Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The social status of the engineering profession

So I found this paper on the crisis of the low status of the engineering profession (circa 1920-1930 in Canada).

What is interesting here is the approach they used, as you can see.. this is similar to the NASA video below....
missing the key idea that most people in the profession  have self selected themselves out for wanting status..... IMHO if they were interested in status they would have gone into Medicine or Law....   If they did intend to fix it, it seems the missed the basic idea of Marketing..... as in.... movies like IRON MAN make engineering look cool... in the same way Ally McBeal makes law look cool.... the problem I guess is that engineers and scientists prefer accuracy to end effect.  The interesting thing is that salary is a strong indicator of status and until Engineering keeps pace with Law/Medicine/Investment banking... I don't think it will easily receive a status boost.

Here is a wierd example of the logic they are using.
If the engineering community was serious in its desire to be afforded higher status, they continued, the neglect of cultural and communications courses in university curricula needed to be rectified.

This is also a clever attempt at rationalizing a Governing body for engineering in the same way they have one for Medicine and Law.

This has some logic to it, but the conclusion I think missed the  mark.
Canadian engineers were traditionally proud of their technical knowledge, and saw this knowledge (such as the ability to harness water resources for hydro-electricity or to build ventilated railway tunnels in the Rocky Mountains) as a defining aspect of their profession.63 This technical expertise differentiated engineering from the trades and provided a common link between the various fields of engineering (that is, fields such as civil, mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering). Stating that communications skills were "as essential to the engineer as... to the lawyer or minister," Keith's committee suggested that technical proficiency alone would not bring engineers the public respect they desired, but that the profession needed to expand its aptitude beyond the technical realm.64 In the following years, the EIC would take hold of this view and endorse it as vital to raising the status of engineers.

It may have been more effective to hire a PR/Advertising firm to figure this problem out... than a bunch of engineers....

This one is super lolz...
The view enunciated by the EIC executive had three components: that engineers lacked cultural knowledge and communication ability, that rectifying these inadequacies would raise the prestige of the profession in the public eye, and that the key solution was the introduction of "paper writing and critical discussions" into engineering curricula.

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