Why I left engineering

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alex282
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#1
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#1
Just thought I'd share my personal experience of how my engineering career dream turned into a nightmare.

I stayed on at school and studied maths hard, went to college for 1 year and then was accepted into uni. After another 5 tough years of study I graduated with an MEng degree in electrical engineering. The whole time I was naive and under the impression that because I could learn these complex concepts that it would be easy to get a job, that I would earn a lot of money and that I would enjoy my work. I couldn't really be further from the truth.

The graduate job hunting process was horrible, because there's now more graduates than jobs. It's competitive and most companies will put you through all sorts of tests and interviews before even considering to hire you. Electrical engineering is so vast that a lot of the questions are pot luck on whether you were taught them in your degree or not.

When I was finally hired for my first "proper" graduate job, the employer offered me £18k which was less than the £20-25k advertised. That basically meant that my master's year and my previous engineering experience from a summer placement and 5 month contract were worthless. It was soul destroying to have studied 8 extra years at a complex subject and aquired a big student debt to be earning less than others who I went to school with who left at age 16. I know it was just the starting point but the progression for senior engineers at these smaller companies is shocking for the amount of stress and effort required compared to other careers.

This job was in building services design and the work itself was very tedious. Most of the work I was assigned was data entry on Excel (type in the details of 3000 light fittings from a hospital). A lot of the time I wasn't given anything to do and wasn't progressing anywhere as the senior engineer was too busy to work with me. I did get to do design work but wasn't given full training and the senior engineer would always modify my designs without giving me any feedback. This was also heartbreaking after learning all those complex concepts at university.

I did not like the office environment at all. My colleagues were all boring older men trying to act professional, but acted like teenagers making fun of things such as what car people drove. They worked through their lunch half-hour, stayed behind late and often came in on weekends unpaid. This made me feel guilty for going out for lunch or leaving on time. This seemed the norm for them and as if they didn't have anything better to do.

In this job and in my previous engineering roles I felt like the other employees really looked down on me because I had came through the master's degree route as if it was inferior to their college-level qualifications and experience, they didn't seem to realise that everyone has to start somewhere on the experience front and I would be the next generation of engineer with some guidance.

I know this company may be an unusually bad experience but to be honest from what I've heard a lot of other places are not much different. Unfortunately even after 100s of applications I never got into any decent company. The only thing I could see by staying in this field was a life of misery.

The companies I worked for all got rid of me by saying things along the lines of "due to restructuring the business". It was quite ironic as they then went on to hire another junior engineer who was still studying for his degree through open university.

The final straw when I gave up completely was when I unfairly recieved a criminal record for hacking/online harassment due to a misunderstanding and falling out with a "friend" due to the new snowflake laws. I did not bother getting a job during the court case as I would have had to pay thousands in legal bills. This would make it even harder to progress anywhere in engineering and I was completely done.

Since then I have been on universal credit and I'm getting around 70% of what I used to earn when I worked the whole week. I still have to apply to engineering jobs to get my money but obviously no one wants to take me on. I am working on an online based self-employed career which I won't go into any detail on but I am much happier and more hopeful of my future after doing this for a couple of years.

I don't regret studying engineering but if I could go back I would do an electrician apprenticeship instead. I have somewhat passion for the subject but most of the roles seem to be more paperwork and politics based

Short version:
It's competitive with little job security in most cases
You are constantly at the mercy of the employer
The pay is poor for the effort, stress and responsibility
The work is mostly boring data entry, paperwork and politics
Last edited by alex282; 1 year ago
6
Jaguar1200
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#2
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#2
a lot of your experience can be explained due to circumstances that don't affect everyone.
1. you did not network in your time at uni. it's fairly obvious you left job hunting to just before finishing your MEng year as you would already have known which sector of EE you were interested in and would emphasise looking in those directions. in addition, you were at the mercy of a shady/less valued employer who gave you an offer which you quickly accepted as you didn't research or hunt properly when in uni,
2. your base salary was low because you did not do any internships/experience. its comon knowledge a BEng+6months experience>>> MEng, but you conveniently glossed over this fact.
3.you didnt join major trade unions so you were easily disposable and also, compared to a junior BEng guy with a year or more experience than you, you were easy to get rid of. it is also liekly you didn't have good productivity and were inefficient and/or made a lot of mistakes in work (again. inexperience cos you chased a MEng unnecessarily) wheereas this younger guy was a rising star.

