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James Dyson: We Should Pay Students To Study Engineering 321

Posted by samzenpus
from the change-your-major dept.
DavidGilbert99 writes "The inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner believes there is an engineering crisis in the UK and that 61,000 vacancies in the area will go unfilled in 2014. To address this Dyson believes says he wants the UK government to offer monetary incentives to students with an interest and aptitude in science — as well as changing the current visa system to make it easier for foreign students to remain in the country and get work once they have completed their education in the UK."
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James Dyson: We Should Pay Students To Study Engineering

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  • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Monday February 03, 2014 @10:38AM (#46140159) Homepage

    The phrase he seems to be looking for is "we need scholarships for engineering students".

    • No, Salaries (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Roger W Moore (538166) on Monday February 03, 2014 @10:50AM (#46140267) Journal
      Perhaps a better solution would be for companies to stop paying all the money to the managers and pay more of it to the people who actually make the company work. That way more people will want to get science and engineering because they lead to a valued and well paid job. Why would someone motivated by money take a few thousand pounds from the government now when they can get hundreds of thousands of pounds more over their career doing a far less challenging degree and setting themselves up to become a manager?
      • Re:No, Salaries (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dontbemad (2683011) on Monday February 03, 2014 @11:07AM (#46140423)
        I don't know how it is in the UK, but as a STEM graduate (and a software engineer), I can't really understand what you're implying about science and engineering not already being well paid jobs. Sure, management generally makes higher than the average engineer, but the average engineer has a pretty high salary as well.
        • Re:No, Salaries (Score:5, Interesting)

          by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Monday February 03, 2014 @12:01PM (#46141001) Journal

          But there are many science and engineering jobs with poor pay. Pay for postdocs is low, and shamefully low for grad students taking on teaching fellowships. Internships are another. New or near grads who may already be burdened with massive student loan debt are sold a bill of goods, told that part of their pay is the "valuable" experience they gain, and this justifies paying them a pittance, or even nothing at all-- the infamous unpaid internship.

          And if that isn't enough, what about employers who cheat their regular employees, not just the poor interns? One of the biggest problems with joining some small edgy startup, being mesmerized with the potential, suckered into dreams of great success, wealth, and fame, is that the odds of success are much poorer than they want to believe or admit. The finance folks tend to keep the engineers in the dark about the company's finances, until they can't make payroll. They borrow their engineer's time, knowing full well that if sales continue at the same level this month as in the previous 6 plus months, they will not be able to pay, but wishfully hoping that this month will be different. So the poor engineer wasn't told, and doesn't find out until they've taken a month of work that they can't pay for. Indeed management tends to view engineers as chumps too dumb and narrow to see the larger picture, and also as arrogant about their intelligence, so why not take them to the cleaners and get a little kick out of putting one over on those smarty pants? Helps soothe the sting of failure to screw over a bunch of arrogant engineers they've been jealous of since grade school math class. Then they usually have the cheek to say that the situation will surely improve shortly, the corner will be turned any day now, and ask that the engineers now volunteer further time and effort for free, to be paid back later only if the company succeeds of course. Show your commitment and passion, yeah!

          The 1099 can be another way to cheat the engineer. The engineer is once again suckered with visions of glorious independence and freedom while the "contractee" (*cough* employer *cough*) gets out of all kinds of pesky labor regulations and overhead pay like contributing to unemployment and retirement funds.

          There are some head hunting agencies that are positively predatory. One that I recall insisted that job seekers sign a contract that stated that the employer will pay the agency 1/3 of the new employee's first year of pay, and that if the employer fails to pay this money, then the employee is on the hook for it! I had visions of this being turned into a little scam. Get hired by an employer in cahoots with the agency and who never intended to keep you but instead plans to come up with an excuse to fire you in 91 days. Earn 3 months of pay, owe 4 months of pay. Profit!

          And where is the government while employees are being fleeced? In the employers' corner, having been bought off with generous campaign donations. Might even send the police in to do some union busting.

          • There are some head hunting agencies that are positively predatory. One that I recall insisted that job seekers sign a contract that stated that the employer will pay the agency 1/3 of the new employee's first year of pay, and that if the employer fails to pay this money, then the employee is on the hook for it! I had visions of this being turned into a little scam. Get hired by an employer in cahoots with the agency and who never intended to keep you but instead plans to come up with an excuse to fire you in 91 days. Earn 3 months of pay, owe 4 months of pay. Profit!

