The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Current events discussions relating to Broadcast Engineering
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NECRAT
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The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by NECRAT » Thu Jul 14, 2016 3:57 pm

If you haven't had a chance to read fellow Admin Chris Tarr's (BroadcastDoc) excellent commentary about the looming crisis of having good engineers, you really should take the time. Chris put a lot into this article, and it is well worth the read...

https://radioinsight.com/blog/blogs/107 ... ge-crisis/
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davek
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by davek » Thu Jul 14, 2016 5:28 pm

I got into broadcast engineering 20 years ago, precisely for this reason. Even back then the older engineers were lamenting that there were fewer of us "young-uns" joining the profession.

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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by awsherrill » Thu Jul 14, 2016 5:37 pm

I agree this is an excellent article. I'm a little mystified how it showed up in my Facebook feed, attached to a picture of the rack room at my office.

I got into the engineering side about 30 years ago, mainly because I was burned out from doing air shifts, not that I was all that great of a "talent".

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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Dale H. Cook » Fri Jul 15, 2016 6:04 am

There are many stations in my area, which is market 116, which do not have an engineer. I would be available to most of those (there are a few that I refuse to work for because they have a history of not paying their bills or because their owners are nuts) but they are not willing to pay a monthly retainer to secure my services and to pay for preventative maintenance.

I do not charge a high retainer for most stations, as almost all have solid state transmitters that are relatively easy to maintain. I am not willing to undertake emergency repairs at stations that are not willing to pay for preventative maintenance - I have no desire to work in a cesspool.

Chris' points are sound. I should ask around and see if there are any young guys in the area who I can mentor. I am 65 and the only contract engineer in the market who does not have another full-time job, and so am the only man in the market who can respond quickly to emergencies at contract stations during normal business hours. I am 65, have been doing this since 1969, and see that the engineering situation is indeed dire.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by BroadcastDoc » Sun Jul 17, 2016 6:41 am

awsherrill wrote:I agree this is an excellent article. I'm a little mystified how it showed up in my Facebook feed, attached to a picture of the rack room at my office.

I got into the engineering side about 30 years ago, mainly because I was burned out from doing air shifts, not that I was all that great of a "talent".
Lance grabbed that photo from Scott Fybush to put in the article for something "visual". That what FB picked up. ;-)
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Bill DeFelice » Sun Jul 17, 2016 8:31 am

Absolutely great article. I had hoped to expand my personal mentoring of students when I built the campus-limited high school station in the district where I work as an electronics and computer technologist, but the administration is so disorganized that it just withered on the vine. It's sad to see these inner city kids lose out because the admins are more concerned with their salaries and not providing enrichment opportunities for the children they're charged with providing an education to. I personally mentor a few young people but it pales in comparison with what I could have done with a curriculum-supported program.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Jim Sofonia » Sun Jul 17, 2016 2:49 pm

I'm going to turn 66 at the end of next year, and I'm out of here after 35 years. I've got a great assistant that I personally mentored for 15 years and is very good, but with 10 stations he wont be able to do it himself. But I have this bad feeling that managment is not going to replace me. Something we should do now to give him a year of training. So I don't know what to do. I love my job and hope for the best for the station. But I don't want to deal with the impossible problems that come up these days. So I don't know what I am dooing a year from now. ????????

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Re: I'm out of here after 35 years

Post by RGORJANCE » Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:53 am

Good luck with that! :lol:

I'm gonna be 78 next month. I predict you will start going bonkers within two weeks, or so, after you retire and long for the day when you can get back to the smell of molten solder. I know a lot of guys like us that are way up there in age that still like the work and will continue to stay active as long as possible. It beats the heck outta growing into the sofa while watching the Shopping Channel.

I get itchy feet if I'm home for more than two or three days sitting around the house. If you don't want to stay in this field, get a part time job as a door greeter at Walmart. That can be most entertaining! :lol:

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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by KPJL FM » Mon Jul 18, 2016 8:51 am

RGORJANCE wrote:Good luck with that! :lol:

I get itchy feet if I'm home for more than two or three days sitting around the house. If you don't want to stay in this field, get a part time job as a door greeter at Walmart. That can be most entertaining! :lol:

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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by KPJL FM » Mon Jul 18, 2016 9:12 am

