22nd March 2015 Steve Stoddart
In General

“Engineers”. When you hear that word, what is the image that pops into your mind? Folk, scared of the sunshine with few if any social skills or the polar opposite, perhaps… You know, an individual with wild hair that walks about like a cat on a hot tin roof.

Well, before switching tracks to my new(ish) profession, engineering was my primary path for 30 years. I was going to say “30 odd years” but thought twice about it 🙂 Stereotypes have to come from somewhere I suppose and for sure, I have worked with engineers that fit either of the images I painted earlier. However, the most common characteristic I encountered was shyness.

No surprise really. Most ‘non-engineering’ folk I encounter had little or no interest in engineering. I had no expectations otherwise. So, engineering as a career choice has the potential to set you, socially at least, at a disadvantage. The same can apply to other disciplines. You might argue this is a bleak and reactionary view but I lost count of the occasions when I have seen eyes glaze over when I uttered “engineer” as the answer to a query about my erstwhile career.

Quite often, a conversation killer.

In my ‘new’ profession, engineering has not taken a back seat – it runs on a parallel set of lines. My work would be impossible without the fruits of so many engineers of all flavours. The same is no less true for the vast majority of us. How many of us stop for a moment, however, and think about the kettle they have just switched on to say a silent “thank you” to the chain of engineering skills that allowed such a simple procedure to just work… time after time. It is awesome when to come to think about it. Physics, chemistry, mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering all working to get you that cuppa. Let’s not forget Ma Nature in this… Where would we have been without fossil fuels?

Blighty is a great country. Blighty is also very backwards at nurturing a locally grown engineering skill base. Ignorance at the top of the executive ladder (in the political sense) does not help and neither do some in key positions in industry.

Listening to a recent report on the radio, I learned that we need to import thousands of engineers into the UK to fill the gap in our expertise. How, in the name of Ned, have our so-called ‘betters’ allowed this to happen? Perhaps because so many of our ‘betters’ dismiss engineers in the manner I described earlier. What makes it laughable is that some of our ‘betters’ feel doctors should use Astrology as one of their diagnostic tools.

Oh, wouldn’t it be grand to have an executive that has a vision for change? An executive that understands we have allowed ourselves to slip considerably behind so many other nations and realise something needs to be done about it. I remember hearing this line of thought 20 years ago but I am not sure that much has changed…

I like to avoid finishing on a negative point… So, here is a wee request.. Next time you make yourself a cuppa, or take that photograph of your kids, just remember engineers are the ones that made it happen.

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