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RE: Future Generations of Engineers - Penn State Experience

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I would like to chime in here and say that from what I can understand, it appears that I was quite fortunate to be a part of the Penn State AE program.  I guess this is a little bit of a plug for the program also.  We always had to take some non-engineering courses in the 5 year program, but there was never a semester that we did not take some courses that led us to our ultimate destination of being an engineer (or CM if you chose that route).  First year we learned to read blueprints and how to produce a set of construction drawings.  Second and third years were generalized courses in structural, mechanical and plumbing, electrical and lighting, and construction management.  Fourth and fifth years were specialized courses in your option (either structural, mechanical/electrical, or CM).  Our structural courses included CE courses in soils and foundations, so we crossed over to the CE department at times, also. 


From what it sounds like, we received a broad education and a technical education as well.  I think that some of the Penn State AE’s will let you know the same.  (Right Charlie?)


Hope everyone has a good weekend. 




Timothy R. Campbell, P.E.



-----Original Message-----
From: Caldwell, Stan [mailto:scaldwell(--nospam--at)]
Thursday, July 24, 2003 2:43 PM
To: 'SEAINT Listserv'
Subject: Future Generations of Engineers


Clifford Schwinger wrote:

Perhaps we don't have to worry about where the future generations of structural engineers will be coming from.  Most of the factory jobs have left our country and now it looks like many white-collar jobs are going overseas. I'm guessing that structural steel detailers probably make about $20/hour in this country.  In some countries (overseas) I'm guessing that the going rate is about $1/hour.  I recently read a post from a structural steel detailer on another list who was frustrated that he lost out on a 10,000-hour detailing job that went overseas for $50,000.  I guess $50,000 is big bucks when the an overseas detailing shop pays detailers $1/hour (I'm guessing at that wage, but I'll bet I'm not far off) and doesn't have to worry about little things like social security, medical insurance, sick pay, holidays and vacation pay.  In the July 2003 issue of Structural Engineer magazine there is an article on this subject.  In that article the author points out that Flour Corporation has 200 Filipino engineers on their payroll at $1.50/hour (the article says $3000/year salary which works out to about $1.50/hour for a 40 hour work week) in one of their overseas offices.

I'm not complaining about the future of our profession and our economy for my benefit - I'm an old fart. I'm complaining about it for the benefit of my 2 year old grandson (who already knows that ready-mix concrete is transported in a "crete truck" - not a cement truck!)


As a fellow "Old Fart", I don't share your concerns about the future.  My kids are both grown, well-educated (UT-Austin), and married to lawyers, so they are financially secure (grin).  My daughter is building her "starter home", and it's bigger and fancier than my palace.  My son is a 30 year old P.E. making six figures.

Seriously, I think that there is a distinction that needs to be made between technicians (CAD Operators and Detailers) and professional engineers.  Technicians primarily produce products, albeit highly specialized ones.  As producers of products, they will undoubtedly face increasingly stiff competition from overseas, where reasonably similar products can be produced for much less money.  Engineers, on the other hand, primarily provide (or should primarily provide) professional services rather than products.  As providers of services, they should have much less concern with overseas competition.  For example, how responsive can an engineer in
Pakistan be when a problem arises at a jobsite in Kentucky?  When a client calls an important meeting in Moline, how long will it take for the engineer in Taiwan to get there?  How many of us routinely find ourselves competing with Fluor (not Flour) and similar global corporations?  Globalization should have little impact on structural engineers working in a professional capacity. 

Cliff, just make sure your grandson gets a complete engineering education.  That means as many technical courses as possible at the B.S. level (yes Jake, I agree with your minority opinion).  It also means a truly specialized M.S. degree.  Lawyers require at least 7 (4+3) years of education, and doctors require even more.  Engineers of the future cannot expect society to treat them as reasonably equal professionals with only a 4 year, increasingly general, engineering degree.

Okay y'all, flame away!

Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Dallas, Texas

Structural engineering is the art of molding materials
we don't wholly understand, into shapes we can't fully
analyze, so as to withstand forces we can't really assess,
in such a way that the community at large has no reason
to suspect the extent of our ignorance."   ...Jim Amrhein

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