Chris, you have some good points to make, but consider this: how many server 'farms' have an IT guru on staff? Many use contracting companies, that supply various personnel depending on need. Also, how many of us engineers started out when one needed to know how to create logic circuits from a handful of relays and diodes we purchased from the local electronics parts store? Now, even cables are pre-made factory produced. Some station groups won't allow the local engineer to make Ethernet cables, they all have to be 'certified'. And with the increased reliability of components and sub-assemblies, engineers just aren't that busy with one station on a day-to-day basis, so management looks to maximize cost of ownership. Oh, and the other elephant in the room, the FCC, just doesn't care about technical operations. And management/owners know this, too. The best, IMHO, solution to the problem is technical types gets some ownership. Skin in the game is the way to encourage participation. In the mean time, consolidation provides sufficient job security to those of us who are still working. As engineers, we'll have to be the ones convincing management/owners to get active and serious about our replacements. If they don't, then don't answer the phone when they call (unless you want some extra cash, if they have it to spend).
Quite frankly, when I retire (soon), I could do without radio/TV. There are many other ways of getting information and entertainment. I'd rather be busy with interesting stuff I can actually do. Maybe that's the message management needs to hear.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Shane » Mon Jul 18, 2016 10:21 pm

Now, even cables are pre-made factory produced. Some station groups won't allow the local engineer to make Ethernet cables, they all have to be 'certified'.
After my personal experience with "homemade" cables on a six studio buildout, I have to agree with those station groups whoever they are. Has to be done right the first time or you'll spend 3x more time correcting the problems.

But as to the original subject, to WTCM I would say this: are you pretty confident they would at least fill your position with your assistant? If he's been working with you for 15 years he has to have something to offer. I would suggest to him that if he wants the job to be sure they know and that he should also tell them at the same time he won't take the job (assuming he is doing other things than just assisting yourself) unless they agree to hire you on as a consultant for the first year or so.

This way you can help him out when he needs it. You should get some kind of retainer fee at minimum. You get to keep your hand in it a little while longer (if that doesn't interfere with other plans you may have already made). And you can be more certain you are leaving things in good hands, which seems to be important to you.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by RGORJANCE » Tue Jul 19, 2016 5:33 am

WTCM:

On your very last day of work, you need to hang a small poster stating....."chaos, disorder, destruction! My work here is done" . :wink:

This is to counter the going away party they will throw for you the day after you leave. :lol:

Seriously, surviving 35 years in the job these days is an achievement to be proud of.

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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by KPJL FM » Tue Jul 19, 2016 7:38 am

Shane wrote:After my personal experience with "homemade" cables on a six studio buildout, I have to agree with those station groups whoever they are. Has to be done right the first time or you'll spend 3x more time correcting the problems.
I see better Ethernet cables made by real engineers (the one who can solder XLR correctly) than most 'IT Professionals'. The oldest engineers, not so much, the youngest, neither. It's either 'Not my job' or 'I'm so good you can't fault me' attitudes. It's not skill, it's work ethic that makes the difference. Engineers that are on this board for the most part got it.
Then there's those crappy cables from overseas....
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Dale H. Cook » Tue Jul 19, 2016 8:11 am

Shane wrote:Has to be done right the first time or you'll spend 3x more time correcting the problems.
That is why cable testers are made. I never put a hand-made or commercial ethernet cable into service without testing it.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by ChuckG » Wed Jul 20, 2016 1:33 am

I've been at this in one form or another since 1975. Probably mid-pack, age-wise in the group here.
I'm not certain there will BE any broadcast engineers left in another decade.

We're already at the point where the factory can log in, diagnose problems and send out new transmitter modules overnight. A PD with a screwdriver and cellphone can swap them. (If there is a local PD left, another vanishing species. At least the good ones)
The old tube-type stuff is less and less common.
I probably spend 75% of my time on IT stuff and IT guys are everywhere, with more in line behind them.
Consoles can be had that simply plug in, automation vendors can log in by remote.

I can tune up DA's, but that's a skill I might use once every few years, if that. It really isn't needed in-house.
Hardcore RF stuff can be handled by one of several regional or nationwide contracting firms like Rich's, Kevin's or Mike Patton's, or a consultant like Mark.

Same with DIY electronics. It's all off the shelf now, I haven't had to design or build anything for years, nor have I been asked to. More and more equipment is not even field-repairable.

There might not be an all-in-one solution to technical problems like a CE traditionally provided in the future, but there are other ways to get the work done and the work itself keeps changing.

Funny thing is, there's a station north of me that was off the air for 2 weeks because none of the few local engineers would respond. He's stiffed all of us at one time or another and thinks there's a bottomless pool to draw from. And that we don't talk to each other, lol.
For as scarce as we've become, some owners still think we should work for free. Or for $20/hour. (same thing). If they cannot find competent technical help in the future, I'm pretty sure I know who to blame.
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