The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Current events discussions relating to Broadcast Engineering
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Dale H. Cook
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Dale H. Cook » Sat Sep 17, 2016 3:43 pm

BigRed wrote:... past my 15-year old truck.
That makes me feel better - my Explorer is only 14 years old. :-)
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Bill DeFelice
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Bill DeFelice » Sun Sep 18, 2016 12:14 pm

Like others have mentioned, I find it difficult to mentor young people into the engineering field when I see how many local stations have eliminated staff engineers and have either moved to a contract engineer or use an outside service for their needs. It was a few years that I decided that while I'd mentor anybody who wanted to learn engineering that I would prefer to focus their talents on "new media" such as podcasting, streaming, etc. I'm not saying broadcast engineering talent isn't necessary but the job market for audio and I.T. seems to enjoy better available opportunities these days.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by BigRed » Sun Sep 18, 2016 11:36 pm

Dale H. Cook wrote:
BigRed wrote:... past my 15-year old truck.
That makes me feel better - my Explorer is only 14 years old. :-)
Well, don't feel too good about that. If my old buggy is any indication you have about another year before that little gnome inside the engine starts pounding on the side of the oil pan with a hammer. :(

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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by BigRed » Sun Sep 18, 2016 11:41 pm

Boy, now I'm really depressed.

After my initial post to this question I was hoping that everyone would pile on top of me to tell me that I was wrong and that I had my head crammed into the deep, dark recesses . . . That there was actually a great demand for broadcast engineering "talent" at decent wages and that I hadn't been looking in the right places. But no such luck . . . I REALLY hate it that I might be right . . .

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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Dale H. Cook » Mon Sep 19, 2016 7:18 am

BigRed wrote:... you have about another year before that little gnome inside the engine starts pounding on the side of the oil pan with a hammer. :(
Nah, that happened last year so I have a factory reman engine. Considering the condition of the vehicle and the fact that I was working little (thus little income) due to medical problems led me to the reman rather than a much more expensive replacement of the Explorer.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Dale H. Cook » Mon Sep 19, 2016 7:24 am

BigRed wrote:.. and that I hadn't been looking in the right places.
I can work about as much as I want to, though that sometimes means travelling as much as 2+ hours to a station, because I am the only exclusively contract engineer in the area. That also means that I can afford to be choosy - I do not work for stations which are bad pay or which are owned or run by crazy people. I also do not negotiate my rates or conditions - it is my way or find somebody else.
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PID_Stop
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by PID_Stop » Mon Sep 19, 2016 7:31 am

BigRed wrote:PID_Stop . . . That's a very noble gesture that takes one heck of a lot of work.
I don't see it as being particularly noble; documentation is a basic part of the job. A changing work environment sometimes means changing how we do it. I still have my T square, french curves, Rapidograph pens, and Leroy lettering machine from when I was designing and documenting our present studio construction back in 1984, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't use better equipment and methods as they become available.
...So I'm sorry to predict that your efforts will survive until the first HDD crash, or until you retire, if you can even contemplate doing so.
That's entirely possible; there are a number of irresponsible or insecure people out there who think it's okay to hoard critical information. That doesn't mean that I should become one of them. I'm not out to be harsh; in our station's or our regional operation's bigger picture, there's no future in creating an unsustainable empire... and building a facility that only one person can understand or work on is definitely unsustainable.

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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by ChuckG » Mon Sep 19, 2016 10:00 pm

PID_Stop wrote: I don't see it as being particularly noble;
Considering 98% of the stations I've visited have (or had) no docs at all, I don't think "noble" is excessive.
I got a thank you call not that long ago from a station that had to move and found the docs I created when I originally built the studios. It really does save those who follow us some enormous headaches.
Same with documenting Am directionals, component by component with both nameplate and operating reactances noted. It's saved my own bacon more than once when a part self-destructs and it's value cannot be read.

I use plain old Excel and put the files up on a private web server, along with all manuals, copies of critical software and certain backups.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by ChuckG » Mon Sep 19, 2016 10:07 pm

Dale H. Cook wrote:
BigRed wrote:... past my 15-year old truck.
That makes me feel better - my Explorer is only 14 years old. :-)
If you have the 5.0 V8 in there it will outlive us both.
I got the dreaded knock-knock-knock in my Jeep Cherokee at 265K miles. Blew a piston skirt.
It's replacement, a Mountaineer AWD is now up to 190K with nary an issue. One thing they do build better now than in the old days is automobile engines.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by NECRAT » Tue Sep 20, 2016 4:12 pm

ChuckG wrote: I got the dreaded knock-knock-knock in my Jeep Cherokee at 265K miles. Blew a piston skirt.
What engine did it have in it?
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by ChuckG » Tue Sep 20, 2016 9:12 pm

NECRAT wrote:
ChuckG wrote: I got the dreaded knock-knock-knock in my Jeep Cherokee at 265K miles. Blew a piston skirt.
What engine did it have in it?
4.0
I've owned several of them, it's a somewhat common issue. Generally #1 or #6, loud clatter and piston chunks in the oil pan.
At 265K miles I had no complaints.... I put in a new piston set and bearings, kid that bought it still drives it. Probably has well over 300K by now.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by GreatRadio » Wed Oct 05, 2016 5:49 pm

All of this is true, but it's been going on for quite a while. Not only are there fewer engineers, there is less need. Equipment has gotten more reliable, there's less of it, and much of it has migrated to the IT world. And we're not the only industry facing this ... as the baby boom retires, there's going to be huge wave of experienced people leaving their companies, and less experienced people filling those shoes. It will be disruptive, and an opportunity for younger engineers, but in the end, it will all sort itself out.