            Interestingly, that is according to Apple's reports one of the things they are quite successfully fighting in China, with the results that employees have been paid back several million dollars in agency fees. Maybe they should do that in the USA as well?

          • Re:No, Salaries (Score:4, Insightful)

            by dj245 (732906) on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:01PM (#46141639) Homepage

            But there are many science and engineering jobs with poor pay. Pay for postdocs is low, and shamefully low for grad students taking on teaching fellowships. Internships are another. New or near grads who may already be burdened with massive student loan debt are sold a bill of goods, told that part of their pay is the "valuable" experience they gain, and this justifies paying them a pittance, or even nothing at all-- the infamous unpaid internship.

            Reflects the demand. The market for doctorates or even masters degrees in engineering just isn't that high. Many companies value a master's degree in engineering as having 0 added value. On the other side, Academia is all about the grant money, and there is a finite amount of that. If those skills were in high demand, the payback on the degree would be good. It isn't, and they aren't.

          • by jythie (914043)
            Thing is, even when it comes to postdocs and grad students, such people in STEM still do a lot better then their counterparts in other fields.

            While STEM people might complain that their pay is low compared to what they wish it was, on the whole they are doing a lot better then most professions yet seem to have the idea they would be doing better if not for someone taking away their rightful earning (which is probably why you see such a large contingent of libertarianism in STEM, the belief that they are su
          • Re:No, Salaries (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday February 03, 2014 @03:37PM (#46143459)

            But there are many science and engineering jobs with poor pay. Pay for postdocs is low, and shamefully low for grad students taking on teaching fellowships. Internships are another.

            None of those are STEM jobs, they are designed to be short-term support for people who are still in the educational system. This is the same kind of changed thinking that has turned the minimum-wage entry-level cashier job at Mickey-D's into what people consider a long-term family-supporting job.

            But anecdotal evidence is the best kind, so I'll just add that when I was in graduate school the stipend was sufficient to live a reasonable life. Not plush, not with a new car every year and a three bedroom house, but sufficient to meet my needs and most of my wants.

            And if that isn't enough, what about employers who cheat their regular employees,

            Fraud and breach of contract are still fraud and breach of contract. Should there be a special class for those laws called "STEM crimes" to go along with the "hate crimes" classification that ups the penalties for other already-illegal things?

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          I don't believe that's true in the UK; I've seen many engineers complain about how poorly they're paid. Back in the Industrial Revolution, engineers were super-stars of their time, for building the hardware that made the country rich, but today most Britons probably think they fix washing machines.

          Clearly the country doesnt need more STEM graduates, or they'd be paid better. Then no-one would have to pay them to study the subject, because they'd know it would provide them a good income for life.

          • Re:No, Salaries (Score:4, Insightful)

            by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@worfMOSCOW.net minus city> on Monday February 03, 2014 @12:53PM (#46141527)

            Clearly the country doesnt need more STEM graduates, or they'd be paid better. Then no-one would have to pay them to study the subject, because they'd know it would provide them a good income for life.

            The real problem is there is no skills shortage. The shortage is artificial - the jobs are written such as to take advantage of foreign workers and not hire many of the plentiful in-country ones.

            H1Bs, "Temporary" Foreign Workers, etc., there's nothing wrong with them - they're good for the country. However, it's when business managers figure they can use it to pay artificially low wages that's the real problem. And many companies have figured out the system to not hire the recent graduate but to hire a foreign worker instead .

            That, coupled with the unwillingness to invest in employees lead to the current situation.

            Canada had, until last year allowed TFWs to work at up to 15% below market rate. When it was revealed that many companies were abusing this, it was the first provision to go - market rate or bust. Of course, they are all bitching and moaning about how they can't find workers and what not.

            In fact, I would think that if you want to hire abroad, if they're so good at their job that you must have them, go ahead. Feel free to pay 15% above market plus all expenses (housing, food, etc). There are great foreign workers out there, and hiring for external expertise is a great thing to do. And if the job is so specialized that you cannot find anyone local, well, obviously you have to pay up for it anyways.

            • by mhajicek (1582795)
              Indeed. Employers can't find enough qualified workers willing to work for what the employers would like to pay.
      • Company: That's a great idea that will help to ensure the long-term health of the industry! ...You first.

