Sunday, March 18, 2012

Movie: Engineers, Education and Employment: To Sir, with Love. #purposedu

To Sir, with love: one of my favourite movies. I think it is also the basis of Please Sir and The Fenn Street Gang, which I also liked. Also a book we read and studied at school, though we were almost prevented from finishing. Half way through the book, certain words beginning with 'f' were found. Most parents however weren't really concerned, why would they be: most kids learn such words in their first year at school, even if parents never use such words around their kids. Plus many of the parents and kids unable to utter a single sentence without the use of such words. Put simply we were very nearly the kids in the story: therefore more objectionable not to permit us to read it. The same year we also read "A Patch of Blue" and watched the movie. Part of the lessons was comparing the movies and books. Both movies star Sidney Poitier.

In "To Sir, with Love" Sidney Poitier plays an unemployed engineer (Mark Thackeray), the only job he can get being that of a teacher at a school in London's equivalent of a violent playground. The kids don't see any point in learning what is being presented, and don't see any future, even following in their parents foot steps is remote. Is an unemployed engineer, stuck teaching going to convince them otherwise? If getting higher education is so important why his he not employed as an engineer?

When I was at school the teachers were all about you have to get a degree if have any chance of getting a job: therefore being pushed to do grade 11 and grade 12 matriculation. Subjects taken in grade 11 had to follow on to grade 12. But when got to grade 12, the rules relaxed, consequently grade 12 became largely a repeat of grade 11. Move on to university and first year of B.Eng largely a repeat of grade 12. It seemed relatively clear that the only purpose of the exercise, was to keep us from the unemployment queues and keep teachers employed: thus reducing the governments measure of unemployment. As Keith Windschuttle pointed out in the book "Unemployment: a social and political analysis of the economic crisis in Australia : the government statistics significantly under estimate real levels of unemployment.

The Machine that is Industrial Society
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, tradition was to start on the shop floor or construction site, then move into the design office as tracer, then attend night school or through self-learning, move through copy-drafter, to drafter, to design-drafter, to engineer, to chief engineer. If we look to the past, then all are not created equal, one has imagination, and ingenuity and ideas to implement, along with the power of leadership. They will make things happen. This person will be the chief engineer. Clearly if tracer and chief engineer start at the same time, then they will retire at the same time. The tracer will never rise to be chief engineer in that organisation. In fact an exceptionally good chance that the entire personnel in the organisation will retire at the same time. Further more if organisation is based on supplying an essential item, then chances are with in a few years they will have fully satisfied the demand. They will run out of work to do.

For a subsistence agrarian society where all people have access to the land and produce their own food, improving productivity provides more relaxtion time. In industrial society where there is dependency of exchange: increasing productivity starts becoming detrimental rather than beneficial. Where time is sold, reducing time to do the job, is detrimental to ones income. But industrial society became obessed with reducing production time to reduce costs, and that in turn led to higher levels of mechanisation. It should be understood that industrialisation, did not start with the machine age. Buckminster Fuller, in operating manual for spaceship earth: defined craft tools as those made and used by one person working alone, and industrial tools as those made and used by a group of people. As such spoken language is thus considered the first industrial tool. Industrial society is a machine itself and people are reduced to cogs with in this machine. Within industrial society less than 10% of the population are involved in agriculture, there is thus a problem as to what the remaining population do, to achieve access to the available food. Today the problem has extended to a global village.

Now a machine needs a certain number of parts to be fully operational. If we produce more parts than required then they are left stored in a warehouse. In manufacturing it became apparent that paying people to produce stuff stored in a warehouse is wasteful of resources: some statistics indicated that some 2/3rds of the total cost of production were related to inventory and part count. The concept of lean inventory and lean manufacturing were thus introduced. Traditional inventory known as push, with the new inventory concept known as pull. The idea is rather than push goods onto the shelves and hope someone will buy, only produce when there is actual demand, thus let demand pull goods through the system. Basically manufacturing aims to be more like the building industry. though the building industry needs to get more like the manufacturing industry. Its not really about zero inventory, but better balancing the flows within a production system. The idea basically evolved from a supermarket. After world war II, the Japanese visting the USA, were not impressed with Ford, but were with the idea of supermarkets: and they adapted that for their automotive industry. People basically expect the shelves of a supermarket to have what they need no matter what time they arrive at the the store. Though recently since the GFC, local supermarkets have been a bit scarce and unreliable in their supplies. That is currently may have to visit several supermarkets to get all that need: where as the whole idea is a one stop shop.

