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Where are our Engineers?

There is another letter to the Straits Times forum today querying why companies thought foreign engineers are more qualified than local engineers and urged the universities & polytechnics to re-design the engineering courses to meet the industries’ demand.

Sensitive topic. Let the Mule shares his distorted views on this topic besides *gasps* foreigners are cheaper.

Local Engineer is a dying breed, more endangered than the Panda.

The Mule and friends grew up in a very pro-engineering environment. Firstly, when we were young, we were exposed excessively to Taiwanese movies whereby the main handsome actor would almost always hold the position of an engineer. The Mule is not sure about others, but at least he thought engineers are girls magnet then.

When the Mule was in secondary schools, we heard our leader and we thought it was a better job than lawyer. At least a third of the Mule’s patriotic classmates went into engineering in university.

Then came the 90s, where there was an exodus of electronics companies and hard disks manufacturers. Many engineers lost their jobs, and some lucky ones found a breather in the Semiconductor industry, but the industry is in danger now, and many are living in fear of another mega wave of retrenchment…

How about Civil Engineers? Besides standing under the hot sun most of the time, withstanding the verbal abuses from main contractors, you are always asked to perform the impossible – cheaper, better, faster, plus safer. You are probably better off performing magic shows on stage.

Chemical Engineers? With Malaysia opening up a huge Petrol Chemical Park, how many of these companies will remain here?

Many bruised engineers in their prime are disheartened and left the industry entirely, but aren’t we training new blood every year from the local Polytechnics and Universities to fill the gap?

In this short circuit era, many smarter ones do not want to get into engineering where the duration is longer (4 years vs 3 years general degree), and on top of that, the courses are more difficult to score. Engineering degree probably ranks slightly higher than a degree in Puppetry in terms of popularity. As Universities and Polytechnics are facing less engineering students intake, some cleverly re-designed the courses to make it a rojak diploma, where it sounds hipper and more interesting, but lacking depth.  If the students are, unfortunately, being enrolled into engineering, they tend to pick the easier modules (easier to score again) too. So it is left with mostly foreign students in Engineering courses, and especially the more difficult modules.

The Mule does not have a figure on the percentage of Engineering graduates going into related industry, but would think it is fairly low, and if they eventually get into one and not retrenched, they will be disconcerted within a couple of years, hey, my friends in banking industry are earning so much more, and even those who become property agents are making much more money than me! What am I doing here? Lower pay, dirty & shitty hot environment, no respect, and no sense of job security… Might as well become a teacher.

Finally, the Mule thought we are too dependent on MNCs to create engineering jobs, MNCs being MNCs, the bottom line is more important and would not blink an eye to relocate their plants to a cheaper production location. In the 70s, we need them to help create jobs for the locals, but we are now in 2013, we should look into creating our own enterprises like HTC, Acer, Asustek, and Foxconn of Singapore who would be more concerned about livelihood of Singaporeans than foreign MNCs, and even if their factories are located overseas, their HQ will most likely be located in Singapore because it is home.

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