        • by jythie (914043)
          And that is why, with the introduction of game theory, classic economic theories regarding adjustment of supply and demand have fallen out of favor. While there are still some holdouts that cling to that pre 1950s view, they are more likely to be bloggers or people selling books/tv appearances then actual economists.
      • Re:No, Salaries (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JoeMerchant (803320) on Monday February 03, 2014 @11:28AM (#46140677) Homepage

        I like to believe that effective management does contribute value to an organization, perhaps even in proportion to what higher level managers are paid.

        The problems with this are manifold: starting with too many Chiefs and not enough Indians - the unwillingness of higher management to keep lower performing managers at lower levels / pay-grades means you get a bunch of people "up there" who really don't belong, but have managed to not get fired for long enough that they are raised up just based on longevity, or maybe a few rare good performance quarters. Not that there's not value in longevity, loyalty, and deep knowledge of an organization that comes from years of experience, just that longevity by itself isn't valuable.

        Another problem is simple, short time horizon metrics that reward "making it happen NOW" with no regard for long term damage. Constantly moving goal posts that erase long term mistakes from the incentive structure - and higher level management that just doesn't care about the 5 or 10 year horizon.

        Then you've got the ever expanding golden hiring carrots. In order to get talent in the door, inflated positions are offered, sometimes beyond the value of the position to the company, just to win a valuable player away from the competition. This, of course, reaches epically absurd proportions at the CEO level, but I found myself "in line" for a promotion from top-of-the-technical-ladder to a management spot that was open and advertised, but really just a placeholder for someone the company wanted to snag away from a competitor. In theory, there was no top-of-the-technical ladder, but in practice, at that company of 1000 employees, there were roughly 6 engineers at my level, one at the next level up (who was given that spot as a hiring incentive), and no promotions at or above that level in the company history - contrast this with dozens upon dozens of management track promotions, that, regardless of title, were making 10-20% higher base salary and 30% bonuses instead of 10% - just at the next level up, and the bonuses continued to climb to 100% of salary and beyond for the higher levels - which again outnumbered the top-of-the-technical-ladder people by a significant multiple. Except in ethically dubious fields (automated securities trading, anyone?) nobody seems to feel the need to offer large compensation incentives for technical work, but it's out there for management.

        And, thus, even an incompetent manager bringing home $170K/year can be passed off as "Well, at least we're not paying him $300K like that last jerk." but an engineer who makes $125K is "oh my god, we can get 2, maybe 3 good kids from the University for that money."

        • Also, the Peter Principle [wikipedia.org]. Basically it says that as long you prove yourself competent in your current position, you will have a shot at promotion -- so therefore a lot of people get promoted at least once too often, and wind up out of their depth.

        • by mhajicek (1582795)
          I have seen plenty of managers who actually have negative value to the company. The technical workers eventually find workarounds to get things done in spite of the manager, but he's still reducing efficiency.
    • Roughly 1983 through 1991 Florida was doing exactly this, providing scholarships to state residents to attend private universities in the state - and they were picking up the cost difference between private and state schools, for high level STEM courses.

      Like any good idea, it eventually got shouted down by the political process, but it worked for / on me, I stayed in-state, got my degree, and now I work here in STEM jobs.

    • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Monday February 03, 2014 @11:25AM (#46140643)

      we need scholarships for engineering students

      No. The solution is to make education affordable enough so scholarships are pointless. An educated populace brings many good things into balance.

      • by Mitsoid (837831) on Monday February 03, 2014 @11:57AM (#46140957)

        along the same lines..

        We need to stop this education-for-profit business model that is encouraging schools to over-populate classrooms by providing very small scholarships and encouraging loans. Pointless required classes are another great thing to trash (I'm not talking Gen Ed, I'm talking 2-3 classes that could be merged into 1).

        When I went to school for IT, I had 3 classes that discussed (in roughly the same detail) the *theory* and *standards* of how various communication mediums worked. Pointless. Make 1 of them a hands-on class at least!

      • by mhajicek (1582795)
        Indeed. History shows that tuition rises to match the money available.
    • Or, indeed, government grants. You know, like they had last century. When British universities were among the most respected in the world.
    • The phrase he seems to be looking for is "we need scholarships for engineering students".

      Absolutely not. Scholarships pay schools, not students. We need to make it so that students who are studying needed professions end up with something in their pockets besides massive debt.

      "Scholarships" are just redistributive, upwards. They make sure school administrations are wealthy and corporations have a guaranteed workforce that's so needy they'll work cheap.

      Higher education has become another method of exploit

      • Absolutely not. Scholarships pay schools, not students

        That's not true. Scholarships (in the UK, at least) usually come with a maintenance grant and so, as well as covering the cost of tuition, they will provide the student with money to cover their cost of living.

