. Only after one has been thru a couple of programs does one really understand how its done.

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

"Do you all have the problem of having to fast, on the job training for new graduates? "

No, we don't, because that's absurd. If you want an engineer than can do cradle to grave, then don't hire a new grad. But, if you do that, you'll never have home-grown talent. You don't expect a 6th grader to do trig (usually), because that requires time, practice, and maturity. Ditto a new grad; time, practice, and maturity.

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: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

The first observation would be how effective are your current design processes? most small companies I have worked at are have horribly inefficient.

The classic example is division of labor such as
Having no draftsmen, it's engineers not doing engineering work. Sure the engineers can do the concept, but the drawings and dimensioning etc should all fall to the draftsmen.
A lack of admin staff, nothing is as ineffective as have the chief engineer doing his own filing.
A complete lack of document templates, particularity ones with auto-fields so replete information only goes in once (its makes check soo much easier when the mistakes are consistent though out the document)

In this case the fastest way to speed up in the long term is to slow down initially.
Freeze several of your projects, and use the free up time to get your people to write design notes about why they do things the way they do, bundle it all up into a company design manual so new engineers have something to follow.

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

2
This is a situation I have seen at a few small companies I have worked with. For various reasons some company managers rely heavily on engineering grads hired right out of school, and then quickly get frustrated when they struggle with parts of their job not taught in school. But this is a problem with management's logic rather than training of engineering new hires. Management often seems to be attracted to hiring engineering grads because they tend to be ambitious and willing to work long hours for lower pay.

It is unfortunate when these young engineers are let go by a company after just a short time on the job because they did not get up to speed fast enough to suit some manager with unreasonable expectations. I have personally seen a couple very bright and talented young engineers let go after just a short time on the job for the reason noted. Their initial experience as an engineer was so disheartening that they decided to look for work outside of engineering. Imagine spending 6+ years in college, graduating at a high level, being recruited by many top companies, choosing to accept what you think will be your dream job, and then getting fired from your dream job a few months later because your manager doesn't think you have what the position requires.

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

There is a common expression in aviation that goes like this:

"There are three criteria you can choose from for getting your project done:
1. Fast
2. Accurate
3. Inexpensive

Please Choose only two"

I think this applies particularly well for training new personnel. Ramping up technical personnel anywhere is a challenge, and even if someone has a lot of experience on your platforms, your processes are probably somewhat unique for actually getting work done.

At GE they had a very structured mentorship program. I think this is the best way to bring people up to speed, but it does place a big burden on your more experienced engineers. You may have to put an incentive program in place for your more senior engineers to participate.

I think another aspect to this is, if possible, having a very structured way of letting engineers go who do not pass muster. You will be investing in any personnel you mentor, so you have to be willing to let go people who do not appear to be performing. Easier said than done in most cases, but a bad hire will really impact you ability to scale up every additional person you bring on board.

Best of luck.

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

I have worked as a contract engineer in the aerospace industry for over 20 years. And I faced a similar situation with every one of the dozens of jobs I have had during this time. Sometimes I was even required to pass a test demonstrating I had knowledge of the work processes I would be performing. Most companies hiring me also made it very clear that I would quickly be fired if I was not able to perform as expected.

However, my situation was much different than that of a young engineering grad. I fully understood that getting laid off on a regular basis was just part of the job, and never to take it personally.

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

(OP)
One idea I want to try out for training new engineers is putting them through a couple small (under 1 kg total mass) UAV development projects. Since they are small its cheap to get started on, and most of the physics and processes are similar for larger manned aircraft. Three or four full development cycles could be gone through in four months, and I think it would be a good way for new engineers to cut their teeth on developing an aircraft. Any of you all do or try that at your companies?

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

We don't, simply because that implies using internal funding to develop something that won't be sold. When we do have have to use overhead monies to pay for hours, it means we've little contract dollars, which means we won't have much in the way of new hires of any sort.

