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Test Men, Experts, Brother Engineers, and Members of the Fraternity: Whence the Early Electrical Work Force?

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America's young electrical industry grew dramatically in the 1880's. As the technology boomed, thousands of new jobs opened. Industry leaders realized early on that many of these jobs would have to be filled by workers with specialized training¿training that was not available anywhere. Although the manufacturers started in-house "test" and "expert" programs almost immediately, they were aware that such programs could not adequately educate the workers they would need. There were three contemporary groups of professional workers who might have, in various ways, supplied at least some of the necessary labor, but who in fact supplied very little: telegraphers, mechanical engineers, and physicists. The telegraphers, proprietors of the contemporary high technology, did not as a rule understand the science underlying it and were professionally ill-suited to change; the mechanical engineers, although claiming dominion over electrical engineering by virtue of their knowledge of machinery and power transmission, generally lacked any real interest or ability in the new art; and the physicists, who understood electricity (but often not engineering), were scarce and committed to their discipline. Industry looked to the schools (in which the physicists taught) for the new work force, and the schools provided it.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Education  (Volume:27 ,  Issue: 4 )