I was interested to hear on the radio an interview with a doctor who stated that despite his extensive training and medical expertise he had very little knowledge of first aid.
Furthermore, he lived in fear that one day he may happen across an accident where his lack of this basic knowledge would reveal itself and ruin his medical credentials.
The report struck me as a parallel to what some engineers may have perceived to be happening within the engineering profession. As the body of knowledge that we, as practising engineers, are required to assimilate, grows at a seemingly exponential rate we are forced to filter out much of what is not directly relevant to our immediate needs - in essence we specialise.
Undergraduate engineers learn the principles of design and practice across a broad spectrum of subject areas but almost from the minute they enter the work environment they begin to specialise. As a result much of their essential grounding in these principles is left unused and ultimately forgotten.
I fear that with the growth in the body of knowledge and the need to specialise from an early stage, we run the risk of undermining our engineering credentials in much the same way as the unfortunate doctor on the radio.
Heaven forbid that engineers should live in fear that one day they may be asked to build something only to reveal that their skills are embarrassingly inadequate.
Andrew Fox (M), 101 Chapel Road, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, NP7 7DR