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NSF Reports No Geek Shortage 233

Posted by Zonk
from the wish-things-were-still-going-up dept.
Baldrson writes "The NSF's report titled 'Graduate Enrollment in Science and Engineering Programs Up in 2003, But Declines for First-Time Foreign Students' (a pdf of the report released for the first time last month) is now available online. In an analysis of the report, Edwin S. Rubenstein of ESR Research states of these latest figures: '4.2 percent of science and engineering PhDs work outside their field of training, chiefly for financial reasons. This further weakens corporate America's claim of a shortage of high-tech workers.'" Interesting to see how things have changed since then.
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NSF Reports No Geek Shortage

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  • by RentonSentinel (906700) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:23AM (#13642881) Journal
    I don't think corporations really complained about a shortage of high-tech workers.

    It was *cheap* high-tech workers that they said were in short supply...
    • by chris_mahan (256577) <chris.mahan@gmail.com> on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:34AM (#13642920) Homepage
      Ain't that the truth!

      Besides, since when does one need a PhD or even a college degree to be a geek?

      I know people with no degree that make killer apps with real-world-solid designs.

      I think corporations are looking in the wrong places (I know the fortune 500 I work at is looking in all the wrong places).

      • by ace1317 (905398) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @08:40AM (#13643719)
        This article refers to all engineering and science though, not just CS. I think it's pretty difficult these days for a self-taught chemical engineer to get a 35 plate pilot distillation column to play with. Or for that matter to get experience on any sort of high tech equipment used for lithography or imaging on the nanoscale if that happens to be your field. Those who are geeks would be geeks with or without the schooling, that's true, but for some fields schooling gives access to experimental work, while teaching yourself gives only theory. I hypothesize that most people need both.
    • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:40AM (#13642935) Homepage Journal
      I don't think corporations really complained about a shortage of high-tech workers.

      Big companies like Intel, MS, and HP have been claiming there is a "shortage" for years, even during the depths of the tech recession of 2001-2004. Yet many of them have been implementing hiring freezes and other staff-reducing measures.

      As somebody pointed out, MS almost exclusively hires only graduates. If there was a "shortage", shouldn't they expand their hiring to older workers? They just want to keep being picky, that is why they lobby for visa workers and more access to India. Young people without families work longer hours. And, they get "A" workers at "C" prices.
               
      • (correction) (Score:2, Informative)

        by Tablizer (95088)
        MS almost exclusively hires only graduates

        I meant fresh graduates, just out of college. (And I think the grammer is messed up in that sentence, but I am too lazy to fix it.)
                   
        • Re:(correction) (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mspohr (589790)
          It's been pointed out by others that this may be a fundamental flaw in MS software development. They can get new graduates cheaply but they lack experience so continue to make the same mistakes that other more experienced workers have learned about the hard way (think security, networking, etc.)
      • by slashdotnickname (882178) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:10AM (#13643026)
        And, they get "A" workers at "C" prices.
        That's a bit of an exaggeration.

        As smart and skilled as young tech workers might be, they don't have the experience yet of working in a team environment on large projects. Anyone that's ever worked in such environments knows the value of experienced members, in terms of keeping the goals focused and the lines of communication properly flowing. Schools cannot fully teach experience, and experience is a big component of what I'd call an "A" worker.

        Plus, with starting salaries averaging higher than public school teachers or police officers... calling them "C" salaries is stretching it a bit.
        • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:34AM (#13643080) Homepage Journal
          As smart and skilled as young tech workers might be, they don't have the experience yet of working in a team environment on large projects.

          For whatever reason, many companies don't really value experience. Managers view it like factory work: "Can they put the peg into the hole when needed?" Or "Do they know JavaFoo++ and have a cert?"

          Plus, with starting salaries averaging higher than public school teachers or police officers... calling them "C" salaries is stretching it a bit.

          But technology careers are more volatile. When the economy goes bad, the demand for cops is even higher because idle people get into more trouble. And teachers have the protection of government policies and unions. Further, they get the summer off , have longer holiday periods, have good benefits and retirement packages. Teaching is usally more cushy and stable in comparison. And, cops don't need a college degree. Tech is a grind with Dilbertian bosses with limited upward mobility.
                     
          • Teaching is usally more cushy and stable in comparison. And, cops don't need a college degree. Tech is a grind with Dilbertian bosses with limited upward mobility.

            I can't speak for cops, but the teachers I've known over the last 20 years have it soooo easy:

            • They always have at least one PHB (or PhD) directing them to do their job a different way every year.
            • There are endless mandatory meetings that serve no purpose, but they still have to drive 20 miles to the county seat every day after work to attend
            • Newbie, stay in a conversation about tech.

              Errors with your points (my wife works in admin for school district):

              1 - at least one PHB (or PhD) - First, not different every year. Only when change dictated by state. One PHB? You do realize that the principals almost always PhD's in education, not MBA's?

              2 - endless mandatory meetings - No. Mandatory meetings are usually one per quarter, and they get the day and are paid travel. Every day is a blatent lie, plus it's not held in the county seat.

              3 -
              • Newbie, stay in a conversation about tech.

