The "unfriendlies" in energy
I’m not sure what media you’ve been watching (in reference to June InTech’s Talk to Me), but the political and media environment for the fossil fuel industries is indeed “unfriendly.” Look at the Cap and Trade regulation currently chambered in the Senate like a bomb shell in the barrel of the gun pointing right at everyone in the United States. When the price of fossil fuels gets high enough, the alternatives will be economically viable. Currently ethanol, solar, wind, and biomass can’t compete on their own. So the unfriendlies are those gaming the political system to give their special interest a way to undercut the fact that they aren’t competitive against fossil fuels. And they are truly unfriendly to the fossil fuel industry and to our jobs. That is the truth.
The truth is that the only alternative energy that has a real chance of supplying our electrical energy needs is hydro and nuclear energy. But those alternates have been tacking against unfriendlies for at least a generation now. Put that on the table, and maybe we’ll have something; but until then, it will be all spin all the time.
Planting the engineering seed
I had a chance to read “Workforce Development” in the July issue of InTech, and I couldn’t agree with you more on the future of engineering with respect to our children. I wanted to write you because this is an issue that could ultimately put a stranglehold on the future of engineering.
Some of the causes for this problem are not so much the children themselves but they are a combination of issues such as: The engineering community, parents that are unable to present options to their children, inadequate schools, etc.
What I believe we have to do is recognize the potential of the children and tap into it.
Within the field of engineering, what do you have? Drafters, technicians, materials specialists, project managers, quality control techs, lean manufacturing, sales, etc.
I think you can see where I’m going. Sometimes in the course of growing up, some kids may feel that they are not smart enough and end up changing their minds several times regarding what career they want to pursue; and through no fault of their own, they may or may not be aware of the many avenues that are available out of high school.
This is the point where the engineering community says, “Hey, there are other areas where you can help us achieve our goals,” and in the process, that individual becomes more accustomed to the engineering environment and decides that they are ready to pursue the next level. Just because the kid is not ready at 18 years of age, doesn’t mean he/she won’t be ready at 22 or 23, but we have to start grooming them for it early.
I personally have been involved in some form of engineering and technology since I left high school, but up until now, I was unable to pursue my degree for various reasons and I’m 48 years old. I stayed close to the field and was always able to acquire certifications and attend seminars, and once my kids were grown, I was able to pursue my degree.
Of course every situation is different, but I feel that keeping close to the industry, serving in a different capacity, may help to better prepare some kids for more advanced roles. While I am pursuing my degree, I am also volunteering to tutor high school kids in math and science and hope to introduce them to the many areas that are available to them. In my honest opinion, if children were to get more of a glimpse of what their future may be like in engineering, I think they will become that much more motivated to pursue it.
Because our young people are constantly bombarded with the internet, music, video, etc., they have not been introduced to the basic concepts of how these different entertainment mediums function or how they are made. I believe they would like to know, but it has to be up to us to start the ball rolling. Teachers, in some of our schools, may have a degree in education, but if I had my choice, I’d much rather have a science teacher with a degree in physics, engineering, or chemistry and a math teacher with a degree in mathematics.
I could go on and on about my passion for technology, but I just wanted to say thanks for addressing this issue, and I hope that with all of our combined efforts, we are able to increase the numbers in a positive direction. Keep up the good work.
Aaron M. Ward Sr.