Back to Education
So back to education. The education system is a low quality supplier operating a push inventory system, filling warehouse shelves. Not surprising then that the pupils rebel against having their time wasted by persons presenting abstract eosteric irrelevances. Students study and learn. Pupils are imposed upon by teachers who present what they choose.

Poitiers, character, in To Sir, with love, is an engineer, not formally trained as a teacher. He adapts and improvises, he dispenses with the formal curriculum, and starts to make the subject matter directly relevant to the pupils needs. He stops treating the pupils as children and starts treating as adults. Reaching the responsibility of adulthood seems to be pushed further and further into the future. Any other species, and by the time they are capable of reproducing, they can look after themselves and have potential to look after the next generation: not so for modern humans. Or at least not in the eyes of teachers and educators: who think we have to learn more and more. The problem with the educators is that they are focused on body of knowledge and not generic competences. Focused on body of knowledge they produce cogs for the machine. Yet one of the first things they teach is: humans the most intelligent and adaptable creature on earth. Not after teachers have finished with them.

Professions and Higher Education
But not just teachers that are part of the problem so are professional bodies. Recently the national committee on engineering design (NCED), within the college of mechanical engineering of the institution of engineers Australia (IEAust), suggested forming a graduate school of mechanical engineering design and manufacture. I will blog on this at a later date. I think this proposal is indicative of a major problem in our modern society, everything seems focused on creating higher level bachelor and masters degrees, because undergraduate degrees are not seen as adequate. Why do we need these higher degrees?

When I was at school (1970's to 1980's) and they were saying how important a degree was. It was apparent that this was not altogether true. New Scientist magazine at the time indicated that there were thousands of people with bachelor degrees, masters and doctrates unemployed in Britain. The higher the degree the less the probability of getting a job. Further more government unemployment agencies, would not send people with higher education to low level jobs, because that would deprive those without education from employment. So the higher educated were deprived of work on expectations that they would get work in the future. Further more several countries were complaining about a brain drain., and technology parks became popular, centred around universities in an attempt to mesh education with industry and get innovation going. People educated by governments in one country were moving over seas to work. That is education and peoples interests did not match local needs. By the 1990's government based education became increasingly commercialised, by the 2000's education had become a major export for many countries. In the early 1990's less than 6% of South Australia's population has a degree, by the 2000's, around 20% had a degree. But not exactly the "Clever Country" the governments had been aiming for.

Currently we are declaring that there is a shortage of engineers, especially design engineers. But is this shortage real. Just because a few businesses cannot find the design engineers they need doesn't mean there is a shortage. I also don't know what they are talking about in terms of lack of design in degrees? It has always been known that lack of design in engineering degrees, and over focus on mathematical analysis. Both the associate diploma and bachelor of technology level studies I did, introduced industrial product design subjects to add a different perspective on design: including perspective drawing rather than orthographic. Also first year B.Eng we were taught that our role as designer was on the drawing board, that the drafters job was presentation and communication, our job to solve the problems. Still many were not happy about being on the drawing board. It should be noted that the proposal indicates a problem in the division between engineering disciplines: its not just mechanical engineers who have poor design skills so do other disciplines. From experience civil/structural engineers here in Australia have appalling design skills, and definitely object to working on a drawing board. Yet are highly critical of drafters. I reiterate the drafters job is to communicate, not solve the design problem, but solve the problem of communicating the proposed solution unambiguously. Drafters are part of a team, they are not subordinate underlings. What we have created is a generation who think that they are smart because of prowess with mathematics, missing what is important to the industry. They think they are an end in themselves, rather than a means to an end.

We do not have a shortage of engineers. There are people queuing up from over seas, trying to get work. For the most part they are wasting time trying to get their qualifications accredited by the IEAust. Why? The IEAust is a voluntary organisation, and there is only one Australian state where the title engineer is protected. There is no need to get educational qualifications accredited to actualy work, or do the work. The one issue may be getting a visa to enter and work in Australia. The government has some extreme constraints in place, to ensure no local is available to do the work, before visa's are granted to seek over seas employees, it also seems to be an expensive exercise for the employer.