      • The phrase he seems to be looking for is "we need scholarships for engineering students".

        Absolutely not. Scholarships pay schools, not students.

        Many scholarships pay living expenses.

        We need to make it so that students who are studying needed professions end up with something in their pockets besides massive debt.

        Huh? They end up with massive debt because of loans to pay tuition, which is expensive. If students had scholarships, they wouldn't need to take out loans to pay tuiton, and wouldn't end up in massive debt.

        • by Immerman (2627577)

          Well said.

          Now if they wanted to abolish loans, that might make more sense. The real achievers who are likely to truly benefit from higher education will mostly qualify for scholarships, and the ones who would just get a piece of paper and a mountain of debt will be poorer by a piece of paper, and richer by a mountain.

          Of course we also need to change the business culture that's started requiring degrees for ditch diggers and fry cooks - yes the degree shows that they can self-manage to some degree, but the

    • by hodet (620484)

      ..and nothing prevents his company from offering scholarships. Governments are stretched pretty thin and it would be nice if private industry stepped up here, as they will be the ones to really benefit from qualified engineers. Perhaps government could match their investments and make it a partnership at least. What he is asking for is to socialize the costs so he can privatize the expected profits. These always end up with the threat of leaving, like they wouldn't do that anyway if it was beneficial

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      I'm not sure if things have changed in the past 10 years, but when I was at university, it was possible to go to school for engineering, and walk out with no student loans. Between scholarships and co-op placements, you could basically get your entire degree without going into debt. Of course, to get the scholarships, you had to get some pretty high marks, but I only think that's fair. You don't want to be paying for the education of engineers who are just barely scraping by.
  • As an engineer, I think this is a bad idea. Cause you know, they tirrrkk errrr JERRRBBSS!!
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Well, you're right that it would be bad for you personally: Supply and demand means that scarcity of qualified engineers raises the price (a.k.a. your income) of engineering services, whereas a surplus of qualified engineers lowers the price.

      That doesn't mean that all immigrants are bad for you: Immigrants engaged in any other profession increase economic activity overall, which increases demand for all sorts of things, which may well increase demand for engineers.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday February 03, 2014 @10:41AM (#46140193)

    Paying students is a nice idea, but won't change a thing.

    Face it, the only jobs that pay money are jobs that deal with money. Being productive is simply not something you get paid for, pushing money about is where the money is.

    • by JWW (79176) on Monday February 03, 2014 @11:01AM (#46140355)

      This is why we're failing. Money as a concept is designed to be an engine that runs the economy.

      But to run that economy we need bankers and traders that help us run the mechanisms that promote business and commerce. These people, who are supposed to be making the system work for all of us and taking a profit on the providing of their services, have used their proximity to the money to, well, steal and skim money off the system to make themselves rich. They make themselves rich beyond reason. The system is no longer about the economy at large and about promoting business, its about banking and about the market.

      The market starts prompting companies to do make bad and destructive decisions in order to make the banks and markets more money. Eventually they create perverse "instruments" for making money. When I first heard credit default swaps being defined, I couldn't believe that the people who created them weren't in jail for perpetrating fraud, it was so fucking blatant.

      So our economic system will fall apart and burn to the ground because it no longer serves the purpose it was created for, it is corrupted beyond repair.

    • by tibit (1762298) on Monday February 03, 2014 @11:04AM (#46140389)

      There is some truth to this, but mind what "dealing with money" may mean. Retailing is all it takes, you don't need to be a financier. Say, for example, the duty free shoppers [dfsgroup.com] empire (founded mostly by Chuck Feeney and Robert Warren Miller). In the time before it sold to LVMH in 1997, they seemed able to extract 20 billion USD out of mostly asian customers, with essentially zero investment. It was all high-overhead retailing, nothing less, nothing more. They were very productive in that enterprise.

      Just think of this: there were years when Feeney and Miller were extracting over $100 million USD yearly in dividends out of that enterprise. To give you another idea of the scale involved: at one point they were paying the Hawaii airport authority $1 million every 3 days for the concession to operate at the airport. DFS was worth way more than many of the large financial operators you might have heard about, like Bear Stearns or Lehman Brothers. Heck, Miller and Feeney were personally worth IIRC more than Stearns and Lehman and a couple other large investment banks combined, for crying out loud.

