Will "Civil Engineering as a Vocation" be honored in Taiwan。土木工程作為一種志業在台灣可行嗎？
MT. Kao, CEO, Sinotech Incorporation(Former Section Chief Overseas Department, RSEA; President Pan Asia Corporation; Chairman, RESI Consultant)
Young men drift to the world always have feelings of curiosity, strangeness, and nervousness after graduation. Engineering graduates feel better because they’re considered to be more promising in term of income and status compared with other social groups.
But it is true that the wealth generated by investment, ventures and rent collecting has been more prominent and professionals are not sitting on the upper rungs of social ladder as comfortable as before.
This lecture tries to impart knowledge based on the facts taking place everywhere, and quest whether or not the vocation Civil Engineers would worth to start with as the general public may not respect the profession for which the students may devote their entire life. It’s the lecturer’s wish that young men will know how to adapt in a changing economic system.
2. Proficiency, Income, and Social Status of Engineer in 21st Century
1) Difference between Income through Investment, Speculation and Bequests, and that from Personal Capability and Efforts, since beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
1) Difference between Income through Personal Capability and Efforts, and that from Investment, Speculation and Bequests since beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
- The said ratio kept constant since beginning of the industrial revolution for 100 years until World War I and a downward trend started cutting it by half until it surged again in 1980. Now it goes back to the same level as 1790.
- After World War I the professionals continued to increase their income and wealth by their own merit, people started to herald it as the beginning of a new era of more inclusive capitalism and trust the trend would not revert. But what happened between 1980 and now proving that it was just a transitory deviation.
2) Factors affect Income Distribution and Talent allocation:
- Continuous Technology Improvement
Technology is a major driver of productivity and economic growth. The top riches no more need so many people to attend them and mid income people can enjoy comfortable life.
However, the saying (by Voltaire) “the comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor” still remain true. Inequality exists and people are exasperated because they consider Technology Improvement is s the culprit.
- Super Managers and their Rise in Modern Commercial World
The new era favors more skilled over less skilled; it increases the return to capital owners over labor; it enables or turbo-charge globalization, reducing employment and constraining wage-able services; it increases the income advantages of superstars and the super-lucky; it generates rents in highly imperfect markets. Among them, the super managers with winner take all mentality popular in US deserve our attention.
- Can “Meritocratic Extremism” be achieved to save Professionalism?
The income generated by digital capital shared with certain kinds of complementary human capital, including innovators, entrepreneurs, and top executives. They’re few but pride their success for having unique merit and education. It’s dangerous because many people in society accept the so called “meritocratic extremism”; actually, it’s a super roulette that professionalism and intellect fell back before it.
- Digitalization and AI
But now that significant share of the income shaped by skill-biased and capital augmenting technical; the professionals of conventional definition may not be in a steering position, that software, tradable programs and even AI will do much of the engineers’ job diminishing their clout in retaining work opportunities and sharing income. So, would fear of people like Luddites justifiable because the skills of their craft would go dumb or the smart machine and AI would replace them in this Second Machine Age?
Is basic universal income a solution?
3) Cultivation and Preservation of Professionalism
- Devotion and Passion paid to nurture Intelligent Students during Academic Education.
Young professionals must try to learn from the beginning that at the democracy or open society, the elite, instead of accumulation of people, must settle and conclude for government policies, economic agenda and public works. And engineers are part of them and not those to be informed and ruled, in the process contributing intelligence.
However, engineers having to be people of integrity need to know social norms, market rules, and not the least, regulations and laws. And it’s long and difficult process, that they shall be honored and paid with reasonable material reward; not apparent in today’s Taiwan.
- Pursuance of Career and Profit at the Expense of Clarity and Conviction that must be associate with Engineer.
The “information technology’ demanding more return than from human capitals previously formed by employed engineers; corporate governance practices and social norms will change allowing more rent-seeking behavior because there will be less humanity control by smart machine and AI.
Will the alienation caused by machine detecting and responding to the environment and occupational to access massive data replace human brain clarity and engineers’ dutiful and faithful behavior?
- Code of Engineering Ethic in terms of Faith, Integrity, Law abiding
Engineering ethic request the engineers to take responsibility toward society, environment and the colleagues. Will it be the same easy to and simple for professionals to follow code of engineering ethic when their sharing in total company income much less than before?
