No shortage of talented engineers

I'm sorry I missed the opportunity in December to contribute to the discussion regarding the “engineer shortage” in the U.S. This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I am now teaching high school physics after a successful 20-year career in mechanical engineering. What do I tell my students about engineering? Go to college and study business and finance. That way, they can be the ones to lay off 20% of the engineers at the latest company they purchased, thereby achieving a 20% fixed cost reduction and earning their 6-digit bonuses. Just make sure the engineers sign non-compete agreements and train their replacements in Pakistan or Korea before giving them the boot. Don't worry about the unemployed engineers. They'll be happy to be rehired by someone else, after moving someplace else, and starting over with two weeks vacation until their next project is finished. Then repeat. It's a great life.

In all seriousness, people who suggest there is a “shortage” of qualified engineers assume that the listener has no knowledge of supply and demand. Companies that complain just don't want to pay the market price, but would rather import lower cost competition from Third World countries. BP's Thunder Horse oil platform is an example of what can happen when companies use this tactic. They bought low bid, and the Korean vendor either scrimped or didn't understand the stability controls requirements, leading to years of repair work and downtime. I worked on the chemical feed equipment, so I assume they were equally incompetent with the stability controls. I know plenty of experienced engineers who are available, but are often replaced by low cost substitutes and with poor results.
Name withheld by request

The following letter is in response to a topic covered in a recent Motion Monitor newsletter — President Obama's appointment of Dr. John Holdren as Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. Holdren suggested that engineers and scientists tithe 10% of their time working on technical efforts to “increase the benefits of science and technology for the human condition and to decrease the liabilities.”

Tithing and taxes

I wonder if Holdren will recommend that the engineers and the companies that employ them should get a tax credit for every hour they tithe? This way, the government can share in the sacrifice they are so glibly suggesting. After all, these companies and engineers are already paying taxes (about 30% of their effort) and watching these taxes wasted on many worthless things. How about asking Holdren to have the government scale back on its expenses so it can make due with 10% less? When we engineers and companies make less money, we purchase less from your advertisers, so the trickle-down result of stupid government ideas hurts us all.
Tom Alesi
San Diego, Calif.