President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon. It is still early in Moscow, but here it is just the right time to meet and talk.
I proposed holding this meeting with engineers because of the changes that have been taking place over the last years with regard to the engineering profession and engineers. I am sure that you will tell me that your work is valued and respected, and decently paid too. But at the same time, I looked at the statistics and saw that 75 percent of parents these days do not want their children to get an engineering education.
When I was a student, which was not so long ago really, a large number of my fellow students chose engineering as their future profession back when they were still in school. Actually, I also considered engineering, but in the end my attraction to the legal profession won the day, though I did attend courses preparing students for entry to one of St Petersburg’s, or Leningrad’s, as it was then, engineering institutes.
What is behind this change? The reasons are quite clear really. The engineering profession’s declining prestige is due to the overall degradation in the education system and also to the drop in wages that engineers suffered on a universal scale following the Soviet Union’s disintegration.
”Only engineers, people from the engineering, exact, and natural sciences, can give us the creative solutions we need to carry out the modernisation that we talk so much about these days.“
The picture is one of contrasting trends now. In some areas engineers earn decent money and there are opportunities for young engineers with a good education to earn enough to support a family and buy a house. But in other areas the situation is still very difficult and people with decent education qualifications cannot find job or retrain quickly enough to make the transition from the engineering profession to new career areas.
The big issue now is what to do about all of this. This is why I have gathered you together and raised this whole question of the place engineers hold in our society. There was much literature published on this subject back in the 1950s and 1960s, but that has all gone by the wayside now. We are to return to the basics and discuss what we can do to raise the engineering profession’s prestige today. I don’t want to say banal things, but we all realise that without qualified engineers our country simply has no future. I have great respect for my colleagues in the legal profession, and for economists, but the country cannot develop thanks to lawyers and economists alone. Only engineers, people from the engineering, exact, and natural sciences, can give us the creative solutions we need to carry out the modernisation that we talk so much about these days.
So, what shall we do? I think there are two obvious aspects here: the first is to improve and optimise engineering education, and the second is the position employers take. These two aspects are crucial for determining the demand for engineers and what kind of money they earn. Finally, there is also the state authorities’ position, what the state authorities can do to raise the engineering profession’s status.
That is all I wanted to say for now. I would like to hear from you what you think the state authorities, the education system – the universities and engineering institutes – and the employers could do. We have just one employer represented here today, but an employer that is worth dozens. The floor is yours.