                Yes, but a conversation allows for lateral moves, yes? In any case having criticized him for being off topic, you then engage him point by point. What's up with that?

                Errors with your points (my wife works in admin for school district):

                And so you get the party line from management, yes? So I thought I'd add a few remarks from a real teacher.

                1 - at least one PHB (or PhD) - First, not different every year. Only when change dictated by state. One PHB? You do realize th
              • Teachers (Score:3, Informative)

                by shadow_slicer (607649)
                I don't know what universe you crawled out of, but it bears no resemblence to mine....

                1 - The principals are usually either lowly teachers (at most Masters-level graduates) or other random people that the school board happens to like. These people generally have no management skills or experience. Some of them don't know how to deal with the politics that can be avoided by lowly teachers. Some of them let the promotion go to their head and micromanage everything (after all they are the principal so they mus
              • You do realize that the principals almost always PhD's [sic] in education, not MBA's [sic]?

                Both the PhD and MBA are no guarantee of any knowledge, skills, or competence.

                All they mean is that you passed some tests, took some classes, wrote a really long paper that no one will ever read, and you (may) have been subjected to an oral thrashing ordeal by several "esteemed" members of the faculty.

                For your future elucidation, when pluralizing "PhD" or "MBA," use "PhDs" and "MBAs," respectively. Apostroph

          • Teaching is usally more cushy and stable in comparison.

            And isn't that the truth. I was a programmer and did DBA work for three years, until I switched to teaching. Because when IBM cuts 500 mainly tech jobs in your state, and you get laid off, and all your friends with more certs and coursework in programming than you get laid off, teaching starts to look damn good.

            Once I get my lvl 2 teaching certification, it's pretty much as good as tenure. I have to majorly screw up to get fired. Like abuse a kid, or repeatedly come in under the influence. Compare that with my last tech job, when I got laid off RANDOMLY as part of a 5% reduction in salary/benefits costs. That's right - no performance based review, no cost/benefit analysis, a random (less managers and friends of the president) layoff. I had been there almost 3 years, but they laid off another worker who had been there LESS THAN TWO WEEKS.

            As we say at school, this would be the best job in the world if it wasn't for the kids and the administration. Regardless of my bitching about school, I sure as hell don't miss my time in IT. And I have summers off to program and screw around back in IT land, while getting paid the whole time.
    • by Cerdic (904049) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:48AM (#13642953)
      Yep, H1-B visas will bring that cheap labor in.

      On a side note, affirmative action is a bunch of BS and the way the powers that be train future H1-B labor. The truth is that in many schools, The over representation is actually from foreign students, particularly from Asia, strong H1-B candidates.

      I was looking at some data for U of Washington, the place where they had the infamous "affirmative action bake sale." To make class populations representative of the population of the state, they would need to increase black students from 2.7% to 3.5%, hispanics by something similar, increase white students from 50% to 70%, and drop Asians (huge numbers from outside the US) from 30% to something like 6%.
    • by backslashdot (95548) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @04:07AM (#13643135)
      I don't think corporations really complained about a shortage of high-tech workers.

      It was *cheap* high-tech workers that they said were in short supply...


      Wouldnt you complain if gas prices were very high?

      They want low cost labor .. why is this a problem? Would you argue against automation? Why shouldnt companies be allowed to hire whoever they want based on the wage they are willing to work for? Construction workers work hard, and would love to earn as much as IT workers ..but they cant. How come nobody argues construction workers should get paid the same as IT workers? For that matter why not pay someone at macdonalds $60k+? Doesnt everyone deserve more money?

      Unfortunately, IT workers think that just because they wasted time in college ... other people are obligated to hire them. This is ridiculous! Salaries shouldnt be based on how intelligent a person thinks of themselves as being, it should be based on how much a person needs you.

      This is the essence of trade. If a carpenter labors for hours making a table with an intricate design and prices it at 1000 silver pieces, and a rival carpenter makes an ugly chair and prices it at 10 silver pieces, nobody is morally obligated to buy the more expensive chair.

      This has been the essence of trade for milleniums.

      If you are unable to provide value .. DO SOMETHING ELSE THAT YOU CAN PROVIDE REAL VALUE IN .. or price yourself lower. Deal with it instead of taking it out on people who are willing to make more sacrifices.
      • Where I live, there is totaly impossible to find work in the IT field.
        And even if you get a work, you will earn less than people in the construction business.
        So construction workers can and do earn more than college educated workers.
        • by twiddlingbits (707452) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @09:24AM (#13643838)
          Good point, someone should Mod you up (don't have mod points today). If you are in contruction, you are often unionized and that helps wages. Geeks have tried to organize but can't seem to.

          Construction workers often get overtime and since they are hourly it is PAID at 1.5X. Try asking your PHB for OT pay at your regular scale.

          I had a cousin who dropped out of High School, went to work as an electrician, got his licenses, and made about $25/hour plus OT while I was in making 35K right out of school with a BSCS working 60 hour weeks as a Programmer. He went on to start his own business in electrical contracting and made a fortune then retired about 45.