i agree it is unfair that you were treated this way but. it is how the game is played, you didnt follow the rules and so you got burned. rather than blaming the sector take some responsibility for your mistakes
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StevenP83
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#3
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Although it only gets a small mention, as an employer the criminal record would certainly be off-putting, and what exactly are the new ‘snowflake laws’? Online harassment and hacking are not something that you get a criminal record for without an actual crime occurring.
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alex282
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#4
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#4
(Original post by Jaguar1200)
a lot of your experience can be explained due to circumstances that don't affect everyone.
1. you did not network in your time at uni. it's fairly obvious you left job hunting to just before finishing your MEng year as you would already have known which sector of EE you were interested in and would emphasise looking in those directions. in addition, you were at the mercy of a shady/less valued employer who gave you an offer which you quickly accepted as you didn't research or hunt properly when in uni,
2. your base salary was low because you did not do any internships/experience. its comon knowledge a BEng+6months experience>>> MEng, but you conveniently glossed over this fact.
3.you didnt join major trade unions so you were easily disposable and also, compared to a junior BEng guy with a year or more experience than you, you were easy to get rid of. it is also liekly you didn't have good productivity and were inefficient and/or made a lot of mistakes in work (again. inexperience cos you chased a MEng unnecessarily) wheereas this younger guy was a rising star.

