What does the word engineering mean and what does an engineer do?

If you ask most youngsters these days, they will almost certainly paint the picture of a brown collar worker with dirty hands and overalls. The same goes for many adults too. Therein lies the problem for most engineering company managers who find it increasingly frustrating when it comes to recruitment.

As PRV Engineering managing director Simon Jones said recently; “The problem is this. Kids don’t do metalwork and woodwork in school because of health and safety issues. As a result, they not only don’t know anything about our industry, but they don’t have any desire to pursue a career in engineering. That is why we find it so difficult when it comes to recruitment.”

So, here goes. What is engineering? What exactly does an engineer do? How is he or she different from a scientist? What is their precise role in our world?

A quick glance at Wikipedia’s explanation will give you an idea. Engineering is the discipline, art and profession of acquiring and applying technical, scientific and mathematical knowledge to design and implement materials, structures, machines, devices, systems, and processes that safely realise a desired objective or invention.

Succinct and to the point. But as many engineers will tell you, the industry is more, much more than that.

The field of engineering has become so diverse in recent years that a definition is actually, not that easy to come by. Yes, engineers still build skyscrapers, design machinery and oversee public works, but that’s only the beginning. They also address society’s needs and problems on a number of other scales with a unique blend of technology and science.

At the atomic level, materials engineers are developing data storage techniques focusing on the spin of electrons in atoms.

At the molecular level, chemical and bioengineers are working on drug delivery systems that work inside cells.

At the macro level, environmental engineers are quantifying the particle flow of
pollutants through soil to better understand how to clean up abandoned industrial sites, oil-spills, and other biohazards.

At the galactic level, astronautical engineers are designing spacecraft for other-world exploration.

For those who feel that it’s an industry to be left alone, consider this. The field of engineering offers more career options than any other discipline.

So, why not let us know what you think and tell us of your experience within the industry? And please, let us know your thoughts on how best to encourage youngsters to enter the world of engineering.

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