      Of course Chuck Feeney gave all his money to a charitable foundation he created, and is on his way to be the biggest philanthropist of all time. I think the joke is that he was basically bankrolling Irish higher education for a while.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PRMan (959735)

      On 60 Minutes this weekend they had a story about a 15-year-old kid who created an early test for pancreatic cancer. He and his brother played "science lab" in the basement. Their parents stayed out of it and said, "Don't blow up the house" and they got several calls from the FBI about their "purchase history", but the parents ignored it and let them play science anyway.

      Nobody's going to go into science if they get a call from the FBI every time they try.

    • by dargaud (518470)
      Yeah, in France you actually get paid once you get in the very best engineering schools, and the next best ones are basically free, all expenses paid. But the side effect is that a lots of students with NO interest in science and/or engineering get into them, and then do completely unrelated things once they get out, usually some well paid managers. So in the end, if you like science but aren't too good, you can't get into the schools, and there still aren't enough engineers in the end.
      • Interesting. Our schools have a similar system where you can get in for free (or practically free, we're talking a few 100 bucks a year). Of course, the lecture halls are packed during the first semesters. But the tests are SO insanely hard that you can only get through if you're willing to go that extra mile, and then some, to get grades that let you pass.

        The net effect is a dropout rate that is between 90 and 98% in most fields, but those that DO get a degree are very much sought after. It's easy to get i

      • You know, having a few more managers with a solid background in science is probably not that bad a problem to suffer from. If you could also have a side effect of getting more people with science degrees into politics, then that would be even better...
    • Somebody is just bitter.

      Sure, there's a bunch of money sucking parasites in Wall Street, and then another bunch of them in Washington DC, but then, to claim that they are the "only" jobs that pay well, is bullshit. The richest people in the world aren't the ones that merely push money about (except maybe Buffett). If you're talking about being an employee at a large corporation kind of "job", how about 3 million dollars [businessinsider.com] at Google? Not sure how productive he was, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't in the business

      • So you found an engineer who makes a lot of money. Congratulations. And even though I'd probably have it easier finding some money pushers that make far more than that (I guess opening up the Forbes 500 should do), that's not even the point.

        I'm not talking about the few "gurus" on top of either totem pole. They're one in a million and I doubt anyone here will get to their level any time soon.

        What hurts and yes, that also makes me bitter, is that slacking dimwits get paid more than hard working people. And t

  • by bluegutang (2814641) on Monday February 03, 2014 @10:41AM (#46140197)

    ...so we need to fund education for students who won't hit the job market until several years later?

    Give me a break.

    And trust the free market for once. If there's a worker shortage, then wages will rise until demand and supply equalize and there is no more shortage.

    All the whining about a shortage of engineers is simply a trick by employers to increase supply and decrease the wages they have to pay.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417)

      Free what? C'mon, free market is dead.

      There is by no means any shortage of people pushing money about, yet salaries are hitting record heights every year.

      • Friend of mine took her fresh BS degree to work as an Assistant manager at a bank. The pay was o.k. - nothing great, but the next level up, the branch manager - who rolled in around 10, then sat and read the paper most days, but did handle the occasional off the hook customer when they happened, they made double what the Assistants made, the Assistants were the ones responsible for making sure that the daily cash count checked out, directly managing the tellers, opening and closing the branch, etc The bra

        • Problem is, engineering won't get you there even with family ties. But then again, the family will make sure that you don't make the mistake of going into engineering in the first place.

    • And trust the free market for once. If there's a worker shortage, then wages will rise until demand and supply equalize and there is no more shortage.

      Ah...I think I now see his motivation.

      You have to admit, it's clever.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      And trust the free market for once.

      Well, a free market involves freedom of movement of three elements: capital, goods, and labor. Here you only have 2 out of 3. The result is an imbalance, and since people don't like letting the labor move around they are trying to correct the imbalance using other incentives.

    • Since only EU citizens can apply for these jobs and there is a EU shortage of said professions. A lot of work was shipped out to "cheap labour" countries but is now coming back because team work and quality control have proven to be too cumbersome to warrant the lower price. The people capable of doing these jobs don't exist in the EU, since these jobs often require experience with new technologies and if there was no work in it, nobody learned or got experience with the new stuff. As far as the free market

    • by PRMan (959735)
      No. They don't. The wage for software engineers in Orange County, CA has barely gone up in the last 5 years, despite there being 5 openings at every company.
    • by Wansu (846)

      And trust the free market for once. If there's a worker shortage, then wages will rise until demand and supply equalize and there is no more shortage.