i agree it is unfair that you were treated this way but. it is how the game is played, you didnt follow the rules and so you got burned. rather than blaming the sector take some responsibility for your mistakes
Sorry I didn't make it clear but I did do a paid summer placement while I was at university and I also worked as a maintenance engineering assistant for 5 months on a contract just after graduation. I was most interested in the power and energy sector but after 100+ applications I wasn't getting anywhere so I settled for building services in the meantime. I was a fast learner at learning the software but my productivity was inefficient to the company because the senior engineer didn't have time to manage me and also liked to do everything his way
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username2825764
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#5
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#5
have you considered moving into software development? with an MEng in electrical engineering, you would be a good candidate for embedded software engineering.
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alex282
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#6
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#6
(Original post by StevenP83)
Although it only gets a small mention, as an employer the criminal record would certainly be off-putting, and what exactly are the new ‘snowflake laws’? Online harassment and hacking are not something that you get a criminal record for without an actual crime occurring.
My "friend" had gave me her password and told me to go onto her account. We had fell out and words were spoken (both as bad as each other) but the CPS in a quiet rural region is out to produce results and meet targets with anything they can get in order to keep their funding and jobs, so a one sided approach ignoring my side of the story was their only option. If the government wants to spend six figures on my education then take the opportunity of contributing away from me for standing up for myself then I'm totally okay with that and it takes the guilt away
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StevenP83
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#7
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#7
(Original post by alex282)
My "friend" had gave me her password and told me to go onto her account. We had fell out and words were spoken (both as bad as each other) but the CPS in a quiet rural region is out to produce results and meet targets with anything they can get in order to keep their funding and jobs, so a one sided approach ignoring my side of the story was their only option. If the government wants to spend six figures on my education then take the opportunity of contributing away from me for standing up for myself then I'm totally okay with that and it takes the guilt away
Ok, if she gave you her password then you can’t have been prosecuted for hacking? Or did you do something so bad in this account that it led to your prosecution?
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Jaguar1200
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#8
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#8
(Original post by StevenP83)
Ok, if she gave you her password then you can’t have been prosecuted for hacking? Or did you do something so bad in this account that it led to your prosecution?
op is hiding something, and wont share what they knnow they did wrong. they're blaming everyone else than themselves, honestly i'd just block, unwatch and move on.
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Jaguar1200
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#9
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(Original post by alex282)
Sorry I didn't make it clear but I did do a paid summer placement while I was at university and I also worked as a maintenance engineering assistant for 5 months on a contract just after graduation. I was most interested in the power and energy sector but after 100+ applications I wasn't getting anywhere so I settled for building services in the meantime. I was a fast learner at learning the software but my productivity was inefficient to the company because the senior engineer didn't have time to manage me and also liked to do everything his way
you probably didnt do a good job convincing your employer that your unrelated work experience taught you something valuable in your current job.
even if you were inefficient because of someone else's fault it doesn't change the fact that you didn't inform the employer that you would need training time. hell they likely didn't give you said training time cos they're not a good employer.
blaming the entire industry for your mistakes is unnecessary, as a matter of fact i hope readers who want to de EE see this as what not to do in a lucrative, awesome field
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alex282
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#10
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#10
(Original post by Jaguar1200)
you probably didnt do a good job convincing your employer that your unrelated work experience taught you something valuable in your current job.
even if you were inefficient because of someone else's fault it doesn't change the fact that you didn't inform the employer that you would need training time. hell they likely didn't give you said training time cos they're not a good employer.
blaming the entire industry for your mistakes is unnecessary, as a matter of fact i hope readers who want to de EE see this as what not to do in a lucrative, awesome field
I also hope that this can be a warning to those that are considering studying electrical engineering not to fall into the same trap and to find a better career. Calling engineering in the UK lucrative surely must be a joke? In my new field I will be making around 8-12x per hour more than what I did in engineering
Last edited by alex282; 1 year ago
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alex282
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#11
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#11
(Original post by StevenP83)
Ok, if she gave you her password then you can’t have been prosecuted for hacking? Or did you do something so bad in this account that it led to your prosecution?
If you haven't personal experience of the corrupt CJS then you won't understand. They are out to meet targets and produce results from nothing otherwise their worthless job will be cut and they won't be able to pay their mortgage
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StevenP83
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#12
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(Original post by alex282)
If you haven't personal experience of the corrupt CJS then you won't understand. They are out to meet targets and produce results from nothing otherwise their worthless job will be cut and they won't be able to pay their mortgage
I do have personal experience of the CPS and I know that they won’t prosecute a case that doesn’t have the evidence to back it up. If there was, as you say ‘results from nothing’ then you wouldn’t have a criminal record so either you plead guilty or there was sufficient evidence.
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Mustafa0605
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Did you get your degree from a top university or a low ranked one? Even so- a British masters in engineering can get you into many different sectors not just engineering. Even if you struggled to find a job and started on a low salary you should’ve stayed for a year or two to gather experience and then it should be much easier to find a better job with a higher salary.
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alex282
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#14
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#14
(Original post by Mustafa0605)
Did you get your degree from a top university or a low ranked one? Even so- a British masters in engineering can get you into many different sectors not just engineering. Even if you struggled to find a job and started on a low salary you should’ve stayed for a year or two to gather experience and then it should be much easier to find a better job with a higher salary.
I got my degree from an above average university but it doesn't seem to make much difference to employers. They got rid of me after a year so I couldn't stay but anyway I found something else
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Rabbit2
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#15
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#15
(Original post by alex282)
Just thought I'd share my personal experience of how my engineering career dream turned into a nightmare.

I stayed on at school and studied maths hard, went to college for 1 year and then was accepted into uni. After another 5 tough years of study I graduated with an MEng degree in electrical engineering. The whole time I was naive and under the impression that because I could learn these complex concepts that it would be easy to get a job, that I would earn a lot of money and that I would enjoy my work. I couldn't really be further from the truth.

The graduate job hunting process was horrible, because there's now more graduates than jobs. It's competitive and most companies will put you through all sorts of tests and interviews before even considering to hire you. Electrical engineering is so vast that a lot of the questions are pot luck on whether you were taught them in your degree or not.

When I was finally hired for my first "proper" graduate job, the employer offered me £18k which was less than the £20-25k advertised. That basically meant that my master's year and my previous engineering experience from a summer placement and 5 month contract were worthless. It was soul destroying to have studied 8 extra years at a complex subject and aquired a big student debt to be earning less than others who I went to school with who left at age 16. I know it was just the starting point but the progression for senior engineers at these smaller companies is shocking for the amount of stress and effort required compared to other careers.

This job was in building services design and the work itself was very tedious. Most of the work I was assigned was data entry on Excel (type in the details of 3000 light fittings from a hospital). A lot of the time I wasn't given anything to do and wasn't progressing anywhere as the senior engineer was too busy to work with me. I did get to do design work but wasn't given full training and the senior engineer would always modify my designs without giving me any feedback. This was also heartbreaking after learning all those complex concepts at university.

