MFN Trainer Column
in Vol. 20 - July Issue - Year 2019
Preparing for a Changing World
While engaged in a recent training session at our facility, a customer commented on how advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have raised substantial doubts about his job security in the next 10 years. AI and machine learning are already being used in self-driving cars, diagnosing medical issues, data and image processing, and are being incorporated into a host of other topics. There is little doubt that these technologies will continue to be incorporated into more engineering fields and may soon revolutionize our approaches to engineering problem solving. Were this customer’s comments justified? Do we all need to start investigating new career paths?
The truth is that no one knows exactly how quickly or how thoroughly our respective fields will be impacted by technological advancements, regardless of their basis in automation or if of broader scope. The concept of humans being replaced by machines is not new, and neither is the incorporation of new technologies into engineering and technical fields. While this is widely known and accepted, how to prepare for the changes this brings is not always clear. In many cases, any advancements will be gradually phased in according to their readiness levels and are unlikely to blindside those aware of progress being made in their field of work. This suggests staying abreast of technological advancements and being aware of the opportunities and challenges they present are important for every industry professional. What are we to do as engineers to make sure we are prepared for the future?
One of the greatest challenges in today’s rapidly changing world is making sure one’s skills and knowledge are kept up to date. Many professional certification boards have recognized the need to raise awareness on the latest advancements and changing methodologies in scientific applications. Industries from medical to law to engineering have embraced the idea of keeping the workforce modernized and have implemented continuing education requirements. Although not always appreciated, these requirements for continuing education are established to make the overall industry better. The ideas of continuing education are synonymous with the ideas of continuous improvement. Consider medical treatments: if a new procedure is 90% effective vs. a legacy procedure that is only 75%, wouldn’t you want your medical practitioner to be knowledgeable about, and able to perform, the new procedure? Should the same considerations not be applied to engineering fields and products as well? So how does one stay on top of new advancements?
Staying current doesn’t have to be an expensive or laborious task, particularly when incorporated into a continuous improvement mindset. While continuing education activities are most frequently completed through some type of coursework, this is not the only, nor necessarily the best, way to stay current. Other activities involve attending seminars and workshops, presenting at conferences, participating in professional societies or even teaching courses in your field. Many employers have recognized the benefits of continuing education for their employees and often offer subsidies or payment for courses or reimbursement programs. Free online courses are also an option to explore and more content is being added on a regular basis. Just be aware that if you are completing education requirements under a licensing bureau, there may be stricter requirements as to what qualifies for acceptable continuing education credit.
The abundance of technology at our fingertips and an ever-expanding world of applications brings associated opportunities and challenges. While the impacts of technology on any given industry may not be abundantly clear, the best we can do as engineers and technicians is to be prepared to accept change as inevitable but proceed with the best intentions. As we look forward to advancing our world, I would encourage you to consider how continuing education may fit into your career aspirations and benefit you and the products you work with.
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Author: Stan Bovid