      The powers that be don't trust the invisible hand of the free market. In this case, they want to tamper with it by providing incentives. In the US, they flood the labor market with H1Bs and ship whatever jobs they can to low wage countries. They are all for the free market so long as it works in their favor. When it doesn't they whine for bailouts of some sor

    • by ngibbins (88512) on Monday February 03, 2014 @11:50AM (#46140895)
      Dyson's talking about the UK, where over the last decade and a half we've moved from a higher education system funded from general taxation, to one in which teaching is funded almost entirely through tuition fees. A student studying for a four-year undergraduate masters (typical for engineering subjects in the UK) now faces a debt of £36,000 (US$60,000) for their tuition alone; living expenses (rent, food) will typically add upwards of £20,000 to the overal cost. By contrast, when I graduated with BSc Computer Science in 1994, I did so without debt; my tuition and living expenses were paid for by my local education authority, as was then the norm. As a result, we're seeing a decline in admissions across science engineering as a whole, and a very pronounced shift from four year MEng degrees to three year BSc/BEng. The decline varies from discipline to discipline; computer science so far seems to have got off quite lightly, but others have been hit much harder (materials science, for example). It's very touching that you believe that the invisible hand is going to make everything better, but the reality is that any correction in engineering salaries is likely to take decades (if not longer), and the shortage of STEM graduates is rather more immediate. Dyson's arguments are sensible, and effectively take us back to the situation of the early 90s: tuition fees would be paid by the state. He also makes reference to the decline of the post-study work permit system that used to exist in the UK; it used to be the case that overseas students at UK universities would get a two year work permit. This was a boon for UK engineering employers - I've employed several such graduates on my projects. The decisions made by the current UK government (and to a lesser extent to the previous Labour government, for they introduced tuition fees, albeit at a lower level) have been harmful to both UK higher education and to UK science and engineering. (an explanatory note to the above: I'm a lecturer (US professor) at a research-led UK university, and the coordinator for an undergraduate computer science degree programme - I know what I'm talking about)
      • It's very touching that you believe that the invisible hand is going to make everything better, but the reality is that any correction in engineering salaries is likely to take decades (if not longer), and the shortage of STEM graduates is rather more immediate.

        Why on earth would a salary correction take decades? If hiring an engineer will allow the company to release a (let's say) $1 million product, and there is a shortage of engineers willing to work for $50k, then it's worth it for the company to raise its offer to $60k or $70k, or even $200k. At some salary point, there will be qualified engineers willing to bite. Why should a company wait decades before making such an offer? And once they do, how could their competitors hold on to their employees without mak

    • by Altus (1034)

      wages rising is exactly what corporations would like to avoid. Far better for them to get someone else to foot the bill and keep labor cheep

  • nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <{onyxruby} {at} {comcast.net}> on Monday February 03, 2014 @10:48AM (#46140249)

    We don't need to pay students to study engineering. We have plenty of engineers. We need to stop paying companies (through tax breaks) to out source engineering. There is no STEM shortage, and this myth needs to mercilessly shot down every time a company executive propagates it.

    • If you're talking about the US, I agree. But the article is about the UK, and as an American I don't really know the situation. I'd love to hear from some Britons.

    • I'll believe there's a STEM shortage when top engineers are receiving higher than CEO level pay in significant organizations around the country.

      Is there also a CEO shortage?

  • Free education (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jones_supa (887896) on Monday February 03, 2014 @10:52AM (#46140281)
    Even the so called "free education" is a bit dubious in Finland. In addition to a steady rate of achieving study credits (fair enough) which warrant your student benefit, the new system limits receiving the benefit to 4 years max. If you haven't graduated in that period, it's GTFO unless you have a side job. You cannot even raise more student loan as it is government-backed and tied to the student benefit. Now when you are forced to drop out of school in this situation, you suddenly get luxurious social welfare support which is more than enough money for good living. Studying should be the more attractive deal, not drinking booze at home.
    • by Megol (3135005)
      Now this sounds very much as bullshit so I took some time to try to find any facts in the area:

      Let's say one live in an apartment that costs €250/month then one can get ~€600 benefit + loan + €200 for rent (80% of €250): €800

      So how much is the social welfare? Well from what I can find it's €480 but I can't find any explicit mention of extra support for housing/rent costs, I'll assume that one can get it at the same rate as above: €200 which gives a sum of: €680

      S

  • by csumpi (2258986) on Monday February 03, 2014 @10:59AM (#46140339)
    I thought his strong suit was in marketing. Selling those crappy looking vacuums and fans for astronomical prices, that at best perform at the level of products 1/4 of their price tag.
  • Whatever happened to spending the money on educating one's own citizenry? I'm all for spreading the love around, but shouldn't the taxpayers get some at-home problems solved for their dollars, pounds, what have you?

