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Engineers in America: Too Young, Too Old

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JeffL_2
User Rank
CEO
Too MUCH??
JeffL_2   1/9/2014 2:55:38 PM
I want to know when Bill Hewlett or Dave Packard ever fired a staff member for having "too much experience"! Hogwash, this is one of two things, it's either an excuse for firing someone whose level of experience would otherwise legitimately qualify them for a raise, or it's a new cloak for that ancient practice of age discrimination applied instead to your own employees. It's also a clear misunderstanding that everyone WANTS to move into management, that if you've been on the technical side for a decade or more you're just "a management candidate who could never cut it" that the corporation would be better off without.

Now I do understand that technologies have a much shorter "half-life" than they used to but this can get carried to extremes. I recall the story of the son of an acquaintance of mine who was hired as a summer intern before he even had a sheepskin to work for a networking outfit that was later acquired by Intel. He THOUGHT he had the "inside line" on a rewarding career, only to be approached by his boss to say that they had to let him go because he was "over the hill"  in his chosen profession - if I recall the story correctly at that point he was all of 26!!

Honestly if you don't have anyone working on the technical side with more than 10 years of experience, in my opinion you're just being condemned to repeat the mistakes of history you never had the opportunity to learn in the first place. I realize not everyone will agree but there HAS to be more to engineering than "early retirement" at 50 (that no one can afford to take anyway), given that HR departments (especially in Silicon Valley) are set up so they never need to interview anyone over that age for an engineering positon so they can't be accused of discriminating in the first place.

RichQ
User Rank
CEO
Not surprising really
RichQ   1/9/2014 2:50:14 PM
Given the market for engineers crashed about five years ago, it's no surprise to me that there are few candidates in the 5-10 year experience range. None at 5 years because no one was hiring them five years ago to have given them that experience. At the higher end, anyone with 5 years of experience who survived the downturn and kept their job is probably not out looking for a new job because they are already well situated. The ones with 20 years of experience, though, may have numerous reasons for seeking a new position, including being pushed out of their current position due to their high salaries and competition by their 10-year experienced coworkers.


In the meantime, it's true that fewer students are entering engineering in the US, in part because that same crash scared off some students entering or in college at the time, and  in general because the glamor of engineering faded with the decline of space programs.

betajet
User Rank
CEO
Re: Nothing new
betajet   1/9/2014 2:40:49 PM
Yog-Sothoth wrote: When I was a kid, there was a buzz about technology - the Apollo years, the possibilities of electricity being so cheap (due to nuclear power) and the promise of reduced work hours due to technology making life easier.

Yes, I remember a topic in grade school we considered: "what would people in the future do with all their extra leisure time?"  Actually, many people have lots of leisure time these days: the 7% who are officially unemployed in the USA and the many more who have given up looking for a job and are no longer counted.  In many European countries it's far worse.

The problem is poor distribution of leisure time -- you have engineers and teachers working 60-80 hour weeks, and unemployed people with oodles of time but no financial resources to use it effectively for things like further education and travel.  OTOH, many unemployed middle-aged people are living with and caring for aged parents, so it's not like they're doing absolutely nothing.  In fact, I suspect that if the jobs picture improved overnight there would a crisis finding enough people to care for the elderly.

Lance A Jones
User Rank
Freelancer
Re: YOU ARE THE PROBLEM
Lance A Jones   1/9/2014 2:09:31 PM
Nobody said EAG did not end up hiring people with both more and less experience than we were looking for. I personally have over 30+ years in the industry. The blog was meant to ask the question about there being a hole in the experience pool that could cause some issues both now and in the future for the industry as a whole. It is also a problem for companies to not have a variety of experience on their staff so you can get different perspectives and approaches to the issues. We and many other companies have programs where we actually do hire fresh grads and train them in parallel with other hiring. Those grads need mentors.  

hinara
User Rank
Rookie
engineers in america
hinara   1/9/2014 2:05:03 PM
What is it with this society that older folks can't create or not productive and should be committed to pasture -- of course there are some who should. However, one should look at the value they get from years of practical experience and the knowledge base. One cannot dismiis someone simpley because they are old. Evaluate individuals based on what they can contribute and not on thier age.

Wnderer
User Rank
CEO
YOU ARE THE PROBLEM
Wnderer   1/9/2014 1:48:17 PM
Since when is 20 years experience a bad thing? And if you're not willing to hire young engineers, train them and provide them with experience who will? Employers like you are the problem. The 'Too Young' is caused by engineers who give up the profession and never attain the experience. The 'Too Old' are not too old and are what's left over from a more enlightened age.

dougwithau
User Rank
Manager
Not Asia, it is the web
dougwithau   1/9/2014 12:08:20 PM
I have seen this as well looking for embedded firmware people. We get senior people, but can't pay them at the level they were used to before the big company layoff.

We were looking for a journeyman level, not green, just out of college, not to senior. Too many senior people does not work as a team either.

The 25-35 year old engineer is not doing test or semi or embedded. They do Java, Python, database, web front ends and mobile, Android and iOS. That is what the cool kids were doing when they graduated, so that is their expeince. 

Semiconductor and industrial need better marketing about the advantages. Maybe the maker movement will save us.

mkotson
User Rank
Rookie
Re: Bingo!
mkotson   1/9/2014 11:19:21 AM
You hit the nail right on the head.  I'm part of a college advisory board where we track trends like this, and the data points to many of the best and brightest going into finance instead of engineering.

 

Yog-Sothoth
User Rank
Freelancer
Nothing new
Yog-Sothoth   1/9/2014 10:44:26 AM
The problem is not confined to the USA, it's the same in Europe too, and I suspect it will travel to the emerging countries eventually. Kids do not want to do engineering degrees as they are too hard work and not considered 'sexy' enough. And the pay and career progression, which can be good for older experienced people (because there are so few younger entrants) puts off graduates.


When I was a kid, there was a buzz about technology - the Apollo years, the possibilities of electricity being so cheap (due to nuclear power) and the promise of reduced work hours due to technology making life easier. None of that really materialised, and governments, the media and ordinary people came to conclude that science and engineering wasn't the panacea it was supposed to be.


The powers that be simply don't notice, or don't care. However with declining science and engineering prowess, we will revert to pre-industrial revolution economies. That's right, agriculture. There will be a lot of social disruption (read: wars) on the way. Is it too late to change?

tpfj
User Rank
CEO
Wall Street and Asia
tpfj   1/9/2014 10:24:00 AM
I believe the problem is both Wall Street and Asia. Not sure which one came first, but the Wall Street CEO's 'aint complaining. They got extremely fat thanks to some very smart engineers and physicists. They continue to get fatter, even in the wake of apparant disaster. Large tech CEO's 'aint complaining either, they get their imports made for free. Good luck reversing either trend.

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