          So yea, construction can pay if you get into the skilled trades. Just being a Laborer is not going to do it though.
        • I don't think that's unique to your area. I think it is true just about everywhere that construction workers will make substantially more than all but the highest levels of IT workers.

          I don't think that's entirely unfair, either. Construction workers do hard, often dangerous, manual labor in the hot sun. IT workers tend to sit in air conditioned offices, and the most physical exertion required is occasionally lifting a 19" monitor.

          I'm not trying to downplay the importance of good IT workers, but I don'

          • I'm not trying to downplay the importance of good IT workers, but I don't understand the attitude that they should be entitled to higher wages than skilled manual laborers.

            I think the point is the message we are sending to young people: drop out, work your way up in the trades, own your trade biz, get rich, and flip off poor programmers in your shiney lamberginee. That is hardly a way to motivate students to study harder.
                     
      • They want low cost labor, but the fact that there is a shortage of it combined with an apparent tech. worker surplus is indicative of the marketplace dictating a higher salary for these people than the corporations wish to pay.

        If they can find high tech. workers that want to work for peanuts, that's fine (realize that not all jobs can go to India; for example, mine will never be outsourced). Obviously, however, they're having a hard time doing that.

        Labor costs to gas prices is a bad comparison, for a number
      • You're kidding, right? Construction workers, especially experienced ones, make a ton of money. Most plumbers that I know with ten years in the field usually have their own contracting licenses, and make a minimum of around $120K per year (in California).
      • Actually what is happening is that they are creating a phoney shortage, then using government power to skew supply and drive down wages. This is not about real economics, it is about politics.

        The only real solution is to abolish nations. Then both labor and capital could freely flow across the globe following each other. Until then, you better engage in politics to look after your own self interest.
      • This has been the essence of trade for milleniums.

        Not. Tarrifs and import fees in the US were around 35% for *most* of our history. When these tarrifs started going down the 70's, the wage differences between rich and poor started growing dramatically[1] and are reaching levels not seen since the 1920's. It appears that free trade benefits *only* the wealthy (who pay lots to lobby for more).

        If other countries don't recepricate the trade (they usually don't), we should not give them a free ride at the expe
    • No geek shortage where I work, but for what it's worth the Babe Shortage is showing no sign of letting up.
    • There's a very related parallel example going on in (of all things) farm labor. For years, the growers in California have had access to abundant, cheap farm labor; due to the massive amounts of illegal immigration.

      Since 9/11 however, things have tightened up at the border. The result is that now the farmers are crying about how they can't find farmworkers.

      What they are really saying is that they can't find CHEAP farmworkers. There are plenty of people who are willing to work; just not at the wages that

      • What they are really saying is that they can't find CHEAP farmworkers. There are plenty of people who are willing to work; just not at the wages that the farmers are willing to pay.

        Well, it might be that they do not want to pay those wages, because Wal-Mart does not want to pay the extra cost when buying their produce. Wal-Mart does not want to buy the produce at the extra cost, because the customers do not like to spend that much.

        So, do you want to spend twice the amount for food?
  • by grogdamighty (884570) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:24AM (#13642885) Homepage
    Perhaps the shortage of high tech workers is due to the increasing demands for longer periods of schooling - the mandatory masters and doctorates that have replaced the undergraduate degrees of the past.
    • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:51AM (#13642964) Homepage Journal
      Perhaps the shortage of high tech workers is due to the increasing demands for longer periods of schooling - the mandatory masters and doctorates that have replaced the undergraduate degrees of the past.

      Is this because the jobs really require such, or because if a company has access to the entire world's labor, they would hire PhD's to flip burgers if they could pay them what they pay a citizen. In otherwords, it is not a "need" but a possibility that is taken advantage of.

      Normally companies don't do this with citizens because they feel "natives" would get too bored if they are overqualified. However, the perception is that foreign workers won't complain. This may be true because it is better than their alternatives in their native country. Third-world workers are obviously going to be less picky because they grew up with less. Plus, if they are picky, they can be replaced because there are 6 billion people on the planet. This makes it easier to find somebody willing to be exploited.
             
  • shortage? (Score:4, Funny)

    by oh_bugger (906574) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:25AM (#13642890)
    they say there's no shortage but the price is still $70 per barrel of geeks!
  • by Jozer99 (693146) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:28AM (#13642898)
    I'm a student at Carnegie Mellon, and I can assure you that there is no shortage of geeks in the near future.
  • by pickyouupatnine (901260) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:43AM (#13642940) Homepage

    In Canada atleast, it doesn't feel like there's any shortage in tech workers. The salaries for new graduates keeps going down each year - eventhough the cost of living and the cost of education keeps going up every year.

    ... Despite this, the government insists that there is a shortage and wants to increase the number of people immigrating as tech workers - when all they really want is a bunch of smart intelligent engineers to move to this country and procede on to fill the void in factory and walmart jobs.

    • In Canada at least, it doesn't feel like there's any shortage in tech workers. The salaries for new graduates keeps going down each year... Despite this, the government insists that there is a shortage and wants to increase the number of people immigrating as tech workers

      Many of us geeks would indeed consider that, with the flood of H1B's and Bushification of the political scene here. And, with global warming and putting on a few pounds over the years, the climate might be palettable now. Canada is kind of
    • In Canada, there's certainly no shortage of tech workers, but there is a shortage of tech jobs (though, I hear that is improving now with a bunch of tech companies in and around the Waterloo, Ontario area).

