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Old December 17th, 2007, 03:09 PM   #1
Jiri Toman
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State of engineering in US

In the past several threads on this forum refered to engineering as being a highly desirable profession. This I believe was based on deliberate misinformation impressed upon us by current government as well as scores of special interest groups, who maintain that there is a shortage of engineers. In addition various claims were being made (again by special interest groups) to support the notion that US high school graduates are somehow deficient in math and sciences. Engineering unemployment is being touted by some trade journals as being around only 2%.

All of these claims are erroneous and deliberately perpetrated by special interests who have vested interest in maintaining illusion of an engineering shortage.
Please read about it here
http://machinedesign.com/ContentItem/71819/article.aspx
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Old December 17th, 2007, 03:30 PM   #2
leitmotif
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Good article. Have seen schools that keep recruiting students and training them for a saturated job market. My mother was one.

Just looking at want ads the big demand is for computer peoople. It is most unfortunate that I am completely disinterested in computers except as an user. Putting it another way I buy very good tools to make my job easier but I am completely disinterested in designing them.

Dan Bentler
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Old December 17th, 2007, 03:33 PM   #3
harryting
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Ya, there's always these "engineer/scientist" shortage report ever since I can remember. All freaking BS, if you ask me.

But, it's kind of a moot point, IMO, here's why. It really doesn't matter if US put out more/less engineering graduate in this global economy. You are competing with all the engineers in China, India, Eastern Europe anyway.

Speaking of computer, there's no shortage either but they just don't want pay for talent. Microsoft is bring a tons of Indian and Chinese programmers to Redmond.
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Old December 17th, 2007, 03:57 PM   #4
Steve Bailey
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Given the decline in manufacturing's contribution to the US GDP over the past few decades, it should come as no surprise that demand for engineers here in the States is flat or even down. Still, that alone is not evidence of a vast conspiracy among "the current government as well as scores of special interest groups" to create a surplus of engineers to keep engineering salaries low. My guess is that the single biggest influence on any oversupply is colleges trying to make sure that their engineering programs stay fully enrolled.
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Old December 17th, 2007, 04:44 PM   #5
Peter Nachtwey
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There is a shortage of good engineers.
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Old December 17th, 2007, 07:11 PM   #6
Tom Jenkins
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Nachtwey
There is a shortage of good engineers.
Amen!

Further, how do you define shortage? Increasing wage rates? Unemployment? Want ads? Unable to find work in your profession?

What period of time is the Sloan Foundation study covering? No statistics, study methodology, survey basis or other support was given - just the opinion.

If you have recently tried to hire a good engineer, as I have, you will find a shortage of qualified candidates. If you are an HR weenie and think engineers, like punch press operators, are an interchangeable commodity then you can find lots of candidates, and outsource to offshore services. MAny of these guys are excellent as long as you stay within the confines of the texts they were taught from. Some are truly innovative and creative. However, on average, they don't have the cultural bias to innovate and take risks like the best engineers anywhere.

Sure, the shortage was exagerated by companies trying to drive down wages with H1B visas etc. But we graduate more lawyers than engineers in this country. Which group creates wealth, and which group merely re-distributes it? If you have a pool of highly motivated technologically savy risk takers you will create new industries and new technology and new jobs. If you want drones to size the traces on your circuit boards you will get well desinged circuit boards doing the same function in the same way as the last one.
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Old December 17th, 2007, 07:52 PM   #7
Jim Dungar
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Shortage of what kind of engineers?

Electrical Engineering fields include: Software, Industrial Electronic, Consumer Electronic, Computer Hardware, Power Systems and Rotating Machines, and Alternative Power
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Old December 17th, 2007, 09:22 PM   #8
72hdflh
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Nachtwey
There is a shortage of good engineers.
Amen, I have seen Engineers come and go in my company that couldn't engineer their way out of a wet paper bag without the help of the Senior Maintenance Mechanics.!!!!

Last edited by 72hdflh; December 17th, 2007 at 09:23 PM. Reason: missed a word
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Old December 18th, 2007, 12:23 AM   #9
monkeyhead
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Dungar
Shortage of what kind of engineers?
The operative word is 'good'. For every one elegant, powerful, and well thought out idea, there are at least 1000 crappy kludges that barely do what they are designed and intended to do.
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Old December 18th, 2007, 01:54 AM   #10
Alan Case
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Same problem over here. There is a real shortage of good engineers, good technicians and good electricians.
Regards Alan
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Old December 18th, 2007, 02:16 AM   #11
Peter Nachtwey
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The problem is that getting an engineering degree is just the start and not the end of a process. Engineering is like everything else. Use it or lose it.
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Old December 18th, 2007, 09:27 AM   #12
Jiri Toman
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Quote:
Amen!

Further, how do you define shortage? Increasing wage rates? Unemployment? Want ads? Unable to find work in your profession?

What period of time is the Sloan Foundation study covering? No statistics, study methodology, survey basis or other support was given - just the opinion.
Yes there is a shortage of engineers willing to work for depressed wages.