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: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

You might want to look at new grad candidates that have lots of experience with the AIAA Design/Build/Fly or SAE Aero competitions. That's probably as close as you'll get as far as someone who is almost ready to go right away. You could also look at people with RC hobby experience, but in my experience that group tends to be composed more of the "yeah that wing size looks about right, slap a big brushless motor on it and call it a day" rather than rigorous design practices.

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

training engineers via small UAVs would create a bunch of engineers good with UAV design ... if that's what you want.

as many have replied, you simply can't quickly train effective engineers cheaply ... of the three qualifiers "quickly", "effective", "cheaply" I think you can pick one.

personally, I think the best approach is to hire a team leader/mentor; someone who thinks the same way about the business as you do, someone who gets your vision. then part of their job is to oversee and train up a bunch of new grads or junior engineers or designers. A problem you will encounter is that once trained the grads are now a marketable resource and many will walk off; it becomes part of your job to ensure that they are as happy as possible.

training an engineer is something that takes years and several projects ... it ain't quick and it ain't cheap and it should produce effective engineers (see, 1 out of 3).

another day in paradise, or is paradise one day closer ?

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

Your expectations sound a bit unrealistic.

Raymer's book is good for conceptual design but won't get you all the way to final design or flying hardware - the homebuilder version might get closer though.

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: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

There is no quick way.

Andries

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

"....One idea I want to try out for training new engineers is putting them through a couple small (under 1 kg total mass) UAV development projects. Since they are small its cheap to get started on, and most of the physics and processes are similar for larger manned aircraft...."

Thank you for this honest comment. It makes it obvious where part of your problem lies. First, designing a 1kg UAV is nowhere comparable to designing a manned aircraft. Sure, the basic science principles are similar, and these are the things engineers learn in school. But designing a 1kg UAV will not teach your engineering new hires what is really required to design a safe and reliable manned aircraft. Unfortunately, since you do not seem to appreciate the difference, you are probably not the best person to address the problem.

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

(OP)
Ok, what are the main differences? Between a small 1-4 person subsonic manned aircraft and a small UAV, the differences aren't that big. And not all the UAV's would have to start at 1 kg, just the first two. I'm not talking about going from UAV's to airliners or supersonic jets, that'll require a couple more steps, but small UAV's (especially around 1/4 scale) come close enough with reynolds number and mach number that much of the aerodynamics and stability issues can be worked out at the model scale.

Almost every successful homebuilt designer I know has started their design this way. Now for supersonic and transonic aircraft, a couple more test beds or pieces of equipment are needed (or someone really ballsy to flight test a very untested airframe) to include some of the non-linear interactions effects like flutter.

But enlighten me, what am I missing?

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

"Between a small 1-4 person subsonic manned aircraft and a small UAV, the differences aren't that big."

Seriously? A manned aircraft entails a truckload of safety and validation requirements that aren't ever required for a UAV

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: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

ditto !

"I'm not talking about going from UAV's to airliners or supersonic jets," ... phew
"... that'll require a couple more steps," ... good grief

can I turn the question back on you ... how much do you know about aircraft design ? about airplane certification ?

another day in paradise, or is paradise one day closer ?

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

zephramcochrane- I would strongly suggest that you study the relevant FAA FARs covering the design and certification requirements of a "small 1-4 person subsonic manned aircraft". They are quite extensive.

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?


Ok, here goes my two cents, thought I could hold off but with everyones comments I feel I need to contribute. The problem of replenishing an engineering staff has and always will be the same problem for everyone. I was luckly enough when I graduated a long time ago that it was a time period when OEMs still placed new engineers in training under more senior engineers who quickly informed you on all that you didn't know. I graduated from a university who had one of the first UAV programs in the country since the late 1960s. So upon graduating I thought I new everything, fortunately I was quickly and properly beaten into submission and trained.

The need for training is the same it ever was. The standard for most aircraft structures groups I was in was to not have more than 1 or 2 new hires per dozen people. That way the group could absorb the training responsibility. This I believe still holds true. Also, in addition to training, the new hires must be tasked with work which is progressive in nature and leads to self sufficiency, only a senior or lead engineer can plan this. The standard I have always been exposed to in the aerospace industry was that it takes a minimum of 5 years for an engineer to reach a journeyman level where he can be tasked and solve problems on a self sufficient basis.

