Having been in the engineering profession for almost 30 years I can say it has had its ups and downs! I am not sure that I would want to do anything else; the drive to create, build and make work is very strong. I think that in order to create better opportunities we need to encourage students to pursue what they love to do, if that is engineering great! There will always be a need for engineers, the key thing is: what type? Robotics and multi-disciplinary engineers will continue to be in demand for many years. If I would change anything about my career it would be to have formed and tried to succeed at a small business. The US can always use more entrepreneurs and engineers that can "think outside the box" to drive innovation.
phoenixdave: IMHO, it depends on the engineer and what he/she might be doing. If the mentor engineer is engaged in multi-disciplinary technologies then I would encourage the student to do likewise. It all depends on setting up mentoring programs that work for both engineer and student. That's not easy. But using the Internet for collaborative work might make it easier.
Just so that everyone's interested in CS and EE, here's an article along with video on how students can be motivated to follow their ideas (when mentored properly): http://www.brooklynspaceprogram.org/BSP/Home.html
Exploring these days takes more than a a curriculum leading to electronics engineering; it's become a multidisciplinary tech world. Students are impressionable and need a Lego approach to their studies, where they are challenged to bring pieces together that fit into a final product. The Mall event in Washington is a good start; and there are other regional satellite events scheduled as well: http://www.usasciencefestival.org/satellite-event-directory. Throughout the country these should be explored by as many students as can be encouraged by their parents, teachers and friends.
To complement any urging for young people to enter the science and engineering field, there needs to be a clear path/sign that those jobs will indeed still be here in the US for them. Platitudes won't cut it.
While there has been some increases in basic science funding in industry and educational institutions, US tech companies still have incentives to expand offshore while they do not have them here. And increasingly, hi tech capabilities can be found offshore.
True, there is value in being closer to where your customers are, but if we don't have jobs and the ability to manufacture within the US, we can no longer be customers....for any company anywhere.
We must take a more aggressive approach to restoring our basic and hi tech manufacturing ability within the US, giving a platform for further innovation and a more secure future for the upcoming generations.
Free trade is one thing. Fair trade is quite another. The rare earth materials controversy currently between China and Japan (primarily) is a threat all industrialized nations who attempt to abide by WTO rules. Meanwhile, foreign investment in China continues, albeit at a lower pace than in previous years.
We do not need to be a third or fourth world nation vis a vis industry.
And, yes...the above could be considered a platitude as well. So the challenge to all is how to act on the sentiment. I applaud Intel's announcement for multi billion $$ expansion of their fabs in the US.