      The Canadian government is afraid of "brain drain", and rightfully so - a lot of their bright technical people are leaving for the U.S., because they can't find jobs in Canada in their chosen field. I left Canada six years ago to go to California, where I'm working as an embedded systems programmer. My
  • by John Hawks (624818) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:50AM (#13642957)

    Personally, I know many people in my field of science who are doing other things because of the lack of academic jobs. Big pharmaceuticals and other corporations can use people with graduate degrees in almost any kind of science, because they have the statistical and/or logical toolkits that can be applied to other work. So these folks would be counted as doing work "outside their field of training", and are doing so because of "greater financial opportunities".

    If anything, though, this doesn't mean there is a shortage of jobs for science and engineering degrees. It means that there are a shortage of people qualified to do trained statistics and problem-solving, and corporations are willing to pay a premium to raid surplus academics to get them.

    --John [johnhawks.net]
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:01AM (#13642987) Homepage Journal
    The bottom line is that science and technology cannot be our comparative advantage anymore. That is why the dismal PhD pay. The laws of physics and science are the same the world over, but salaries are not.

    Allegedly "innovation" is our comparative advantage, but are 5 Indians for the same price really going to have less total good ideas than one US citizen? This is an insult to other cultures and nations.

    I am not sure what the US's comparative advantage is anymore. Cheesy advertizing and manipulative deal-making? It might be, but it is not something to be proud of.
           
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:54AM (#13643114)
      They may, actually. The reason isn't because Americans have some magical innovation gene but because I think more Indian students go in to engineering for the wrong reasons. Ok perhaps wrong reasons is too strong, but they go in to engineering without a real love for it. They aren't true engineering geeks.

      Being a geek isn't just about your field, it's about having a true passion for what you do. It's when you've found the work in life that you love. An example of a famous geek is Richard Feynman. He was a physics geek. If you read his biography and lectures, it becomes readily apparant that he LOVES physics. He worked in the field for that reason alone, that he made money at it and became famous was secondary.

      Well I find that by and large, the Indian students (I work for an electrical engineering department) are in it because it is percieved as a good job. They believe that engineering is really the only acceptable degree to get, and that with it they'll get a good job. I find the grad students are very similar. They should be in it for the love of learning, to do orignal research, but for most of them it's just more hoops to jump through so they can get a better job. The result is that they tend to be uncreative, and have difficulty applying their knowledge. They have lots of facts and forumlas memorized and are fine on the theory, but when it comes to real world problem solving, they are sunk on even simple tasks.

      Now, as with all generalizations, this one is not a universal truth, there are some very, very smart Indian grad students. However I find that the majority Indian and Chinese students are not good critical thinkers, not good problem solvers, and not engineering geeks. They are in it to try and get a better job only. I find that the majority of American (north and south) and European grad students are in it for the love of learning. They have something they want to study and that's why they are here. Their critical thinking and problem solving tends to be much better.

      I think it is cultural to a fairly large degree. A friend of mine is an CE grad, but now works in network support. He said that basically, engineering was the only option his family considered acceptable for him. He was going to unviersity, and he was going to be an engineer. Didn't matter what kind, but he was going to be an engineer. He's really not all that interested in it, hence he's working in something else right now (CE has almost nothing to do with network support).

      To me it seems the US is much more open to doing what you want to do. You go to university and then you decide what you want to do. Many people even get degrees in unrelated fields, just general liberal arts degress, what an undergraduate degree used to be anyhow.

      Personally, I think this is better. Not everyone is cut out to be an engineer any more than everyone is cut out to be an artist or musician. Many people can be engineers, if they struggle through the program, but that doesn't mean they should be, or that they'll be good at it.

      The same is true of IT. Whenever I interview someone, I'm not actually trying to find out their computer knowledge. I really don't care all that much and I've already checked their resume. What I'm tyring to find out is if they are a computer geek. Do they like playing with computers? Do they like fixing them? Are computers something they really understand, or do they just have a lot of theoritical knowledge they can't apply? Those are the things I want to know. If the person's a geek and they can solve tech problems, the rest isn't that important. You can be trained in new things, but having an affinity for something just seems to be something you are born with.

      So the US may indeed still have an innovative advantage. If we encourage people to follow their dreams, and encourage creative thinking, that helps produce people who are better at what they do. Sheer numbers don't matter. Ask any competent software producer what's better: One really good programmer that loves to program and can problem solve or 10 code monkeys. They'll all tell you they'd take the good programmer.
      • by mcrbids (148650) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @04:36AM (#13643191) Journal
        Being a geek isn't just about your field, it's about having a true passion for what you do. It's when you've found the work in life that you love. An example of a famous geek is Richard Feynman. He was a physics geek. If you read his biography and lectures, it becomes readily apparant that he LOVES physics. He worked in the field for that reason alone, that he made money at it and became famous was secondary.

