One of the questions I always ask people in engineering is how they got into the industry in the first place. I ask this to engineering graduates, to those that took an apprenticeship routeand to those that got into engineering late in life. This is really a professional curiosity on my part. Over the 10 years or so of asking this question I have received various responses as you would imagine, they range from:
‘my father was an engineer and he got me my first job’ to
‘it’s just what people did where I grew up’.
‘I was told by my career advisor that’s what I should do’
But one of the more common answers is
‘it seemed like a natural progression’.
You see, many of the engineers I speak to spent their youth taking their bike, lawnmower, toys, record player, apart and then putting it back together again. They just seemed to have a natural curiosity about how things worked, what went where, what that button does, what happens if I don’t put that washer back. They liked to ‘fiddle’ with things, and sometimes from a really young age. So, is this a natural born tendency or is it something that was learnt or instilled in them? The nature/nuture debate is not a new one and in this example may seem like a ‘so what’. However, I believe the answer to the question may provide an insight into how the engineering industry can compete with other, more seemingly modern, industries in plugging the notorious skills gap prevalent in the industry.
So, are engineers born are they made?