Sunday Humor: The Job-Experience Curve

I was browsing around the Physics Forums, and I saw a question about the "experience curve" for engineers. I'd never heard that particular turn of phrase before, so I investigated. The poster wanted to know whether it would be hard to find work or get promoted as an engineer based on this article.


That has to be one of the worst overly-broad generalizations I've ever seen. The money quote:

After 5 or so years, the cost of maintaining you as an employee exceeds the cost of hiring a new graduate. The new graduate has updated skills, and from the management's eyes, only marginally different experience value.

I'd dare a company to replace their engineers with 5-years experience with all new grads and see where it gets them. I'd even put money on it. I suppose this is the flip side of my engineer's opinion of business types, seeing engineers in terms of fixed skill sets that you acquire in college that magically go out of date in a few years.

It is at least conceivable that some things engineers learn are rendered obsolete by technological progress, but what really makes an engineer an engineer is the ability to understand the fundamental principles that make a thing work. Those principles are pretty much constant. Furthermore, any industry where techonology is changing that fast is going to be because the engineers are creating new applications, so they are not going to be left behind by their own creations. Hell, after 5 years is about when an engineer becomes really useful.

There is a really strange terminological distinction between skills and experience in the article. These must be technical terms as used, because what a surgeon learns on the job is called "experience", as distinquished from the "skills" learned in med school. The poor engineers just have "skills", like repairing washing machines or some such. Elsewise the author just doesn't know what they are talking about.