The Times


"Times are hard, and we are in trouble." "Things look pretty had."  "Out of a job, and nothing in sight."

Whom are we quoting? Well, nobody, literally, but figuratively we are listening -- to any one of many men who are suffering from the present slump. And there are engineers among them. What can they do about it? What can any man do about it?

Perhaps it will encourage us to realize that in several localities where surveys have been made, unemployment conditions are said to have reached and passed their crest values. A note of genera! optimism is discernable. Of course, that does not feed us, and a man and his family can get mighty hungry in six months!

Again, there are different lags to recovery in different fields. As the electrical engineer would say, the different fields of industry are not in phase with each other. Some hold up longer than others before the sag occurs, and then lag correspondingly in recovery.

I am told that estimating is fairly active, looking toward increased sales and construction.

Practically all of the companies in manufacturing, operation, construction, are making strenuous efforts to keep their staffs as fully active as is possible. Their methods vary for meeting the situation. Some operate fewer days per week. Some shorten the working day. Others are necessarily tied to the seven twenty-four-hour-day week, and can adjust themselves better by operating on relays. In general, however, executives who control skilled workmen or who have professional groups are trying to keep their organization intact, looking forward to the day of increased activity.

They cannot hold all, however, and are using different methods to solve their problems.  They are releasing men, — First—who are located in departments which are over-manned, where trade conditions have changed and the indications are that there may lie a permanent recession to lower levels.

Second—who have other jolts in sight, and can adjust themselves to other work.

Third—who may he classed as misplaced because of lack of training, interest, energy, or adaptability. Whatever the reason, it is disconcerting and disappointing to any man to be told that his position with the organization is so non-productive that his services are no longer required. We can only hope that in the days of his employment he has been thrifty and has established a reserve which may be sufficient to tide him over the lean months.

Certainly, the present experience proves the necessity of this foresight.

And, parenthetically, may I quote the best definition for thrift that I recall?' It is that habit of transferring consistently and continuously from one's current assets to his capital.

Again, these days prove the value of adaptability.

The man who has narrow interests, the one who has few capabilities, the one who is handicapped by personality limitations which he has not been able or wise enough to overcome, —that man has a very difficult problem to solve.

But this adaptability cannot lie secured simply by an increased smattering of knowledge. It must be based upon : (1) a thorough grounding in the scientific foundations of engineering, both technical and economic; (2) an ability to reason safely and to carry over into other fields one's earlier experiences and training; (3) a more far-reaching grasp of interrelations of things and of men: (4) a deep sensibility of the fact that the whole field of engineering is permeated and saturated to its core with human relations.

These seem to me to be timely thoughts for men preparing to enter industry.