        I so utterly, totally, and completely agree! How many people in their figure out what they are really passionate about, and then get a chance to do it professionally?

        So much of our training a la public schooling was to focus on our weak points - if we excelled at math, but were weak with Language Arts, what were we made to invest our time into? Math? Not.

        How much easier life would be if, when assessed for our weaknesses, they focused instead on our strengths? As in "Well, your language arts competence is passable, but your math scores are out of this world! Let's talk about math, since it is very possibly something you love doing... "

        What if we focused on doing the stuff that's easy for us, that we ENJOY doing, instead of focusing on our areas of weakness? Now much self-confidence would we get, knowing that we were blessed with a particular strength found useful by others, rather than knowing we can't do Language Arts to "standard"?

        Our public education system is clearly and specifically engineered to produce quiet, obedient, non-questioning factory workers - except that the factory worker of the 19th century is extinct. We should be working instead to foster alternative education strategies, since the classroom environment has failed so well.
      • Background: I'm an engineering grad student, and have TA'd/taught classes at 3 schools. I've found that the schools without grade inflation (courses graded on a curve, almost allways a C+ average) had a much higher percentage of students excited to be engineers. This (geekily enough) lead to alot of late night brainstorming sessions over beer, and as a result ideas were shared across majors, and still are. But students who werent excited about engineering were weeded out of the programs quickly (we grada
      • This is a business decision; ie. its cheaper to hire lobbyists to change the laws regarding visas and then higher foreigners with lower exepcations/demands than it is to pay local wages. Besides, do the senior executives of your company play golf with you? No, they play golf with the lobbyist.
    • but are 5 Indians for the same price really going to have less total good ideas than one US citizen? This is an insult to other cultures and nations.

      You're asking the wong question. Firstly, you assume that the high price of US engineers somehow exists in a vacuum. Fact is, those engineers need somewhere to sleep, food to eat, and loans to repay (college ain't cheap). Indians are cheap because all that other stuff is cheap and their standard of living reflects it. If you wish to make the US into a third

      • What burns me about the whole situation is that corporations want to do business in a first world country and pay third world rates

        It's because corporations are competing with others that are getting third world rates. It's not like US companies are the only ones in the world. As long as the US consumer only cares about the bottom line (cheapest price possible), the corporations have no choice but to care about the bottom line.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:06AM (#13643001)
    You only have to read the articles. Every one of them has something to do with race and how white Americans are getting screwed by black/brown/yellow people.

    I'm surprised they manage to get a front page story on Slashdot.
  • by Colonel Panic (15235) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:08AM (#13643015)
    If US industry really needs more people with advanced degrees, then perhaps they should help fund our efforts to get advanced degrees.
    I'm almost finished with my Masters in ECE, but it's been a rather large financial sacrifice. Of course, I started on my Master's degree when the economy was in the tank and there really weren't any engineering jobs to be had anyway. In the last year that situation has started to change and more jobs are out there. I've thought about going on for a PhD, but after 3 years of paying for my Master's I really need to go out and work for a few years.

    We hear a lot from the likes of Gates and Groves about how their respective companies (Microsoft and Intel) need more people with advanced degrees and then bemoaning the fact that Americans aren't going to school to get those advanced degrees. Well, the big problem is money. When you finish your Bachelor's degree these days you've got a pretty good amount of school loan debt to pay off so you go to work in industry (and going to work in Industry right after getting your Bachelor's is a good thing IMHO: it gives you much needed real world experience you wouldn't get if you just continue straight away to grad school). After a few years you've got a house, cars, a spouse and maybe a kid or two. At this point going back to grad school is very difficult, you take a huge financial hit by doing so.

    So, if industry really wants more PhD's then they should put their money where their mouth is and fund more of us. A lot of us would be more than willing to work on a doctorate if we knew that we would be able to make it financially if we did go back to school. Companies should offer funding in exchange for a commitment to work for the company for X number of years after finishing the degree. The funded student would also agree to work perhaps part time or during the summers at said company. Funding should include health insurance - this is a must; how is someone who has a house, spouse and kids going to be able to get by without health insurance.

    I really don't buy the whole idea that the reason we don't get enough applicants for advanced degrees is because of poor highschool education levels in the US. You don't go directly from highschool to an advanced degree. Usually you get a bachelor's first and then (as I've suggested above) you work in industry for 5 or 10 years and then consider getting a Master's or PhD - this is often the way it works. Besides, having that 5 or 10 (or more) years of real-world experience and then going on to grad school makes you much more valuable than someone who goes directly to grad school after the bachelor's degree.
    • "Companies should offer funding in exchange for a commitment to work for the company for X number of years after finishing the degree." They can't effectively have such a contract in the US.
      • They can't effectively have such a contract in the US.

        Why do you say that? My employer offers 75% education reimbursement (100% after 5 years: tuitions, fees, and books) but if my employment is terminated within something like 12 months, I have to pay it back.

        How is that different?
        • As a student coming out of undergrad say a company makes this deal "we'll pay for your grad school but you have to work for us afterwards for 5 years or else you must pay us back." You go to grad school. You are a student with no money. You declare bankruptcy. Bankruptcy can't get you out of federal student loans but it sure can get you out of private ones.
    • Companies should offer funding in exchange for a commitment to work for the company for X number of years after finishing the degree.

