Food Engineering

Promoting the profession

February 1, 2007




I have a confession to make. When I was a teenager, I knew absolutely nothing about the engineering profession. At age 14, I remember my math teacher telling the class that her father was an engineer. Believe it or not, I actually thought her father drove a train. Fast forward a few years to college. Most of my new dorm mates were actually studying engineering and all of their fathers were engineering professionals.

Looking back, I am not so sure my high school era knowledge of the world is much different than current teenagers. Today, kids have access to a larger cache of information, but I bet not too many of them are thinking about their future careers, let alone one in engineering.

A recent survey by Loudhouse, a UK-based research firm, asked engineering students this question: what would encourage more people to opt to study engineering in the first place? The top suggestions were: higher employment rates after graduating, industry sponsorships, better promotion of engineering careers in school, and less theoretical and more practical course content.

Our industry faces many challenges, one of which is the demand for greater innovation from existing engineering staffs, as well as growing expectations from the engineering projects that are outsourced. Retaining engineering knowledge within manufacturing operations as well as laying the groundwork to foster more interest in engineering careers may be some of the toughest problems our industry will face in the next decade.

There is one difference younger generation college students will probably experience that I did not. Their fellow students will be able to say, “My mother was an engineer.” You see, back in college, I lived in a women’s dorm. My generation has made some progress promoting the profession, but the challenge for today’s food industry is to make the profession compelling enough to meet its expanding needs.