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In the Nigerian clime, with parents as makeshift counselors, where the role of guidance and counselling is absent or unrecognized, we often hear parents, when giving their wards career advice saying, “Choose any of the professional courses. They are lucrative; so that you can be employed after graduation.” Unfortunately, it is not a myth that engineering graduates constitute a great number of the unemployed youths in Nigeria. Some of the employed percentage are practicing in no field of theirs; some in banks; others in secondary schools teaching mathematics. While we understand that unemployment is a national issue here, and rather laud than ridicule, those who have courageously taken up alternative job instead of indulging in social vices, we wish to point out some things that make engineering lucrative which are lacking in our engineering graduates. Some, a fault of theirs; others, not.
What is engineering?
In a lay man’s understanding, it is a field of study that embraces science with practice. It is the link between science and application. Heard of the cliché: without engineering, science is just a philosophy? Good. That gives you an idea.
Technically speaking, engineering is a field of study with the responsibility of transferring real life problems into solvable mathematics to determine the solution of the variables and provide the answer in tangibles. It is the transfer of ergonomical challenges of industries into a game of calibrated numbers; the assemblage of variables into solvable equations. No wonder engineering is lucrative! Yes, very lucrative because that is not an easy job.
But before I tell you how profitable that profession is, let me tell you what engineering is not. Engineering is not construction, engineering is not plumbing. It is not the repair of mechanical parts. Engineering rather, tells you the diameter of your drainage and why, the suitable part to use and why, the diameter of your discharge pipe and the head of your pump and why? Why? Yes, because engineering is calibrated technical solution provision. The ‘why’ makes it engineering because the solution provided is not a guess work neither is it based on argumentative prowess. It is based on solution derived from traceable equations deduced from the presented challenge.
If we compare what engineering is and what it is not, we shall find these discriminating terminologies: calibration, mathematics. Let’s talk about mathematics. This is the core subject of every engineering discipline. The reason is not far-fetched. Engineering solutions are not based on subjective opinions, they are based on deduced, universal solutions. They are derived from the mathematical evaluation of the equation formed by the real life problem they intend to solve through a process known as modelling.
The next word is calibration. Calibration, in an analogical definition, is what makes a nut to be produced in the United States for use in Nigeria without consulting Nigerian Engineers whether they need the size or not; but once a Nigerian engineer mentions the number for the nut, it is accessed from the United States. Calibration is what makes it possible that given the same parameters and conditions for a design problem, different engineers in different climes arrive at solutions within tolerable range of possible solutions. Calibration is measurement within permissible tolerance for effectiveness and efficiency.
Why engineering is detailed and meticulous?
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This is because of the crucial need for precision, safety and cost consideration.
Just like in the game of thrones, you either win or you die, there is no middle ground; in the practice of engineering, you are either correct or we die; there is no maybe solution.
Precision is very paramount to meet the engineering taste of comfort and convenience, for the end-user of engineering product. When a precision error is made, it, in most cases, affects the entire design and calls for redesign, just the way a wrong substitution in a mathematical calculation renders the rest of the solution erroneous. Precision permits technological transfer and usage.
Cost, on the other hand, is a serious consideration in engineering because engineering projects are usually large scale and a ₦10 addition per unit, when calculated on a large scale may lead to thousands of Naira. Cost-benefit ratio, a terminology which compares the burden (financial and otherwise) of developing and acquiring an engineering project/solution to its usefulness; is familiar with all engineers, to accommodate cost in design. Engineering solution should be affordable; that is how engineering makes life better.
Another important concept in engineering is safety. There is, hardly, any engineering design, in which one will not find this term called factor of safety; a term that measures the tolerance limit and safe use index of an engineering device or edifice. This is why: An engineering mistake usually doesn’t cost a life. It costs dozens turned to hundreds and sometimes, thousands of lives. Heard that expression, “a doctor buries his mistake; an engineer dies with his mistake”? A thousand may fall round a doctor but ten thousand fall alongside the engineer. When precision, safety and economy are considered, engineering is invited.