I did not like the office environment at all. My colleagues were all boring older men trying to act professional, but acted like teenagers making fun of things such as what car people drove. They worked through their lunch half-hour, stayed behind late and often came in on weekends unpaid. This made me feel guilty for going out for lunch or leaving on time. This seemed the norm for them and as if they didn't have anything better to do.

In this job and in my previous engineering roles I felt like the other employees really looked down on me because I had came through the master's degree route as if it was inferior to their college-level qualifications and experience, they didn't seem to realise that everyone has to start somewhere on the experience front and I would be the next generation of engineer with some guidance.

I know this company may be an unusually bad experience but to be honest from what I've heard a lot of other places are not much different. Unfortunately even after 100s of applications I never got into any decent company. The only thing I could see by staying in this field was a life of misery.

The companies I worked for all got rid of me by saying things along the lines of "due to restructuring the business". It was quite ironic as they then went on to hire another junior engineer who was still studying for his degree through open university.

The final straw when I gave up completely was when I unfairly recieved a criminal record for hacking/online harassment due to a misunderstanding and falling out with a "friend" due to the new snowflake laws. I did not bother getting a job during the court case as I would have had to pay thousands in legal bills. This would make it even harder to progress anywhere in engineering and I was completely done.

Since then I have been on universal credit and I'm getting around 70% of what I used to earn when I worked the whole week. I still have to apply to engineering jobs to get my money but obviously no one wants to take me on. I am working on an online based self-employed career which I won't go into any detail on but I am much happier and more hopeful of my future after doing this for a couple of years.

I don't regret studying engineering but if I could go back I would do an electrician apprenticeship instead. I have somewhat passion for the subject but most of the roles seem to be more paperwork and politics based

Short version:
It's competitive with little job security in most cases
You are constantly at the mercy of the employer
The pay is poor for the effort, stress and responsibility
The work is mostly boring data entry, paperwork and politics
That was very unfortunate, and you were grossly underpaid. Several times i have been solicited to 'take a sabbatical' and teach a course in the Uk for a semester [ i have a master's]. Each time, i investigated, and found that the salary 'on offer' was less than a technician would make here in the states [someone without even a bachelors degree. When i retired from full time work a few years ago, i was making around $97,000 annually - with no overtime and full benefits. I was not 'overpaid' by my company's standards. Many colleagues i met around the Washington, D.C. area were at similar levels.

When i first graduated, [1969], i was hired by the US Fed Government at $37,800 pa. That was not a bad salary at that time. I was paying $0.20 a [US] gallon for pump petrol at that time & i could buy a nice lunch at a 'transport caffe' for under $3.00. Over time, inflation was resorted to by all western governments [to fund lavish spending programs] and money devaluated. I went overseas for 3 years in 1970 to fund buying a house, and bought one when i returned with some of the proceeds. A 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath house on a 1/4 acre lot with a 1 car garage cost me $37,800 in 1971. Now, i am told [by an estate agent] that it would 'list' for about $300,000. Those two amounts are almost exactly equal, when you adjust for inflation. So for parking my money in the house - i got a place to live - so long as i paid taxes and did the maintenance. I found that the way to 'get ahead of the power curve' was to do an overseas tour. Many of my colleagues did that. Also, it gave you a chance to travel & see the world - which i thoroughly enjoyed.

The entire Uk: both Irelands, Scotland, England, channel islands, everything, the whole lot, is about 10% smaller than Nevada. Restricting yourself to work in that small an area, is unreasonable. During my career, i have worked in nearly every US state [including Hawaii and Alaska], as well as parts of Canada, Bermuda, and Puerto Rio. I could just work in the US [which is many times larger than the Uk], but overseas incentive pay when i was getting started drew me out, because i wanted to 'jump start' my house purchase. Also, i spoke a little Spanish & German, enough to get by traveling on my own.