The Movie Concludes
No difference there. Poitiers character (Thackeray ) had traveled to various places with the engineering projects he had taken on. For that is partly the nature of engineering, especially civil engineering. Not going to build a new dam or bridge in your back yard. But engineering as a knowledge based paper shuffling activity can be pursued any where. As one of the teachers commented in the movie: "Anyone can be an engineer". Thats the problem in the modern world its all about the formal education, not the actual practice. In the movie clearly the qualified teachers weren't too good at their job, and had given up Thackeray's class as a lost cause. the teachers weren't able to adapt, whilst Thackeray was otherwise killing time until he got another job in engineering. Near the end of the movie, he does get a job offer, but the movie ends as he rips the offer up. He does this after meeting two pupils who will be in the class next year. Why? Probably because the engineering job offer wasn't any where near as challenging as making a difference to the pupils passing through that school.

More on Professions
Professions are not all they are made out to be. As several documentaries have pointed out with respect to supposed glamourous roles of fashion model and air hostess: even if the job itself doesn't seem all that much hard work, there may be a lot of hard ship or discomfort behind the scenes. Even the altruistic role of nurse looses its appeal, once start dealing with the messy side of bodily functions, and otherwise obstructive personalities. As Blaster Bates puts it: John Wayne rides up on his nag, gets off, presses the plunger and the side of a mountain is blown up. No one shows the several days drilling, the placing of explosives and setting of wires: all the hard work that goes into it. And with respect to movies a whole life starts and ends in 2 hours. The Great Wall of China, as magnificent as it is, it would not exist if there weren't thousands of people making and laying bricks. I liked the hammer and sickle flag of the Soviet Union and their attempts to give recognition to the workers.

Engineering is presented falsely and inappropriately to the next generation. Engineers make claims and take credit for what they have not done, and did not contribute. Most promotional campaigns actually introduce students to industrial product design, and trade skills required to make stuff, whilst informing them they need a 4 year degree in engineering. No degree is required, clearly they were just doing it. Something like 25% of those starting a B.Eng actually graduate. Not surprising if they really wanted to take cars and other machines apart and put them back together. And take this gadget and that gadget and assemble togther to produce something to achieve some predefined purpose. Basically they are pushed into the wrong academic programme.

As for civil engineering, thats a major dud. As far as I can tell it is the civil engineers who are most vocal about the lack of status engineers have. They perceive themselves in a grand role, and deserving of high status: due to the infrastructure they contend they provided which makes our modern life styles possible. But they didn't dig the canals, or bake the bricks, or lay the bricks of the great brick arch railway bridges. Further more, the ones currently complaining did not conceive any of the technologies. They are simply cogs in the machine, blood cells in a higher form of life, part of a team that adapts and replicates the provision of these technologies. Just as excess cogs get stacked in warehouses, so to do larger chunks of infrastructure. Empty office blocks, empty factories, empty retail stores, and toll roads and bridges that nobody uses.

Civil engineering is promoted to kids on the basis of great achievements: why? The Sydney Opera House, the Sydney harbour bridge: so what? What do they expect the next group of kids to do? These structures exist already. What is the current global demand for opera houses? What is the current global demand for highway bridges? Where are these bridges required? Having determined the demand for these structures, how many engineers does it take to design and supervise the construction of one bridge? In the modern world are the engineers who design the bridge, the same engineers who supervise construction? Further more where is the engineer really required in the whole exercise? What is the difference between a structural analyst, a stress analyst, mechanist, industrial mathematician and a structural engineer? Compared to the engineers, how many drafters are required, how many steel workers, welders, concrete workers?

Shortages on Everything and Failure to Sustain Expertise
Currently there are claims that we have a shortage of engineers. But we also have a shortage of licensed builders, people moving away from the land producing a shortage of farmers, and also a shortage of skilled trades people. We have a society similar to ancient China: the only way to improve ones lot in life, was to sit the exams which led to a job in the Bureaucracy. In the modern world, it is seen that the only way forward is to get a degree: so generation after generation of parents have worked hard to send their kids to university. Even if university is government sponsored, the actual time away from work and living costs are not. Further more there is the issue of kids working to help bring money in, to support the family: so time at school and university may be seen by many as unproductive waste. This was part of the issue in the movie "To Sir, with love". On the other hand government grants have been seen by many as a way of making a living: some people are very good at knowing all that is available. Whilst those for which the assistance is actually made available are completely unware of it.