The above does make it difficult for a small business to achieve but it can be accomplished. I have a staff of less than 20 and have gone thru this exact process and it takes time, effort, and dedication to achieve but without it our industry is doomed to fail.

Lastly, I wish you luck zephramcochrane on your project but as a parting comment, if I had a dollar for every time someone told me their were going to get an aircraft FAA certified, I would be retired by now. Almost everyone new to our industry grossly underestimates the engineering requirements for certification.

Good luck

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

(OP)
I left off an important detail and I know that makes all the difference. I was talking about using UAV's for development of homebuilt experimental aircraft, where the FAA FAR's aren't as stringent.

I have read through the FAR's for the aircraft class I wrote about. The testing is...stringent to say the least, and getting parts certifications is lengthy and expensive. My company is quite a ways away from that, as the money that takes is quite a bit higher than what we have in reserve, especially since those aircraft can't be sold until they are certified.

So from what I'm reading the training model is the apprentice approach, where younger engineers learn from senior engineers by doing progressively larger amounts of real work.

To everyone in the group, I assume you are all fairly seasoned engineers. When you were starting off, what were the top five hardest skills/areas to master after graduating from college and starting in your first job?

For me it was the following:
1. Knowing how long it would take to build a part I designed, and redesigning it to make it easy to make quickly
2. Knowing how to quickly create an airframe of appropriate stiffness to hit mass targets (including joints)
3. Knowing how to estimate L/D of a given configuration quickly without lots of CFD or wind tunnel testing
4. Knowing which parts available at hardware, auto, and internet stores could be used for building aircraft airframes, control systems, and propulsion.
5. Knowing which problems will be the hardest (most time and money spent) to solve during aircraft development while picking aircraft performance requirements

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

6. all of the above !

very few people would get to do all the jobs you're talking about ... CFD, detail design, stress analysis, aero loads, ...

yes, knowing you're in the kit build market changes the certification requirements substantially.

designing/building UAVs isn't good experience IMO for designing/building planes (even kit planes).

testing is generally the default in certification substantiation. Analysis is mainly risk mitigation (to be reasonably sure the tests will pass). For a kit build having to reinforce the structure at the last minute may be acceptable ... it is easy (simple s/m parts) and hard (s/m gauges define the changes you can make).

pay a lot of attention to anything machined, make it over-sized ... these things tend to be quite small in the overall scheme of things so don't add much weight, but having to rework them can be very difficult (and expensive).

texts like Raymer and Torenbeek will get you a long way in the overall design.

another day in paradise, or is paradise one day closer ?

RE: How do you all quickly train new engineers cheaply?

zephramcochrane-

I hope you don't take the criticism too hard. I recently started a contract job doing mechanical systems design on a large UAV. A silicon valley company is behind the project and they have massive financial resources. They still went through a steep learning curve, but to their credit they quickly figured out that to get a satisfactory result within their time frame they needed to hire experienced people at every level. And this is something they seem to be aggressively pursuing.

Here's my personal experience with training. At the first engineering job I had (many years ago) with a large aerospace company, the only work I was assigned for almost 18 months was preparing hand written ECN's. They made it clear that until I could demonstrate the ability to perform a simple task like preparing an ECN properly, I would not be assigned more complicated work. In reality, preparing ECN's on a production aerospace program can get a bit complicated and it was a great way to teach you to pay attention to details and thoroughly check your work for errors. The ECN's were reviewed by over a dozen engineering specialists/managers, and they always seemed eager to reject an ECN for even the smallest error. Reprocessing a rejected ECN cost the company money and the program director would raise heck with your dept manager for ECNs rejected due to stupid/obvious mistakes. Your dept manager would then call you into his office for a stern reminder about the importance of thoroughly checking your work for errors.

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