Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Engineers styled as economy's mechanics

Source: News Observer


March 8, 2010

RALEIGH -- Engineering and science: They're not just jobs - they're the salvation of humanity.

That's the bold equation professed by leaders in business, politics and academia Friday at the Summit on the National Academy of Engineering at the Raleigh Convention Center.

"This is not a hyperbole: The future of our country and our world rests on the ability to do math, science, engineering and technology to solve our problems," said U.S. Sen. Ted KAUFMAN, a Democrat from Delaware. "Engineers have always been the world's problem solvers."

KAUFMAN was one of several speakers to strike this tone, a common theme at gatherings of engineers, scientists and mathematicians.

"We're in an economic war," KAUFMAN said. "We're in a war for you, for our children and for our grandchildren."

Just a month ago, speakers at another forum also held at the convention center derided such grandiose statements as self-serving myths ginned up to secure more government funding for technology research. At the Emerging Issues Forum, speakers said what this country needs is more education in the arts and humanities.

But this time it was the engineers' turn to reassert their primacy. The summit was sponsored by the engineering departments at Duke University and N.C. State University.

KAUFMAN and Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers urged those in the audience to take every opportunity to promote scientific and engineering fields.

They warned that the fate of the nation depends on it.

"If we don't move now, we destine our children to a decreasing standard of living," Chambers said. "The companies will locate to the places with the best educational systems in the world."

No mention here of this region being awash in unemployed engineers who used to work at Sony Ericsson, IBM, Lenovo and Nortel Networks - tottering temples to quantitative knowledge.

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco, with 67,000 employees worldwide, is aggressively hiring in the developing world as well as in the U.S. The global company's second-biggest site is in Bangalore, India. Its third-biggest is in Research Triangle Park, where Cisco employs 4,300 full-timers and contractors.

"In Silicon Valley, when you go out to a restaurant, you get a special table if you're an engineer because it's the cool field to be in," Chambers said.

"It's a whole different level of conversation," he said. "As a nation, we need to put engineers back on the pedestal where they belong."

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