- Will MBA graduates, Lawyers, Financing Expert be regarded as Intruders to the Professional or they’re just Supporting?
The modern construction industry essentially is governed with human distrust: terms of contracts, laws, certificates, checks, guarantees, tests, investigations and reports, are used to stimulate the antagonism between, and also to protect, parties with confronting interests.
3. Civil Engineering as a Vocation in Taiwan
1) Power to Decide Fate of Public Works in Descending Orders
- Citizens with Liberal and Egalitarian nature but much less Fraternity
- Media, Councilor, Elected Officials, Civil Servant and Law-enforcers
- Self-regarded Professionals
2) Pay and Responsibility/Liability
3) Major Players in Construction Industry
- Frontage Players: Contractors, Consultants, Architects, Specialty Companies, Work Gangs
- Supporting Entities: Banks, Insurance Company, O & M Contractors
- Third Party Participants: Notaries, Lawyers, Inspectors, Laboratories, Certifiers, Appraiser, Unions, Arbitrators.
4) Origin and Background attached to History, Culture and Politic
- Discrepancies found in between regarding construction performed by “Low Context Culture” Professionals or” High Context” Occupational?
- Remnant of Peasantry Economy: People Regard only Tangible Construction is valuable and worth to pay.
- Over-competition is encouraged by Public, Media, Politicians, down to Civil Servant, and People believe it will bring Price Cut.
- Civil Servants aren’t Allowed to Correct Errors at Early Stage, Misinformed Politicians Aggravate the Mistakes, and General Public demand nothing other than Consequence
- Pay are too low for Engineers and Academics, nobody bothered to give Independent Voices; the Vicious Cycle Prevent any Possibility of it.
4. Will Professional Career Worth to Start with?
1) To Overcome the Facts:
- The Engineer’s Career Path will be associated with Loneliness and Criticism, rarely will it receive Loud Applaud along the way.
- Public Work Construction is part of the Charity; more than One-sided Contract Terms and Condition, the Dealing must Serve the Public Interest First
- Non-Engineers are everywhere in the Industry, eager for Speculation and Compel other Parties to Share the Risks together. Decimation of them to play the Frontage Role is not possible as Tradition Cynically won’t break anyone’s Rice Bowl.
- Professionals need to learn “Knowledge” through Education and Training; “Skill” to Apply Correctly the Concept and Information obtained; and to exercise “judgement” based on Experience, Analysis and Computation for Project Assignment. But what will happen when Software and Cold Calculation will do everything, and Engineering Firms become Factory?
- Sad to say Passion and Inspiration wouldn’t be a Part of Engineering
2) Engineering will be subject to Unprecedented Changes
- Relevant small Taiwanese Construction Market Size Starts to Push its Integration with Neighboring Country in an Invisible way as Projects become more Sophisticated and Sizable. Companies have to Share the Resource and Expertise with Foreigners having Experience in bigger Market. That is the Opposite way Successive Governments Encourage Construction Industry to go abroad.
- Short Supply of Labors and Tightening Restraint on Work Sites Oblige Engineers to Swerve Solutions from Current Practice
- Investment will be honored if not Guaranteed. Added value in Engineering Contract, will be Created by other Professionals such as Lawyers and Financing People.
- Real Professional will be Reduced in Number as Automation and Digitalization Dominate the Industry, need not the same number of Engineers to do Planning and Design Works.
3) Beliefs and Altitude
- With Time and Patience, Engineers in Taiwan can Claim back its Authority in Project Execution. Past Decades We witnessed the Changes in the Construction Industry in favor of Engineers, though slowly.
- Income of Engineers in Taiwan Remains Low and also their Social Status. People have to fight hardly for them though there is Tendency that the Technology, Financial and Business Evolution will reduce relevant Share of Payment to Engineers Globally.
- Whether or not the Construction Market will be more Concentrated or Fragmented is not sure, but it’s important that Engineers shall not only care about Technical Matters, and need to Learn more about Coordination and Communication in and out of their Organization.
- The Understanding that Passion and Work must be linked together applies for both Engineering and Art, which many Young talent are Crazy run after now. But Engineers know they have to Quest Incessantly for “Progress” in the course of Engineering because every Achievement Praised for now will be overtaken not so long after. That’s a Sense of Superiority that this Dull and Low Reward Profession Can Offer.