Why education must be an ongoing endeavour
By Bill Roebuck, Editor
Any of you will remember the time when looking for your first job or a new job was tough. The economy wasn't so rosy and well-paying jobs for people with technical skills were few and far between. Aft...
Any of you will remember the time when looking for your first job or a new job was tough. The economy wasn’t so rosy and well-paying jobs for people with technical skills were few and far between. After school, it seemed that only the top few students in each class got the best jobs, and everybody else drifted around looking for almost anything. It was tough to get your foot in the door; you had to be resourceful and tenacious to get a decent position. And you might have ended up bouncing from one mediocre job to another.
Now companies are practically screaming for technical help, but interestingly, that hasn’t made it any easier to get a job, especially one in the engineering field. It used to be that any kind of technical knowledge would put you in good stead with employers. Summer jobs, work with a family business, even tooling around with an old car, were important, especially if the work had anything to do with industry or machinery. Companies want people with some good experience behind them–someone who can step into a job and be immediately productive, without extensive training or hand-holding. That means it’s still tough if you don’t have the right training or experience.
Another challenge for industry today is to find employees who are not only technically trained but computer literate–not just with a word processing package, but with spreadsheets, programming, and especially the Internet. In fact, as the level of technology in industrial facilities rises to even greater heights, the demand increases for not just good technical experience but for a damn good education. The old-timers in secure jobs may not have to worry about this, but newcomers who want to build a career in industry will–and do.
Even though your focus may be on mundane old machinery and equipment, more and more will computer technology skills become necessary to work in engineering and maintenance. Palm computers, smartcards and cellular communications, for example, will all play a part on the future plant floor. A recent study by Deloitte Research points to significant growth in Internet-based machine-to-machine communications, extending the Internet to electrical control in a wide variety of industrial environments. This “M2M” communications scenario creates new technical challenges and is just one more example of why education is important for those entering and working in our professions.
For many, getting future jobs will be a formidable challenge. For others, it will be an interesting and enjoyable adventure. Whether you’re hiring new people or just holding down your own job, keep in mind that training, more than ever before, must be an ongoing endeavour.