Re. the "Silent Crisis" series (Sept. 26, page 1): I recently read a similar article about the lack of women in engineering and America's low regard for engineers, in which the author speculated that engineering's poor image is due to a shift in company attitudes. Prior to the late 1960s, engineering accomplishments were often used in advertising. How often do you hear about engineering in commercials today? The article also noted the lack of popular engineering (or any engineering-type) characters on TV shows. Engineering simply isn't presented as a normal, fun, challenging or interesting vocation.
Your interests will always influence your studies. Many guys have a variety of things that might direct them into engineering: cars, PCs, videogames. Possibly there will be a greater interest in engineering among girls now that they use e-mail and instant messaging. High schoolers have to be able to imagine themselves involved in engineering and feel that they can be successful and that it will be fun. Unless there is better exposure to the field, change won't happen.
A classic area of concern is the salary gap between technical engineering and management. This encourages good technical staffers to jump into management posts, where they can continue to have good salary growth. But some of the bigger issues that upper management may deal with may force technical aspects to take a backseat. At times, it can be easier to grasp the nontechnical issues and thus to ignore or minimize technical input. This reduces the perceived value of the engineer.
If engineering isn't well-regarded and rewarded in technical companies, then it should be no surprise how [little] the general population respects the position. Does the average person have the same view of an engineer as of a doctor or lawyer?
Other countries are different. In Japan, the best engineers tend to work on the factory floor. Japanese companies believe it is critical to have great engineering where it will affect the company's bottom line: If a problem arises, then products will not ship and revenue will be immediately affected.
While the United States may be producing fewer engineers annually than in the past, the pool is already quite large, and a reasonable flow will keep it filled. If you are in a developing country where the pool is relatively empty, however, then the incoming flow must be large to fill the pool in a reasonable time frame.
(Employer's name withheld by request)
Title Drucker's legacy aside, good old days weren't perfect
Ron Wilson's opinion piece on Peter Drucker's message ("Misreading Drucker's bequest," Nov. 21, page 4), although spot on about Drucker's views and contributions to society, erroneously indulges in praising "the good old days."
By characterizing Drucker as a revolutionary, Wilson pegs him as an agent of change. If that was indeed the case, then Drucker's vision was not the vision of his own society. It is very unlikely the altruism and self-discipline Drucker embodied were characteristic of his entire generation.
More important, it doesn't mean subsequent generations are significantly different from their predecessors. Each generation leaves a debt for the next to pay. Let us not forget that Drucker's generation gave us tremendous social programs that, while yielding tremendous social benefit, are not sustainable and have left a tremendous bill. Our kids will bear the brunt of this-a delayed cost Drucker would never have promoted.