Retired Chemical Engineering lecturer from Sydney, Australia, 6 years in industry in Australia and UK, 26 years in academia, UK. Also King James Only bible believer, author of 1 book in support of the 1611 Authorised Holy Bible, 2 fact-based novels on WW2 and 3 books on a bible-believing defence of Britain as a sovereign, independent nation free from the destructive forces of the EU and multi-culti-ism.

Friday, October 05, 2007

An Engineer Who Made Good

I was reminded today of a statement by the late President Herbert Hoover that I first heard quoted in 1966 as a Chemical Engineering undergarduate.

I believe that it is valid today, especially in view of the denigration of science and engineering in this country, which is common knowledge.

by Herbert Hoover


Long before Herbert Hoover became involved in politics he was an engineer. He was trained as a mining engineer and had a full and very sucessful career in a variety of international engineering projects. At the time Mr. Hoover practised engineering, most areas of engineering were Civil Engineering. Mr. Hoover's own field of mining engineering is certainly very closely aligned with Civil Engineering even today. Here is what Mr. Hoover said about the profession of engineering.

"Engineering ... it is a great profession. There is the fascination of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realization in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings jobs and homes to men. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comforts of life. That is the engineer's high privilege.

"The great liability of the engineer compared to men of other professions is that his works are out in the open where all can see them. His acts, step by step, are in hard substance. He cannot bury his mistakes in the grave like the doctors. He cannot argue them into thin air or blame the judge like the lawyers. He cannot, like the architects, cover his failures with trees and vines. He cannot, like the politicians, screen his shortcomings by blaming his opponents and hope the people will forget. The engineer simply cannot deny he did it. If his works do not work, he is damned....

"On the other hand, unlike the doctor his is not a life among the weak. Unlike the soldier, destruction is not his purpose. Unlike the lawyer, quarrels are not his daily bread. To the engineer falls the job of clothing the bare bones of science with life, comfort, and hope. No doubt as years go by the people forget which engineer did it, even if they ever knew. Or some politician puts his name on it. Or they credit it to some promoter who used other people's money ... but the engineer himself looks back at the unending stream of goodness which flows from his successes with satisfactions that few professionals may know. And the verdict of his fellow professionals is all the accolade he wants."

For more information on the career of Herbert Hoover see his biographical sketch at the Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa.

This site gives a useful summary overview of Chemical Engineering in the UK at the present time.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Graduate Career Prospects

These are becoming increasingly difficult for British HE (Higher Education) graduates as traditional university courses are 'dumbed down' and heavily augmented (swamped) by so-called 'Mickey Mouse' courses intended to have wide appeal with minimal academic demands, i.e. to pull in the punters.

As a retired Chemical Engineering lecturer of 26 years in post, I offer the following words of encouragement, with some caveats, to any and all secondary school students who have a studies preference for the basic sciences and are wondering where this preference should take them in HE.

Chemical Engineering is still a sound choice, as will be evident by the comments below.

But prospective undergraduates should check out how the HE institution they intend applying to caters for industrial training.

The one to which I belonged offered a year's placement in industry as part of the degree course. (I believe that it still does.)

This placement was usually undertaken between the 2nd and Final academic years of the course. It greatly benefitted many of our graduates when it came to job hunting by providing invaluable prior work experience.

For example, I analysed our first destination returns during the late 1990s.

Typically, 55% of graduates were employed in the chemical process industries, 25% had gone on to do higher degrees, including PhDs at more prestigious universities, 10% who were mideast sponsored students had returned as graduate engineers to their parent companies (they are still enrolling, so we must have done something right) and the remainder were unknown. I believe that these outcomes compare favourably with other Chem Eng departments in the country - they certainly did at the time.

Anecdotal evidence is always variable but one of our female graduates who came in via the HND route, requiring one A Level in one of the basic sciences, secured employment at BNFL, Sellafield on graduation and was then seconded to Westinghouse in the US.

Two of our lads who graduated at about the same time (late 1990s) went on to become plant managers for the two Terephthalic Acid plants on a local industrial site.

One of our 1st Class Honours 2006 graduates (from the last cohort I was involved with) was hired by a local leading-edge consultant Chem Eng design company, working on environmental projects* (making sure the industry stays 'clean and green').

*"Environmentalists measure and moan, engineers do something about it" - an environmental colleague of ours at Cranfield University.

It's easy to 'cherry pick' but I think that, on the whole, our graduates were successful in their chosen vocation.

On the downside, some of us banged away for years to get a three-way liaison going between industry, 6th Form/Year 12-13 staff and ourselves for mutual guidance and benefit.

Unfortunately, it never got off the ground because it would have to have been management-led at our institution and the leadership required never materialised*.

*With one notable exception. The member of management concerned was unfortunately moved on by 'the system' and unable therefore to progress the strategy agreed with Chem Eng staff. This particular individual's role was never satisfactorily sustained.

Though I still believe that colleagues in industry and such 6th Form/Year 12-13 staff contacts as we had would have been up for it, time and opportunity permitting, in addition to our Careers Officers, who gave unstinting support over the years.

However, for any prospective HE students who are contemplating a career in the process/utilities industries (as distinct from manufacturing, which has taken a savage battering in recent decades, e.g. Rover Longbridge), even if 100% certainty is not possible, good possibilities still exist, nevertheless, for graduate Chemical Engineers.