In the international market, i would recommend approaching places like Bechtel, Boots & Coots, as well as US enginering firms like Boeing, McDonnel Douglas, etc. Best of luck.
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alex282
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#16
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#16
(Original post by Rabbit2)
That was very unfortunate, and you were grossly underpaid. Several times i have been solicited to 'take a sabbatical' and teach a course in the Uk for a semester [ i have a master's]. Each time, i investigated, and found that the salary 'on offer' was less than a technician would make here in the states [someone without even a bachelors degree. When i retired from full time work a few years ago, i was making around $97,000 annually - with no overtime and full benefits. I was not 'overpaid' by my company's standards. Many colleagues i met around the Washington, D.C. area were at similar levels.

When i first graduated, [1969], i was hired by the US Fed Government at $37,800 pa. That was not a bad salary at that time. I was paying $0.20 a [US] gallon for pump petrol at that time & i could buy a nice lunch at a 'transport caffe' for under $3.00. Over time, inflation was resorted to by all western governments [to fund lavish spending programs] and money devaluated. I went overseas for 3 years in 1970 to fund buying a house, and bought one when i returned with some of the proceeds. A 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath house on a 1/4 acre lot with a 1 car garage cost me $37,800 in 1971. Now, i am told [by an estate agent] that it would 'list' for about $300,000. Those two amounts are almost exactly equal, when you adjust for inflation. So for parking my money in the house - i got a place to live - so long as i paid taxes and did the maintenance. I found that the way to 'get ahead of the power curve' was to do an overseas tour. Many of my colleagues did that. Also, it gave you a chance to travel & see the world - which i thoroughly enjoyed.

The entire Uk: both Irelands, Scotland, England, channel islands, everything, the whole lot, is about 10% smaller than Nevada. Restricting yourself to work in that small an area, is unreasonable. During my career, i have worked in nearly every US state [including Hawaii and Alaska], as well as parts of Canada, Bermuda, and Puerto Rio. I could just work in the US [which is many times larger than the Uk], but overseas incentive pay when i was getting started drew me out, because i wanted to 'jump start' my house purchase. Also, i spoke a little Spanish & German, enough to get by traveling on my own.

In the international market, i would recommend approaching places like Bechtel, Boots & Coots, as well as US enginering firms like Boeing, McDonnel Douglas, etc. Best of luck.
Thanks for your reply, I would have loved to have been around in those days and had a career like you. I think the sad reality is that things have changed over time and the difference in how different countries treat the engineering profession. I'm sure you are familiar with the reasons why things have changed over the last couple of decades. It is very sad that becoming a real engineer in the UK is hardly worth it now unless you can find something you are passionate about and are prepared to work extra hard and have some luck on your side. The house price changes are quite shocking and now a lifelong debt in some areas.
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zootzoot
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#17
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#17
(Original post by alex282)
Thanks for your reply, I would have loved to have been around in those days and had a career like you. I think the sad reality is that things have changed over time and the difference in how different countries treat the engineering profession. I'm sure you are familiar with the reasons why things have changed over the last couple of decades. It is very sad that becoming a real engineer in the UK is hardly worth it now unless you can find something you are passionate about and are prepared to work extra hard and have some luck on your side. The house price changes are quite shocking and now a lifelong debt in some areas.
It isnt just engineering. Every job pays substantially lower in the UK compared to else where in the west, and a lot of these also require a degree unlike in other countries.
(Unless u go into financial services or a top software developer job)

The UK is just a poorer country than the US, Canada, Australia, Germany etc
Last edited by zootzoot; 1 year ago
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0le
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#18
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#18
(Original post by zootzoot)
It isnt just engineering. Every job pays substantially lower in the UK compared to else where in the west, and a lot of these also require a degree unlike in other countries.
(Unless u go into financial services or a top software developer job)

The UK is just a poorer country than the US, Canada, Australia, Germany etc
Why is that the case? I mean, we've had historically very good physicists, mathematicians and we do have a history of engineering as well.
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ben288888
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#19
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#19
Well this makes me regret doing engineering lol
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zootzoot
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#20
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#20
(Original post by 0le)
Why is that the case? I mean, we've had historically very good physicists, mathematicians and we do have a history of engineering as well.
Bad government policies, businesses in the UK not investing in their workers (for new equipment or training) and would rather employ cheaper labour from abroad to come over which pushes wages down. And that politicians much rather focus on helping their friends in the city of London, rather than manufacturing (which actually generates wealth).
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