Anycase getting a degree as become the issue: not real learning. The fundamental requirement is to learn how to pass the exams and get a degree: the ticket to employment. Except its not a ticket to employment, its a relatively unreliable indicator of required competence. Further more most job advertisments are for persons with 5 to 10 years experience. Why?

A degree in engineering is considered foundational knowledge and stage 1: enabling competence. A B.Eng has very little to do with the actual job practiced by so called engineers. Thus graduates require at least 3 years on the job practice, to become knowledgeable about the actual work, and develop some proficiency. Several years more practice, and proof of actual competencies acquired is required before considered fully qualified by the professional organisations which self-regulate the professions. None of which is really necessary to the actual practice of engineering. Its just that engineers employ engineers: its a professional culture thing. Members of a profession like to think they are the only ones that can do the job, or do the job right. Thus today Thackeray as an engineer would never get a job teaching unless it was teaching engineers.

Where as during the Renaissance, and industrial revolution learning was driving innovation, today formal education is killing innovation and creativity: its puts people into boxes. Cogs: education: it makes them, packs them and ships them out.

It most absolutely is not paper shuffling engineers that we need to be educating. Our cities have moved from primary industry through manufacturing to service industry. The main service industry being built are financial industries.

It partly makes sense. There are around 1 billion people on earth, in need of housing. Many of these people have less than $2 to spare after food each year. So even a $2000 steel shed about 6m x 6m, no concrete floor and no interior fitted out to make it comply with what our building codes consider habitable, would take about 1000 years to pay off, and thats before interest payments thrown in. The building won't last that long. So some creativity is required finding means of bringing about transactions between those who need and those who can supply. At the most basic either the cost of production severely dropped, or the incomes of the buyers significantly increased. Or the lifestyles of the sellers significantly reduced.

We live in a market driven economy, where law and business management are important. Result, degrees in economics, accounting, business and law tend to be chosen. Similarly degrees in computer science and information technology. Just one problem though who supplies the ideas for the businesses, and what are the computers put to use doing?

One principle criticism of Engineers Australia (IEAust) and APESMA is the over emphasis on MBA's. Personally I consider if MBA's are important, then they studied the wrong engineering discipline, they should have been studying industrial engineering not mechanical or civil engineering.

As I indicated above, the buildings and bridges exist already, many are not being used, so what is the future demand for these things? Sure it is often pointed out (by engineers), that engineers have crossed over to business but few if any have gone from business to engineering.

But they missed an important point. Most innovation takes place at the coal face, not in a consultants offices. It is trades people who want to do their jobs differently that seek innovative technology. Teach those on the shop floor more science, and give freedom, they will innovate.

Legend, folklore has it, that Toyota gave its workers an old power press and indicated they could play, experiment with it. They did so and dropped die change over time to around 3 minutes, they started aiming for 1 minute change over times in all processes. At the time Ford, thought this was a myth, and stayed with 12 hour change over time. When they discovered it was true, they did some improvment and dropped time to 4 hours. Culture was and is considered the major obstacle to further improvement. {Or so I recollect the story.}

The point is in Japanese organisations Industrial Engineers enable workers, rather than impose systems on them. Engineering is about enabling and educating. Getting a degree is a privilege, and makes a person a member of an elite few: there is a certain obligation to assist others: more so if education was government assisted.

Many modern engineers have an arrogant stance of superiority: you have to spend 4 years to get a degree to know how to do this. Rubbish: you do not need to spend 4 years at university to learn how to design a beam, nor select components of a machine. Our predecessors most definitely learnt such things on the job on an as needs basis. More than that, they developed the theories, right there on the job. But modern engineers think everyone else in the industry is subordinate, and that they the engineers drive the projects. No they don't. People with the needs drive the projects, especially in the building and mechanical industries. New innovative machines are more likley to have been built and operated by trades people, before any so called engineer has looked at them. It should be understood that these trades people are better at visualising and building the machines or buildings, than drawing them symbolically on paper: and as I said, they are usually the people with the need. Which raises another problem is the so called engineers do invent something, its all on paper and probably in the form of drawings or worst mathematical formulae: merely an untested theory. They then have to communicate this idea to a trades person: and 2D drawings don't always communicate the idea of a 3D object successfully. Like that sentence: cumbersome.

