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Disastrous Interview

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Title: Disastrous Interview

This thread reminds me of a comment once made to me by a young engineer at a previous company: I really like engineering, except for the technical part.

My own experience with recent graduates has been pretty positive. They seem smart and eager to learn. My biggest gripe is that they are coming out of college with too narrow a focus. When I went to school in the 60s, there was less specialization at the undergrad level, so all the civil engineering grads had to learn something about materials, environmental engineering, structural engineering, transportation and surveying. I think it took more credit hours to graduate, too. Although we all tend to specialize after we get out of school, I think it is very helpful to have a broader perspective on engineering starting out. Nowadays, we have graduate environmental engineers who are clueless about materials science, structural engineers who are clueless about the environment, transportation engineers who are clueless about structures. This is a weakness in early specialization at the undergrad level, because all these disciplines intersect from time to time.

There is way more to learn nowadays than there was when I was a student. I think its crazy to presume we can turn out adequately educated engineers anymore with just four years of college, hoping that their employers will teach them the rest of what they need to know. The medical and legal professions dont, and with good reason.

I had an interesting conversation with an older engineering professor a few years ago about how he thinks the quality of engineering students and education has changed over his career. He told me that there is always a small percentage of students who are as sharp and knowledgeable as they ever were. His take on the majority, however, is that they are coming to college less prepared to learn than they used to be, and that the academic institutions are pressured to graduate students with fewer hours and probably at a lower standard than previously, due to the financial realities of modern day higher education. I have no idea how to improve this situation.

Jim Lutz, P.E., S.E.

720 3rd Avenue, Suite 1200

Seattle, WA 98104-1820

206 505 3400 Ext 126

206 505 3406 (Fax)