      Indentured servitude is illegal in this country. The company would have no recourse if you just walked off with your degree and refused to work for them. So they aren't going to offer such a deal.

      Even if they could force you to hold up your end of the bargain, what is their recourse if you fail to get the degree?

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Well, then... couldn't they underwrite a, say, 5-year loan and then pay on that loan for as long as you worked for the company? If you leave the company, then the remaining unpaid debt reverts to you...
      • Indentured servitude is illegal in this country. The company would have no recourse if you just walked off with your degree and refused to work for them. So they aren't going to offer such a deal.

        Even if they could force you to hold up your end of the bargain, what is their recourse if you fail to get the degree?


        Err... make you pay it back? Indentured servitude isn't the same thing as working, for pay, and having your company pay for your school provided you continue working there for X amount of time.
      • Indentured servitude is illegal in this country.

        Yes, but the government can always bend the rules:

        DHS Graduate Fellowship [orau.gov] requirements:

        • A 10-week, continuous, off-campus research internship at a DHS-designated facility will be required during the summer between your first and second year of tenure.
        • You must indicate a willingness to accept, after graduation, competitive employment offers from DHS, state and local security offices, DHS-affiliated Federal laboratories, or DHS-related university facul
    • So, if industry really wants more PhD's then they should put their money where their mouth is and fund more of us.

      I got a scholarship from Honeywell while an undergrad. Many companies provide scholarships for undergrads with no strings attached. They also provide grants for grad students, with only the limitation being the specific research (no need to join the company after graduation).

      Companies should offer funding in exchange for a commitment to work for the company for X number of years after finis
    • In addition to points made by other posters, I'd add that it is not uncommon for companies to fund educational costs while you are employed by that company.
    • I really don't buy the whole idea that the reason we don't get enough applicants for advanced degrees is because of poor highschool education levels in the US. You don't go directly from highschool to an advanced degree. Usually you get a bachelor's first and then (as I've suggested above) you work in industry for 5 or 10 years and then consider getting a Master's or PhD - this is often the way it works. Besides, having that 5 or 10 (or more) years of real-world experience and then going on to grad school m
      • My only choice to even be allowed to APPLY for a Masters was first to go back and do about 4-5 years of Continuing Education.

        Find different schools or a different approach to applying. If there's not a mechanism for accepting your experience in lieu of "how do compilers work 101" then they're probably not that great a school. If they are good schools, but you're hearing that from them admissions office, you might also try approaching some faculty directly and talking to them a few times (over time) about
    • If US industry really needs more people with advanced degrees, then perhaps they should help fund our efforts to get advanced degrees. I'm almost finished with my Masters in ECE, but it's been a rather large financial sacrifice.

      Perhaps go to an Indian university: it is about 1/7 the cost. US universities couldn't be afraid of less-expensive 3rd-world competition; after all, they are one of the biggest lobbyists for visa workers.

      You see, when free trade fucks somebody else and they balk, you dismiss them a
  • There are tons of reasons why people change their career. If less than 1 in 20 science and engineering Ph.D.'s work outside their field, there must be tremendous demand for them. Hell, more than 5% of the science and engineering Ph.D.'s I know are incompetent.
  • by rheinhold (917565) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:19AM (#13643043)

    I find this "analysis" superficial and self-serving. A vocal segment of the high-tech community, including, evidently, the author of this piece, is protectionist and consistently opposes higher visa limits for foreign workers. I, personally, think this is short-sighted; I think continued immigration of the best and brightest from the rest of the world is a positive for the US. But that's not what I'm criticizing in the report.

    The author attempts to argue that American students are becoming more interested in engineering, and that foreign students are less so, based on the enrollment numbers into US graduate programs, and thus we don't need more foreign workers. From my experience as a professor, I offer an alternate explanation:

    • More US students are entering graduate programs because the economy is poor and thus students with bachelors in engineering degrees find graduate study more attractive because finding jobs is difficult. This was certainly true in 2003.
    • Fewer foreign students are entering US graduate programs because it has become markedly more difficult to get US student visas since 9/11. This trend is of grave concern to US universities (and it should be of equal concern to the technology community); instead the best students from other countries are staying home or going to other nations for graduate study.

    I feel this "analysis" is far from objective; the Hudson Institute, a far-right think tank, evidently has quite the axe to grind with immigration (just as they do with Social Security and organic foods).

    • You sound just like a typical PHB (from the school of Microsoft FUD.) But in the reverse role. The study produced a result that you (personally) don't agree with, and so blame the underlying bias and agenda of the source.

      Some of the most damning data that I saw was IT employment and H1-B visa data for the state of Connecticut for 2003. 78,000 IT workers in Connecticut were layed off that year. But that very same year, employers in Connecticut requested (and got) 68,000 more H1-B visa slots allotted to t
  • by gamer4Life (803857) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:20AM (#13643046)
    Do the Slashdot editors even check the nature of the sites that are linked to? Apparently, VDare.com is an extremely biased site that shouldn't be linked to. What happened to objectivity? What if we started linking to KKK sites?