Now with the traditional system they started with the trade, worked their way into the drawing office, into the design office, and ultimately into businesss management. Most new production businesses, tend to be started by trades people: not engineers or architects. The latter tend to only create businesses which shuffle paper, and tend to have derogatory comments about accountants, public servants and others they consider to be the paper shufflers. Engineers believe they produce real things. Well so do the accountants, who made the money available for the project. The TV adverts for chartered accountants are superior than anything the IEAust has ever put out. Even the make it so campaign was something of a dud: a letter in January's edition of "Engineers Australia" magazine questioned the expenditure: apparently $2.5 million. Of the many proposals, some 5000 I believe, the one selected was relatively dull: convert agricultural waste into fuel. Sure it fitted with Engineer Australias, 2011's year of humanitarian engineering. But it doesn't really require innovation, or too much ingenuity: the requests concerning biomedical engineering did. As far as I know little progress made on the project, other than engineering students playing engineer. What really is EWB, but engineering students dumping poorly designed junk on the people of developing countries? {Possibly a bit harsh

Engineer's really should stop complaining about plumbers and train drivers using the name. They mostly have the name as a consequence of history. Others in the modern world have it as a consequence of a market driven economy: it sounds good. If the title engineer doesn't have status why would these others adopt it? what is it  they are trying to say when they adopt such titles? What do hair doctors and hair engineers do, that hair dressers and barbers don't? In the main they are implying they do something better, something more, something different than others in their industry. It does not in any way detract from what other engineers do. It is the other engineers who detract from themselves: for they aren't as important as they believe themselves to be. Hair engineer is not a profession, its a business, and if it cannot attract a market, or truly demonstrate superiority to others in the industry they will cease to operate: if not clearly seen as a joke by other members of said industry.

Modern civil engineers, and others are a joke. Telford was a stone mason, not a paper shuffler, what he designed could be built, and he could build it. But the bridges he built were far too large for him to build alone, so many more masons and other wokers needed to be coordinated: by the person who designed the bridge: to ensure the design was implemented. Many engineers never get near the real thing. Many builders think engineers and architects do not know what they are doing: a bunch of idiots.

To clarify, many engineers also spend their time fixing the problems caused by other engineers: people are paying twice for engineering. Potential therefore exists to double fees, and push still higher until people no longer willing to pay twice, and thus start pushing the low quality suppliers out off the market. It is civil, mechanical, and other engineers themselves who are responsible for lack of status: not those they accuse of stealing the title. The original engineers emerged from trades, or gave rise to trades. So they haven't stolen the title: rather there has been division of labour and each new occupation has retained the title. Mathematical analysis doesn't make a person an engineer any more than swinging a hammer. It is their ingenuity that made the ancient engineers. This is lacking in modern engineers: sure some have, but not all. It is the "not all" engineers have ingenuity that is the problem.

This problem is not resolved by declaring a shortage of engineers, and fast tracking people through a 4 year B.Eng in 3 years via summer vacation programmes. Nor by fast tracking people to Chartered status  (CPEng) and registration on national register (NPER). They are not engineers, and it is not engineers that are required: so why diminish the status, spend so much time complaining about. As Indicated above there is a problem of professional culture: engineers will only employ engineers to do any part of their job. The industry hasn't just lost experience: it really has no idea what needs to be done, and how to get it done.

Cogs for the Machine, and Problem of Sustainable Flows
The engineers claiming a shortage of engineers are looking for cogs for the machine, and are seemingly unware of the engineering team defined by the WFEO agreed to by the IEAust. They are also clearly unaware of history.

When I graduated, the first time, there were drafters and design-drafters with some 30 years experience, giving graduate engineers a hard time and otherwise showing them the ropes, and training the new drafters. Some 10 years, later I was the experienced one. Those with the 30 years experience had disappeared, they had not been sustained in the industry. There is a problem of flow. Some 10 years later, would make those previously with 30 years experience, those with 40 years experience and close to retirement, if not already retired. But if flows were sustained then there would still be people with 30 years experience in the industry. Some of our larger and older consultancies became filled with graduates with no real experience. At the dawn of the industrial revolution that would not have been a problem, also for industries today dealing with new technology, not a problem. For in such situations there are no as yet performance standards set, and the technologies and publics expectations have not become established. But for the building and construction industry and most manufacturing, the technologies are established and expectations of performance are high. This economy up and down like a yoyo doesn't assist in sustaining local capability and competence.

