Here is a picture of one class of over 100 Mexican educated engineers sitting for the California EIT exams. During the 2 years that we conducted this program, we sent over 250 Mexican educated engineers to these US Board Exams. I must say that the whole process of making this happen was the most profound experience of my career. believe it or not, Engineers create money.
(Note: while professional engineering licensure reflects on a specific regulatory process discussed here, the use of the term engineer may be generalized to include all sciences and technical workers)
But listening to the talk and banter of NAFTA, they were throwing around these words like money, value, risk, in ways that were simply did not match what I was seeing:
How could so many brilliant engineers be found in such a technologically underdeveloped country? The simple answer lies in the fact that for the developed world, modern finance allows for the capitalization of infrastructure projects. Engineering is, in fact, an extremely important financial instrument.
The Miracle of Capitalism
There is a large time gap between the moment that money flows to a project and the time that the project generates revenue. During this time gap, the profession of engineering serves to maintain the asset on the balance sheet. Engineering provides something called “assurance”. A bank and the insurance industry hedge each other’s risk, but without assurance the project cannot be capitalized. Again, capitalization and securitization FAILS without engineering assurance.
The 3-legged stool
In the preceding article, I said that the failure of NAFTA was that the financial service were successful in becoming a service of free trade while the engineering profession largely failed. It is precisely the failure of the engineering profession to negotiate a meaningful Mutual Recognition Document which led the NAFTA to under perform. In essence, we kicked out one leg of the 3-legged stool.
Without the assurance of a viable professional engineering community, foreign direct investment in Mexico was limited to very high ROI investments, Government guaranteed construction, or partnerships with the Mexican oligarchy – in order to supplant an absent independent engineering sector.
Very large contracts for the sale of otherwise worthless desert land were being written contingent on 500 engineers being available to work in the foreign factory that would be built and guaranteed by the government. Tacit or implicit, there certainly would be an incentive on all sides to not give engineers “wings” so that they could fly away, let alone enjoy free will.
I ran into trouble when the Federal Government found out that my program was doing precisely that – Mexican Engineers who passed the US Board exams were being scooped up by US Companies outside the jurisdiction of Mexico. There was deep fear of a brain drain if the World learned that Mexican Engineers were as strong as we were measuring.
At one point a representative of the Mexican Federal Government negotiating NAFTA asked me to leave the country. When the State of Baja California (governed by the opposition political party) heard about this, I was asked to stay and I lived in a private home under armed guard until the program could be completed.
The Big Flip
There is a great deal more to this story than I can not reveal in a short blog post, but the idea is clear. Engineering productivity is an extremely important resource for the flow of money. Engineering assets play an important part in contractual agreements for tangible assets such as land and factories (factors of production). They are central to the design and execution of international trade agreements. Everyone wants to control engineering because to do so controls productivity. In essence engineers CREATE money – money does NOT create engineers.