    For one thing, this tells alot about the poster of article.
  • Finally, the truth (Score:4, Informative)

    by Nutty_Irishman (729030) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:59AM (#13643121)
    There is a glut of Ph.D's in the US creating an over-competitive environment that's drastically deflating the pay level. What really should be done, is restricting the Ph.D's that schools push out to help overcompensate for the over inflation. But this won't happen. Why? Grad students are cheap labor for PI's. Schools accept grad students not because they are interesting in training and bringing more qualified people into the field, but rather because they need them to work for PI's. A PI is only as good as his/her grad students. If you add in a post-doc period, you are looking at, in some cases, 10+ years (a figure nowadays that has been increasing as many people are having to do multiple post-docs) of getting paid 1/2 of what you would have gotten if you had just gone straight into industry. Mind you, this isn't a bread and butter time either. This is a period where (in most cases), people are spending ridiculous hours working weekends/nights trying desperately to get data. And for what? An even more competitive academic environment where the positions to applicants ratio is (in some fields) 1:10. We haven't even gotten to the whole tenure track part. Add in all these factors and it is not surprising that 1 in 3 of these students never even complete their graduate "training"--most fighting for a masters.

    I hate to seem pessimistic, but this article is long overdue, and at the same time, disturbing. We are flooding the market with ambitious bright individuals with promises of great prestige and fortune.

    I really think they need to make a "Sims:The rise to professor" game depicting the rather long and gruesome journey to professorship. It would have to be realistic, so on average, you should only be winning, say, 5% of the time. Most people don't realize how different the actual and perceived opinion of prospective graduate students is from the actual reality of academia. I'm actually quite surprised that only 4-5% of Ph.D's are working outside their field (mind you, this figure doesn't include people that wanted to be in academia but couldn't get a position and ended up in industry). Sadly, I know a few that are working in simple jobs as security guards.

    (And before someone jumps down my throat saying that I am bitter because I had a bad experience--I actually haven't. However, I know many more that have, and while I can't empathize (as much) with them, I certainly sympathize).
    • I'm curious, your post seems to be primarily about PhDs going into academia. How about those students planning on entering industry? I ask, not surprisingly, because I just started my PhD in computer science. Luckily I got a fellowship, tuition waiver, and teaching assitantship so I'm being compensated fairly well. Everyone tells me I will be out in 4 years as well.
  • by slashdot.org (321932) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @04:07AM (#13643133) Homepage Journal
    4.2 percent of science and engineering PhDs work outside their field of training, chiefly for financial reasons

    Sounds like someone is off by an order of magnitude?
  • by h0tr0d (160151) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @04:15AM (#13643148)
    If there is no shortage of IT/Tech workers then why is it that I can't find a half-way decent IT person at my organization? Why is it that at a recent multi-agency training session the one IT person attending was completely clueless about the most basic network stuff? Why is it that I am better off being my own IT person (for which I have no formal training) than I am to rely on anyone remotely associated with any IT department for any company I've ever worked for? I know there are still smart IT geeks out there, I just want to know where they are because this seems to be the only place I can find any and no one here is going to do a darn thing about any of my IT issues.

    I sure hope everyone elses experience with their IT departments is better than mine. It just seems that the longer I hang around the worse the IT personnel have become. I don't believe the shortage of IT workers can be determined by university registrations as many are no longer working in the industry because they became disgruntled and found they could do other things for similar or more money and be much happier at it while getting their geeky IT fill on their friends and relatives PC's and home networks. The only shortage in the IT industry is in the salary, benefits, and respect afforded those willing to work in IT who have the knowledge to actually handle what's going on and manage a business' IT infrastructure.
    • I think you can blame the reliance on Windows. I find the same thing. If it isn't point and click or Windows, you can bet the IT department is going to say not supported.
      • I think you can blame the reliance on Windows. I find the same thing. If it isn't point and click or Windows, you can bet the IT department is going to say not supported.

        They're going to say that because more than likely their department is 50% understaffed, 70% undertrained and 95% underpaid. (That is, 95% of the workers in their IT department are underpaid.) I think if you ask the average IT worker, they'd say they'd love to support more things that their end users ask for. The problem is that support

  • Garbage anylsis (Score:3, Informative)

    by Keeper (56691) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @05:21AM (#13643307)
    Science & Engineering != "high tech". This summary lumps in things such as astronomy, oceanography, psychology, economics, etc as high tech, which is absurd.

    Furthermore, the only calls for "high tech workers" I've seen is for computer programmers. And hey, what do you know ... enrollment in computer science declined 3% two years ago according to the linked pdf.

    The poster also neglected to consider that a "shortage" merely means that there are fewer people available than positions are open -- ie: they failed to compare enrollement to changes in the number of available conditions. If enrollment had increased by 10%, but open positions increased by 30%, then there would still be a shortage.

    Additionally, the pool of available workers IN the United States INCLUDES "foreign students." They've already got green cards, and don't count against the H1B quota cap.

