[Campus Commentary]Engineers are employable, but at a cost

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[Campus Commentary]Engineers are employable, but at a cost

It’s a chilly reality: Employment for college graduates is extremely difficult these days. Senior year in college becomes a time for cramming to get a decent job ― raising GPAs, getting high Toeic scores and earning licenses or extra certificates. Students go through internships, study for examinations and prepare for presentations and interviews. This could go on the whole year, possibly longer. Unfortunately, too many young people out of college are without a secure job for several years. This explains why some consider employed people “lucky” if they get decent jobs less than a year after college.
In contrast, most engineering majors find employment even before they graduate. Research shows that most engineering students find jobs during their last semester in school. Students in other departments may complain over this, but they don’t know there’s a lot of hardship and pressure behind this “advantage.”
The reality is that many companies and factories in Korea lack engineering professionals. Companies lack so much engineering manpower that they search for personnel among undergraduates. For this reason, engineering students with relatively low grades in school may have better chances of getting into certain firms than students from humanities or literature departments who might have higher grades.
Then what is the pressure that non-engineering majors do not know about?
New engineering graduates who land jobs are usually assigned to isolated regional locations, where most factories are located in the country, to work in manufacturing plants for years. In other words, they are far away from Seoul where their families and friends live.
This is in fact one very important reason why many engineering majors consider giving up what they have been studying for four years; they do not want to be away from the metropolitan area. Seoul remains the place to be for a life of refinement and culture. With most of the major businesses still located in Seoul, young, elite graduates look forward to finding jobs where they can enjoy urban life after college.
Many engineering graduates actually apply for workplaces in the financial or marketing sector (where the mass of non-engineering graduates work). It is sad to imagine that they have spent four years mastering solid dynamics, thermodynamics and fluid dynamics, or the “Three DIE-namics,” as we engineering majors call it ― for nothing.
They throw away not only that, but also computer languages that engineers have to learn, such as C and Matlab. Because of the amount of work in their studies, libraries and study halls in engineering colleges are usually packed full all the time. Even during school breaks, when most other students are out in the sun relaxing, we labor in fluorescent-lighted laboratories over our experiment projects.
But when the time for finding a job comes around, you still need a good Toeic score and licenses or certificates just like everyone else. Maybe that’s why many engineering students take a leave from school just before their final semester. They have to be prepared because they may have to knock on the doors of regional factories.

*The writer is studying mechanical engineering at Kyung Hee University and is a member of the Kyung Hee Automobile Research Society.

by Lee Hee-kyung
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