  • by nimbius (983462) on Monday February 03, 2014 @11:13AM (#46140495) Homepage
    these are just the ramblings of an old man, so feel free to skip em but I remember Studying, the academic pursuit of higher education that is, was originally predicated on the ostensible monetary success ones career may bring. Doctors and Engineers were paid much more handsomely for their services than artists and english majors. in return they enjoyed much more demanding work some would argue.

    with the encroachment of privatized education this is no longer the case. the monetary shackles of student loans are interminable and ensure that no matter how successful an engineer may be, they are ultimately relegated for a substantial portion of their adult lives to subsistence living. Engineers, like english and philosophy majors, dont just "get a job" after college anymore. In fact many students watching newly minted engineers join the workforce as hamburger cooks and third shift walmart drones would just as soon skip the college experience entirely.

    and what about the successful engineers? shops when faced with pressure to make wages more competitive have instead lobbied for more cheap H-1B visas and interns. Code is written in the Phillipines, and hardware assembled in Taiwan. Greybeards like myself sit in cubicles and 'kindly do the needful' to turn a rather mocking phrase while the rank and file, what we hire for simple CAD or EE work, is mandated to start with 5 years experience and an advanced degree. It guarantees we never hire anything that comes out of the alma mater.
  • by fantomas (94850) on Monday February 03, 2014 @11:13AM (#46140499)

    Not sure why the article describes this a "controversial proposal". In the 1980s in the UK many (all?) undergraduates got grants (scholarships from the state for living expenses) as well as all their course fees paid.

    Perhaps it's an indication of how politics have changed that the proposal to reinstate something the people assumed was a normal expenditure by the government of the day, both left and right wing, for several decades (state support of people undertaking university studies) is now considered "controversial".

    Ah happy memories of the grant cheque coming in, bank managers trying to appear down with the kids to get them to sign up for their first bank account with that large cheque and more to follow, financial management learnt by many who hadn't previously had anything more than their weekly income from a paper round striding down the streets of a big new city with three months of bed and board advance payments burning a hole in their pockets...

  • by Wowsers (1151731) on Monday February 03, 2014 @11:18AM (#46140551) Journal

    The UK is a basket case, it treats the arts in higher esteem than the sciences and engineering (unlike countries like Germany). The general public in the UK don't like people who takes sciences (how popular are science nerds/geeks compared to jocks in school?) Money is thrown at the arts like it's going out of fashion, the scienes however always have funding problems.

    When I studied at university, the arts students were the ones who had lots of time to prop up the student bars, and could get any books they wanted very cheaply (say £5), whereas for sciences, it was normal to spend £50+ for just one book.

    In the UK, the amount of effort you put into a science degree and pay you get, is inversely proportional to the effort and pay the arts students get (unless you're really really good in your chosen science subject)

    So of course, the sciences should have their courses paid for compared to the arts. But I would add to that, to prevent people jumping onto a science course because it's free, they MUST have studied science courses and have good grades in them from lower schools before getting to university. This should prevent students from moving courses.

    • The UK is a basket case, it treats the arts in higher esteem than the sciences and engineering (unlike countries like Germany). The general public in the UK don't like people who takes sciences (how popular are science nerds/geeks compared to jocks in school?)

      And yet, the UK still has two of the 10 most highly regarded universities in the world - the only country other than the US to break the top 10. Germany's first entry is at #50.
      http://www.shanghairanking.com... [shanghairanking.com] (To be fair, I avoided rankings that seemed to be published by UK-connected institutions)

      I'm sure the UK's popular culture is not pro-science, but isn't that true everywhere? And does that even matter when a disproportionate amount of R&D is being produced?

  • At a net worth of 4.4 billion dollars [forbes.com] he should provide some scholarships himself.
  • I don't know if Dyson's real agenda is to get the UK to import more cheap foreign labor, but even if it is, his accompanying proposal is better than what we get in the US. He's suggesting scholarships, while FWD.US and it's associated propaganda organizations are proposing an hour of code in public school.