    Finally, the fact that we've got fewer foreign students reflects somewhat on the quality of education available here relative to wherever it is they're coming from -- meaning that workers here are losing some of their competative advantage relative to people educated in foreign countries.

    The only thing this document does is counter the point the original poster is trying to make.

    • Furthermore, the only calls for "high tech workers" I've seen is for computer programmers

      High tech != computers only. There are many "high tech" positions that have shortages because they aren't popular. Aerospace, Mat Sci, Chem E, Optical E. etc. The tech bubble focused on EE, and CE, so other science & engineering areas experienced shortages.

      Additionally, the pool of available workers IN the United States INCLUDES "foreign students." They've already got green cards, and don't count against the H
      • High tech != computers only

        I never said it was. Look at all of the articles talking about a tech worker shortage. They're all talking about a shortage of computer programmers.

        There are many "high tech" positions that have shortages because they aren't popular. Aerospace, Mat Sci, Chem E, Optical E. etc. The tech bubble focused on EE, and CE, so other science & engineering areas experienced shortages.

        BWHAHAHAHA ... Aerospace shortages? Are you on crack? Aerospace is one of the hardest fields to actua
  • Right and wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ogemaniac (841129) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @07:40AM (#13643596)
    As I have noted on slashdot before, as of right now, there is no reason for an American to pursue a PhD in science or engineering. The same person will make much more money as a doctor or lawyer, for example.

    Why the difference?

    Simple - your doctor or lawyer, almost by the definition of their job, must be local. They are relatively immune to competition from foreigners. This is not true for scientists, who right now are most definitely competing with very able Chinese, Indians, etc.

    That being said, the usual panic cry of "keep out the foreigners" is also wrong. Each and every American scientist is competing with each and every foreign scientist in his or her field. This is true regardless of who hires them or where they work. Which do you think is best for America?

    1: An American company hires the Chinese scientist, sponsers his visa and brings him to the US.

    2: An American company hires the Chinese scientist, but the scientist works in the company's Chinese division.

    3: A foreign company hires the Chinese scientist, and employs him overseas.

    I hope you realize the first option is the best. There is nothing the government can do to stop the competition created by these new scientists, and nothing it can do to prevent wage deflation because of it. It should give up trying.

    If, for national security reasons or some other random excuse, the government feels it important to have lots of native-born scientists, it will have to tackle the problem at the graduate level. Asking talented 22-30 year olds to slog through 6+ years of 70h weeks for a wage topped by the guy cleaning the toilets, while a lawyer is making $75k at age 25, is pure silliness. Making graduate school less financially miserable would be a start. Of course, it is too late for me.
    • Re:Right and wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Forbman (794277)
      4: American company hires "local" employee
      Americans want to get paid too much, want too many frivolous benefits like health insurance with low copay, 401K with nice employer match, etc. It is usually not the wages that hurt American employees, it's how management feels about benefits. Most people on slashdot have never worked for a company where they start out part-time, with this Golden Ring of working full-time, only to finally toil long enough to make it to full-time, and then REALLY get treated like a p
    • Re:Right and wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pipingguy (566974)

      Asking talented 22-30 year olds to slog through 6+ years of 70h weeks for a wage topped by the guy cleaning the toilets, while a lawyer is making $75k at age 25, is pure silliness.

      But that's what the market seems to demand, and America (the US) economy is ruled by the market. Other countries don't necessarily have this restriction in their education systems. Add to this the change in the US's business philosophy from "can do" to "can manage", and there's a problem.

      The following is a generalization: Th
    • As I have noted on slashdot before, as of right now, there is no reason for an American to pursue a PhD in science or engineering. The same person will make much more money as a doctor or lawyer, for example.

      Deciding on a career based on how much money you expect make is just wrong. Would you want to be treated by a doctor who got into the field so he could live in a big house? Would you want to be defended by a lawyer who crammed for the bar exam so he could buy himself a sports car? Like so many other

  • by Len (89493) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @11:02AM (#13644333)
    Edwin S. Rubenstein of ESR Research states ...
    Would I get more karma if I signed my comments as if I were a company?

    --
    Len of Len Corp.

  • I guess the largest US tech company agrees [nytimes.com].
  • I work right in tech central, Silicon Valley. I'm one of the little peons, not the management who does hiring.

    I can tell you from our own company experience, and having dealt with our vendors and customers, there IS DEFINITELY A SHORTAGE.

    We're not talking about a shortage of "cheap" labour. We're talking about a shortage of QUALIFIED labour. There are still a ton of so-called "engineers" out there who should never, ever have been hired in the first place (and I have no idea how they graduated). I've talked
  • As much as I hate to admit, the problem is not the quantity but the quality of those tech workers. Over the last 10 years or so I am willing to bet that less than 10% of programmers, sysadmins etc even have a clue. How many of those around you can even program a web application or even know basic html dialect. How many of them know that a web server runs on port 80 or even what a port is? How many are fluent in more than one structured language? How many of them even know how to formulate a simple sql query
  • This report should come as no surprise. When the economy is lousy, grad school enrollment rises. The real question is undergraduate degrees awarded in technical fields. Most technical workers do not have a postgraduate degree.

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