You're thinking about it too simply, if you're going into engineering, there are steps you need to take. Let's say, the average student graduates in 5 years. So our engineering student in his 3rd, 4th, 5th year should be involved in an internship with a company (not just during the summer). This obviously will take away time from academics, maybe taking less classes or what not. Even if he goes on to get a masters, he should still be doing an internship. Otherwise, if you have the education without the internship experience, it's going to be tough finding a job.
"Taking time off to work at an internship can hardly count as time added to the major." If that's the case, residency shouldn't count as time added to the major. Sorry, but companies don't let you just sit there and do homework while you take their money. They want you to work and gain experience and come back to the company if you do a good job.