I don't have an objection to people getting degrees, I object to industry making irrelevant academic qualifications necessary to get a job, and otherwise complaining about the lack of competence of the graduates. Kids like those in the movie should be able to enter industry without need for getting a degree.

The industry should sustain its 40 years experience, and I don't mean 4 people with 10 years experience each: which is the rubbish many modern businesses are talking about. A business can only really have experience equal to that of its oldest member. So if someone founds a business at 20, and they are still going at 80, then the business has 60 years experience. If that person retires and the next inline only has 40 years experience, then the business cannot have more than 40 years experience. The experience from the first 20 years has not been sustained. It is highly unlikely to have a business where a person with 60 years experience, retires and is replaced by equal each and every year. Even 40 years is likely to be a struggle. Some industries like the automotive industry, where traditionally it took 20 years to get a design from the drawing board to the production line, may be able to sustain a presence of 40 years of experience, and possibly build upon that experience.

The building industry for example should have some 2000 to 4000 years of experience to build on: but it doesn't because the knowledge is neither passed on or sustained in the industry. Why complete an apprenticeship and become a full carpenter, when only requirements of job are to use nail gun and circular saw and throw house frames together. The profession not relevant to the needs of industry. Likewise for porfession of engineer. There is no need to fast track people through B.Eng programmes. I think it was early last year it started to dawn on some that TAFE level education is all that was required to meet needs. Especially has seen a decline in university enrolments and TAFE enrolments: mining and construction boom tends to lead to many highly paid unskilled labour jobs. Since education has been increasingly commercialised, people looking for some kind of employment to finance higher education. Unskilled labour jobs one way. But such jobs not available in a down turned economy. The mining and construction boom, is an here again gone again the next minute proposal. It cannot get going: its spluttering along. Thats because there is a skills shortage. Unfortunately industry is filled with people with no idea what skills are required. Most think they need to be replaced or replicatde by someone with the same academic education as themselves. To start with no one is going to get the exact same education. Even with professional bodies accrediting the degrees, there is no consistency in competence and capability. Further more none of the academic programmes match the specific needs of the individual business.

Business is becoming increasingly dependent on what it can buy rather than what it can make. Take software for example. Micosoft Windows XP, may have worked perfectly fine out of the box, on the computers first installed on: today with all the security updates those same computers are probably barely capable of operating: the principle virus/irritant in use of computers is allowed through all the protection: and that is windows automatic update: switch it off and get constant warnings that computer is at risk. The business starts being controlled by its suppliers. In similar manner business instead of producing the personnel it needs relies on others to supply. But given that some 95% of all businesses are small business accounting for some 48% of employment: most are not in a position to provide the training to meet the requirements of some profession. Additionally after providing training, the employees either go and get a higher level job else where, or quit and set up there own business: and otherwise take work away from their former employer.

As the principal rebel in the movie indicated: he had his own barrow and therefore wasn't dependent on certificates and recommendations from the school to get a job. Though as much as he disliked school, teachers and the system, he was offered assistance to get a job teaching boxing. Who you know is important, and so is what you can do with what you know. What you know is of no importance what so ever.

Knowing how to calculate stresses in materials is of no value. There has to be some proposed physical system in which it is important to know the material stresses before being able to calculate has any value. As I said the buildings and bridges are there. Or are they?

To get the mining and construction boom going, the resources have to be able to get from the Australian interior to the coast and be loaded on ships, to be transported over seas. Where no doubt these raw materials will be transformed into high value added product and imported back into Australia.

Anycase the ports and harbours need expanding, along with railways, and cross country conveyor systems, and the localised mechanical handling plant. But this is all expansion of established technologies. Its not oh! how do why mine coal and iron ore and get it from A to B? As an industrial society we should know, for we are doing it already. But these things are built once not every year. However they do need to be maintained every year. However maintaining doesn't require calculating what size electric motor is required to drive the belt conveyor: that has already been determined and specified. Just need to keep replacing with similar specified. It is more the management of technology that is required than the design or the analysis. But we keep churning out civil and mechanical engineers when these are not the people we really need: and keep complaining of shortages and lack of capability.