Last year only 40% of Duke University engineering graduates ended up in engineering. Simply because there are more money in finance, law and other fields. Engineering carries very little prestige as a profession and compensation is too low.

Sloan foundation is not stating just opnions, they do research into the subject matter and their data was presented to Congress. On the other hand you as one person cannot be an objective judge, in fact you present just an opinion! Read the article,
it says "researchers Rand Corp., Harvard Uni, the National Bureau of Economic Research and Stanford, have all come to the same conclusion".
I know that you run your own business, so if you are looking for an engineer and can't find one, all you need to do is place an add that reads:
Looking for a competent electrical engineer, salary 150 000 USD per year, pay relocation expenses, 5 weeks vacation, free medical.
Your phone will not stop ringing!
The simple truth is that current average salary for a process control engineer in US is only 86 000 USD per year. A union electrician in Chicago area makes 42 USD per hour.

Salaries have been depressed by outsourcing and by H1B visas.
Current cap on H1B is 65 000 per year, big business is lobbying to raise this to over 100 000 per year. So in the future look for even more depressed salaries.

There are law firms out there holding classes that teach US corporations how to advertize a position so that no one in US will apply, that will open the door to sponsor someone from India willing to work for peanuts.

Quote:
Shortage of what kind of engineers?
All engineers and scientists. Please read the article!

Quote:
Given the decline in manufacturing's contribution to the US GDP over the past few decades, it should come as no surprise that demand for engineers here in the States is flat or even down. Still, that alone is not evidence of a vast conspiracy among "the current government as well as scores of special interest groups" to create a surplus of engineers to keep engineering salaries low. My guess is that the single biggest influence on any oversupply is colleges trying to make sure that their engineering programs stay fully enrolled.
No I am not saying that there is a conspiracy. Conspiracy would require some kind of coordinated effort. That is not how this came about. It developed gradually over the course of last 10 years. More and more Companies started to jump onto the outsoursing bandwagon. Colleges are not the single biggest influence in the oversupply, but they do contribute. Colleges are nowadays focused on getting maximum foreign students enrolled because that's where the money is. For example Purdue Uni charges lot more per semester to Chinese students than to local students (even those out of state don't pay nowhere near as much as foreigners). Tuition in colleges went up on average 51% in past 5 years!
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Old December 18th, 2007, 10:19 AM   #13
Hugh Jack
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There are seeds of truth in all of the arguments (corrupted by people with agendas), but the key fact is that not all engineers are the same. For example, we have a graduating class with co-op experience. They are all (and I mean all) quickly employed by local companies. And if they are out of work, it is not for long. The reason is that our program addresses industrial needs directly. The problem with nation wide engineering employment are,

- when you lump all engineers together you get many educated in programs that do not focus on industry needs. For example a mechanical engineer well educated in the thermal sciences is very common, but most companies that need engineers that can help get product out the door.

- many engineering programs focus on the theory to the exclusion of the practical. This is an excellent way to prepare students for graduate school, but a terrible way to educate practicing engineers.

As for the preparation of students, the school system has changed the education philosophy in the last couple of decades. We often see students that can recognize more topics, but are less proficient in them. For example, they can do more single step math problems, but have rarely done something that requires multiple steps. To avoid frustration they often take out steps that require students to struggle. This makes the job difficult when trying to teach skills such as programming where they must take large problems, break them into manageable pieces, and write the code.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Dungar
Shortage of what kind of engineers?

Electrical Engineering fields include: Software, Industrial Electronic, Consumer Electronic, Computer Hardware, Power Systems and Rotating Machines, and Alternative Power
In summary there is a shortage of engineers with the following attributes, and when you expand the search pool to cover the globe you are more likely to find the right people (or at least better fits).
- an analytic approach to problem solving
- good decision makers
- willing to adapt to a new corporate culture
- a willingness to relocate and travel
- willing to work long/odd schedules
- willing to put a company/team ahead of themselves
- self starters and learners
- good communicators
- etc....

In many ways the problem lies with universities that put preparation for research programs ahead of graduating well educated universities.

Last edited by Hugh Jack; December 18th, 2007 at 10:24 AM.
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Old December 18th, 2007, 10:41 AM   #14
Jiri Toman
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Quote:
For example, we have a graduating class with co-op experience. They are all (and I mean all) quickly employed by local companies.
And may I ask who is "We" ? Do you speak as an educator?
Where are you located? What college? Who are the local employers?
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Old December 18th, 2007, 11:08 AM   #15
Jim Dungar
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jiri Toman
All engineers and scientists. Please read the article!
Any article that lumps all engineers into a single reference just doesn't get me excited. I am not simply an engineer, I am an electrical engineer specializing in industrial power distribution systems located in the Midwest.

Please do not try to evaluate my pay scale and employment opportunities the same as you would a process controls engineer in Texas and definitely not the way you would a software engineer designing video game systems in Washington.
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