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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Kelly » Wed Dec 21, 2016 9:33 am

And..that's part of the problem with evolving the reputation of broadcast engineers of old: Some, (and we've all seen them) resist looking at the radio or TV operation as a business. Younger GM's and corporate VP's eyes glaze over when engineers start talking about transmitters and antennas. How many times has the phrase been used as a hammer: "well if you want to stay on the air, then we must purchase this..."

Over the years your colleagues in the business have done it to themselves, and you. As Jeff mentioned, the information hoarder: "They can't get rid of me, since everything is here in my head or on my computer at home." WRONG! When you become an obstructionist or unwilling to change, the company is generally willing to take that risk and your reputation in a shrinking industry takes a huge hit.

If we're going to survive and not be replaced purely by millennial IT folks, get Cisco networking certifications, read manuals rather than just immediately calling customer support, know how to build and maintain servers and workstations, and above all; come up with capital budget plan that saves the company money, not just because you want to replace known equipment with the latest version.

Anymore you become valuable to the operation not just by keeping things on the air, but by guiding the operation through way of using technology to improve content and workflows, or saving at least 2X your salary in every year.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by BigRed » Thu Dec 22, 2016 12:41 am

...That's entirely possible; there are a number of irresponsible or insecure people out there who think it's okay to hoard critical information. That doesn't mean that I should become one of them. I'm not out to be harsh; in our station's or our regional operation's bigger picture, there's no future in creating an unsustainable empire... and building a facility that only one person can understand or work on is definitely unsustainable.

-- Jeff
Who said anything about someone in the shop being irresponsible or insecure? Making that leap is rather presumptuous of you. No, it was Engineering MANAGEMENT that tossed out the documentation. They wanted to "tidy up" before moving some walls to please the GM.

In the long run it made little difference. Within a couple of years an outside contractor was brought in to rip out all that existing equipment and install new gear. The engineering staff was shut out of that project too.

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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by NavyBOFH » Tue Jun 13, 2017 7:14 am

As a young engineer (just turning 30), I thought I would give some insight into this issue since I am part of it in a way:
I left the Navy due to health issues, otherwise I would probably be enjoying Shore Duty at this point somewhere cozy. That is not to say that my job now isn't cozy in some ways, but you also have to consider that I went from one government run agency to another, and lost literally half of my take-home pay. The issue is that, for some younger folks, the field is just not paying enough to be making a living and providing for a family anymore.

I am one of 4 "young" people in the Engineering department, with one working in the IT section, one in the microwave section, and one as a tower climber. We are all paid under the $50k/year we mark where our salaries start getting reported by the state to the public. But to make the comparison: a "senior" tech or engineer in each area makes enough to be over that $50k mark by a decent margin. The pay gap for that limited experience also sours some, especially with zero outlook to move up, and limited ability to leave for another station when they are in the same hiring situation. That then gives us a dead-end outlook where we either "suck it up" and stay at our position and salary level, or leave the industry. I personally am looking at leaving the industry because without moving based on the needs of a job opening, I am more than likely not to find another broadcasting job within 250 miles of my location paying anything more than what I make now. To make matters worse, the agency I work for is notorious for hiring retirees for their experience, but also know they can pay them less because they see the salary as "fun money" since it is just something to collect on top of their retirement or pension already. Then to add to the confusion, I am a Field Engineer, while reporting to a Manager, who also tasks me based on the needs of a "Transmission Supervisor" who is the equivalent of a Chief Engineer for 2-3 stations apiece, however the difference between the two job titles is nil. If the supervisor is absent, on vacation, or in need of relief, I am to stand in as their replacement legally. I do not get paid the same to put my name and career on the line to say THEIR stations are within FCC and FAA regulations. I also do not get to claim such experience, even though I can guarantee for 3 of the 11 stations I have been signing the logs and making the reports for the better part of the past year.

Moving on, we then come to the "old vs young" battle most of us come into. I was taught a skill set which is almost mandatory in broadcasting now: with electronics, computer, IT, networking, RF, and project management being in my background. I am not a master of any, but the Jack of all Trades. That means I am constantly heckled by the older engineers for not remembering what I consider "reference book" materials which I would rather look up in a pocket reference or iPhone app than to memorize when I work on 3 models of FM transmitters and 5 models of TV transmitters, all with their own different setups and quirks. Documentation of the sites is VERY limited, spare parts "may be there" when you need them, and cable management makes me want to pull out a hedge clipper and chop it all out and start over fresh. Also, as a Field Engineer, I end up working on generators, DC UPS and plants, HVAC, facilities maintenance, and everything else under the sun... which makes my work as a Field Engineer 20% about the equipment and maintaining everything, and 80% a glorified handyman and custodian - where again if I did that work certified for a contractor I'd still be making more money than I am now. I left Amazon as an Industrial Engineer to keep working on RF and complex electronics and took a pay cut - so I know there's more room out there for broadcasting to "pay up".

These are just some issues that I can state without droning on. I might come off as calloused, but I can tell you that I in fact enjoy working in broadcasting, in public broadcasting to be specific, and find the job to be rewarding in terms of experience and exposure to new systems.

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