Reader op-ed: Considering a future in US engineering?

By Marc Ronell


Good engineering curriculum is academically difficult. Is the degree worth the struggle or its cost? Not to the US government in my opinion.

At the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), although positions are listed as PhDs and/or a Professional Engineering License preferred, when matching candidates apply, job postings are canceled and then re-posted with qualifications tailored to the hiring manager’s pre-selected candidate. This person need not have any academic training in the areas that they will command.

As a regulator, that individual must defer to industry. Public safety is an afterthought. Those hired often have family members who work for the agency.

My last boss hired white Christian men. An Asian MIT PhD experienced identical problems in his unsuccessful job bid approximately 8 years ago. The position he applied for picked a much less qualified candidate. When he pressed an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint, the agency claimed he was interviewed for the position which was not true. During his hearing, the position interview panel falsely claimed they reviewed his resume. Still, the MIT PhD lost his EEO complaint.

Even if he had won, EEO remedies are very limited. Cases last years, with most litigants unable to afford counsel. The government has a stable of tax funded lawyers to hobble victims. When victims win, the government can withhold paying legal damages for years, usually having to be re-sued to recover settlements. The EEO process is designed to protect management malfeasance and hide patterns of criminal activity. Lacking outside oversight, the FAA has a pervasive systemic problem with illegal hiring practices which are impacting the agency’s ability to regulate.

Well-educated engineers see careers stalled or ended by the agency.

Graduates, if considering an engineering career, understand minorities are at best only to fulfill token requirements.

The opinions expressed  in this editorial are the views of the author.

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