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STEMists and skills shortages

December 04, 2012

The Eye found itself in a storm this month following its comments in the last issue on the status of engineers. It has been described in a number of ways over the past two years but to be dismissed as a “loafer” and “low brow” were admirable additions to the canon of insults. No topic, it seems, is likely to vex the reader more than the position of engineers within society but the Eye would reiterate that its own musings on the matter are of a semi-serious, ironic nature. A reader writes, however, to say that he has taken to calling himself a “STEMist” to emphasise the learned means by which one becomes an engineer. He also sent the Eye correspondence between himself and Sam Laidlaw, chief executive of Centrica, debating the company’s use of the term “engineer” for its technicians. Another reader complains: “I am troubled daily by people who have no grasp of engineering and no talent for engineering analysis yet call themselves engineers.” Daily? Really? You must have a lot of domestic appliances on the blink, then. And please don’t go to this link www.dyson.co.uk/support/customerservice into your web browser and scroll down. James Dyson is at it, too. If he can’t get it right, what price the rest of the world? Etcetera..

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Another recurring theme: skills shortages. Easy to bemoan, and not so much on the Eye’s radar as saturating it. With many, many more engineers needed now and in the future Eye was intrigued to find a novel solution being proposed by one forthright headhunter to the industry: bring engineers out of retirement to mentor today’s graduates. The effusive recruiter emphasised the possible advantages of the approach: highly skilled engineers with decades of experience could pass on their knowledge, which has likely been kept up-to-date through membership of the professional societies, and help bridge some of the skills gaps currently being felt in sectors such as automotive. The challenge will be, the recruiter said, to balance the needs of industry with the needs of retirees who do not want to work a 40-hour week. And the idea has to penetrate the mindset of employers. Still, needs must... Would you consider abandoning gardening and sessions of contract bridge to dip your toe back in the world of work? Or should retirement, even at 55, be sacrosanct? 

The Eye awaits your views...

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