The people required to maintain are different than the people required to analyse and specify. There is little design involved, the form of the technology is predetermined. Some organisation some where should hold the calculations carried out for the original systems, preferable the one held responsible for maintaining. Actually maintaining is not very smart, any opportunity to improve should be taken. If shut down a system, don't repair it, but improve it. Preferably carrying out the analysis to make sure a change is an improvement. Still require fewer people to do the analysis than to implement the actual change.

Though there is another problem. Mining takes place in remote areas, may be once every 6 months people get to see the city, many become alcoholics or become extremely depressed. So not actually many locals who want to do the work. In the modern world people want the benefits of the city they were born into, being a pioneer out in the wilderness not very attractive. Being the one that makes the bricks to build the great wall also not all that desirable: too many want to be emperor and have status handed to them. There are lifestyles people want to maintain: for many that is the night life in a big city, not available in an isolated mining town. It is part of the reason that 2012 is Engineers Australia's year of regional engineering. Though thus far concentrated on those in the regions, rather than what they do, and any need for more people there.

Sun 2012-Mar-18  01:06AM

I will write more when I blog about the proposal for graduate school of design. But basically we already have the designers, they are called industrial product designers. Secondly most design occurs on a drawing board, it concerns issues of dimension and geometry, it requires familiarity with the technology, the kind that trades people and design-drafters typically acquire. Such dimension and geometry typically has to be resolved, before any mathematical analysis can be carried out. If the drafters with the 30 years experience have been lost, then so has what needs to go on the drawings. The established has just changed into inventing an inferior version of the wheel, finding 1000 ways a light bulb doesn't work: because as a society we no longer know what does. Why? Because a bunch of idiots said technology changing by the minute, therefore don't teach about the technology, teach generic science. Technology is not changing by the minute, it mainly builds on previous technology. The new technologies cannot be provided if the foundations on which it is built crumble and disappear. We have to sustain the established, especially the human scale technologies. If the population is getting degrees, then the entry level qualification for tracer becomes a degree. What is currently happening is that people are getting degrees and then put into positions where expected to supervise others. This is not just throwing them in the deep end, and seeing if they can swim, it is placing others at risk. There should be proper transition, from tracer, to drafter, to design-drafter, at least, if not a requirement to spend more time on shop floor or out in the field. Though more time on drawing board probably best for both trades and engineers. Drawings are a safer prototype to play with. If the academic education is of any value then even the one year qualified technician will achieve design-drafter status in 12 months. After 2 years, the 2 year qualified engineering associate will have progressed to analysis. Depending on the nature of projects after 3 to 5 years, they will be able to take projects from concept to completion with out need for supervision. For those with more than 2 years of formal education, well most of it is directed at advanced mathematical analysis, and unfortunately it is very unlikely that the majority will ever get to use any of it. So for the most part, degrees of 3 years and more they are just a personal things, a professional recognition thing, they have little to do with the needs of industry. Far better off getting multiple 2 year qualifications, in the appropriate areas of practice, and putting the knowledge directly to use. Barring as I said, that there is a professional culture problem: and they won't employ unless have same degree they have. We need  to destroy this arrogance of superiority that some engineers exercise, and build the industries back up. We need to put the foundations back, we cannot float a pinnacle in fresh air.

Engineers are part of the problem. Engineers complain about the accountants and bean counter business managers and owners, but fail to recognise they are themselves part of the same group of paper shufflers. They are equally responsible for destroying the foundations of our industrial technological systems: the loss of technical knowledge and expertise from within industry. A lot of the big national consultancies for example bid for jobs, win them, then go looking for the people they need. Problem is those sole practitioner contract drafters and engineers with the experience are not around any more. Further more they didn't get their experience on contract, they got it working on staff in government departments of large engineering fabrication companies which did their own RD&D. The work practice report methodology of the IEAust for chartered status is crazy, there are few really experienced people out there to actually supervise and ensure real competence is passed on or developed: most of those experienced people are close to retirement or semi-retired. Semi-retired because the experience is needed and secondly they are the transition group in the change over to superannuation: and therefore super is not adequate and nor is the pension. Plus likely to get bored to death in retirement. Even so, many not really in good health to keep going and handle the stress and pressures of the job. So need the experienced to be able to take a back seat whilst the younger next generation deal with the pressures. Basically the businesses and industries need to be redesigned, to sustain their needed knowledge and skills.

Sun 2012-Mar-18  02:04AM

1) Approximate reading time 35 minutes.

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