  • by hughbar (579555) on Monday February 03, 2014 @11:51AM (#46140903) Homepage
    We used in the 1960s/1970s to give grants to study at university rather than the USA-style debt/indenture system we have now. At that stage, we had fewer universities, since we hadn't converted our polytechnics, many of which were rubbish, into 'universities'. Also, most of the degree were in actual subjects, science, maths, engineering and english, history, geography, for example.

    Now we have media studies, we had kite flying for a while at Thames Valley. In short, the worst of all possible worlds, basically by 'financialising' the system and expanding it in a very thoughtless way. The debt and high fee make it difficult for working class kids too, in my time they would have had a full grant, though they would have probably had to work a little in vacation time. I did.

    So I agree somewhat with Dyson. He's a little younger than me and probably remembers the older system.
  • It seems to me that salaries should mostly be based on how much work was required and how much skill was demonstrated in gaining whatever accreditation a person has. It sort of is, doctors and lawyers work a long time to get their degrees and usually have to demonstrate fairly high skill in the process.

    Gaining an engineering degree requires a lot of work and also a lot of demonstration of what was learned through testing (especially for a PE).

    Somehow, though, it doesn't work this way, and even when it doe

  • If enough Engineers are already studying regardless of this proposed incentive, then it is not necessary. It'd be nice to give free money to all kinds of students, but to pick and choose when they don't need it to sustain employment to begin with is the wrong approach.
  • by korbulon (2792438) on Monday February 03, 2014 @12:32PM (#46141305)

    And I said nothing because I had tiled floors.

    Then he came for the blades on the fans -- and I said nothing because I have centralized air conditioning.

    Then he came for the hand towels in public bathrooms -- and I said nothing because I never wash my hands.

    Them he came for my jobs with his relaxed visa requirements for foreign nationals --- and DEY TUK ER JURBS!

  • by Theovon (109752) on Monday February 03, 2014 @12:59PM (#46141625)

    I keep hearing two contradictory theories:

    (1) There aren’t enough STEM graduates for the jobs available. Crisis for the tech industry!
    (2) There are too few job openings for the massive numbers of STEM graduates. Crisis for unemployment!

    Are these things really contradictory? Or are both true? For both of them to be true, then what we really have is an education crisis, where we’re putting too many losers on the job market. Businesses get lots of applicants, but most of them are fundamentally unhirable, because they’re morons. So although the number of applicants may well exceed the number of openings, only a small fraction are worth hiring.

    There seems to be plenty of hiring for low-pay code monkey and short-term contract jobs, and those seem to dominate the tech industry. So any engineering student who can think his or her way out of a paper bag complains they can’t find work because the jobs that are available are utter shit. So perhaps on that basis, we can rewrite the two hypotheses above:

    (1) There aren’t enough REALLY GOOD STEM graduates. In fact, businesses are forced to assume (on the weight of massive statistics) that ALL of them are idiots.
    (2) There aren’t enough good-paying tech jobs, because most of the jobs are parceled out to code monkeys by businesses structured around that kind of employee.

  • by prefec2 (875483) on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:16PM (#46141831)

    It will not work. In Germany, university access is free and you can even get some state money to finance your studies. While this is generally a good idea (and bad implemented in Germany), they have no positive effect on the number of engineering students. Its very simple: You do not study engineering if you do not want be an engineer. Most people are not interested in engineering. If you want to change the number of students, change their interest. Money is not a good motivator for such a university topic.

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:19PM (#46141877)

    In Europe, many engineers are paid not all that differently from other professions that are much less demanding and specialized. If they make higher salaries, much of that difference is eaten up by progressive taxation. Socially, many European intellectuals look down their noses at applied disciplines and pride themselves in their inability to comprehend math, physics, and engineering. What motivation do you think people have to acquire highly specialized skills and take on high responsibility if society tells them that their skills and responsibilities aren't valued, either financially or intellectually?

    And similar mechanisms are taking hold in the US. Progressives in Silicon Valley have been protesting well-paid software engineers and become downright hostile to technology, Democrats are constantly calling for increasingly higher tax burdens on high income earners, etc. All of those efforts target and discourage successful engineers, who are usually in the top income quintile (and really good ones are 1%-ers, not really a stretch given that their skills easily exceed those of 99% of all Americans).

    You want more skilled engineers? Start valuing their contributions, and stop trying to forcibly reduce income inequality.

  • ...how about we start asking employers to train their own damned employees for a while? Maybe even invest a little money into acquiring the skills they require? This seemed to work in the past, back before companies decided it was now the governments job to provide fodder for their factories.

The two most common things in the Universe are hydrogen and stupidity. -- Harlan Ellison

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