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Three Trends You'll Want to Watch in Engineering

By John R. Platt

Global culture and economics have a tremendous impact on people working in the technology fields. Offshoring, open access, and green engineering are three trends to keep your eye on.

Offshoring & Globalization Continue to Change the World

We've all heard about offshoring, and engineering isn't immune. Some analysts predict that offshoring of U.S. IT jobs will continue to grow at 20% every year.

So what can you do to protect yourself from being outsourced? Don't settle. Aim high. Keep your education current. Make yourself invaluable. If someone else can do your job, chances are they will be doing it before too long.

But don't worry too much. Yes, it's true that Chinese and Indian universities are pumping out more engineers than their U.S. counterparts, but U.S. engineers, on average, are better trained, more creative and more adaptable. You already have an edge just by being you.

Information Wants to be Free -- Or Does It?

Similar to open-source software, there is a growing trend toward open-access publication of scientific research.

Most scientific information is released through for-profit publishers or not-for-profit societies who charge a fairly high price tag for access. But many believe that all scientific research should be made freely available to anyone who wants to read it -- especially if the research was paid for by the government. Of course, publishers disagree (even the not-for-profit ones), saying they offer professional editing, established peer-review processes, and print distribution. Plus they can afford the bandwidth required for massive online databases. Expect the debate to continue unabated for a few years.

In practical terms, this means that if you need to find research in your field, some of it will be free, and some of it will come out of your budget. In terms of your career, may find that your field or peers could place greater value on either commercial or open-access publication.

Green Means Go

Alternative power, environmentally responsible fabrication techniques, devices which use less power, techniques to clean up existing pollution... The opportunities for a "green"-thinking engineer are almost endless.

The demand for greener technology has never been stronger, both from consumers and industries. Consumers want to buy items that make them feel good. Businesses want to be green if it will save them money and create goodwill from their customers. Forward-thinking engineers with solutions to these problems are especially valued in the current climate.

John R. Platt is a freelance writer and marketing consultant who often writes about technology, entrepreneurship, and the environment.

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