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Are Current Engineering Graduates In The Us Being Treated As Commodities By Employers?

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Academic Issues

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.223.1 - 7.223.6



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Paper Authors

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Bethany Oberst

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Russel Jones

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Session 1460

Are Current Engineering Graduates in the US Being Treated as Commodities by Employers?

Russel C. Jones World Expertise LLC and Bethany S. Oberst James Madison University


The employment scene for professionals of all sorts becomes more volatile with each decade. In engineering, graduates of past generations could reasonably look forward to a linear career trajectory characterized by upward mobility and advancement. A typical career back then might allow the graduate to move from strict technical work to creative design work, then on to technical management, and perhaps to general management – often within one firm. In contrast, today’s engineering graduate is being told that a typical work pattern will likely involve six or eight or more major job changes during the working lifetime. What is not being said is that such job changes will often be lateral moves, not career progressions. The hiring of engineering graduates by non-traditional employers, seeking their problem solving and analytical skills for resale to consulting clients, exacerbates the problem. This paper examines the causes of such changes in the engineering employment pattern, and offers suggestions for dealing with the troubling aspects of the current employment market place.

The problem as seen by the profession

Engineering publications, as well as the popular press, have been discussing the perils of the job scene for at least fifteen years. Bitter titles such as “The age of expendability” 5, “Job security is an oxymoron” 3, and “What happened to the great American job?” 4 underscore the painful realization among experienced professionals that the world of engineering employment has changed in the recent past, and not for the better. What is new today is that the problem is seen as affecting many professions in the United States, and that some of the causes are linked with powerful international economic trends that cannot be countered easily.

Symptoms of the problem

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education 1 Main Menu

Oberst, B., & Jones, R. (2002, June), Are Current Engineering Graduates In The Us Being Treated As Commodities By Employers? Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10885

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