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Mr. President, There Is No (US) Engineer Shortage 580

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-a-philosophy-major-surplus dept.
McGruber writes "Vivek Wadhwa has written an article in the Washington Post titled, 'Mr. President, there is no engineer shortage,' which addresses the perceived national shortage of engineers. Wadhwa slams China for its practice of applying the 'engineer' label to auto mechanics and technicians, yet fails to slam the U.S. for its practice of applying the 'engineer' label to sanitation workers, building janitors, boiler operators, FaceSpace coders, MSCEs and DeVry graduates. He also says, 'Some of [the U.S.'s] best engineers are not doing engineering, and some of its best potential engineers are not even studying engineering, leaving us short-changed in solving the important problems of the day.'"
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Mr. President, There Is No (US) Engineer Shortage

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  • by Kenja (541830) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:02PM (#37288206)
    Shortage of engineering jobs, not of engineers or potential engineers. Its almost as if we moved many of our jobs to other countries for short term profits in exchange for long term economic vitality.
    • by denzo (113290) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:11PM (#37288344)

      Shortage of engineering jobs, not of engineers or potential engineers. Its almost as if we moved many of our jobs to other countries for short term profits in exchange for long term economic vitality.

      Exactly. If we actually protected our industries from being sent overseas, we would have plenty of things to "engineer." It's kind of hard to need engineers if you don't make anything. We make it easy to import cheap goods from countries like China, but it is almost impossible to sell our own goods to those same countries.

      • by SomePgmr (2021234) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:23PM (#37288530) Homepage
        Net result: $14,000 iPads. I'm not sure I like the ramifications of that either.
        • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:50PM (#37288886) Homepage

          Net result: $14,000 iPads. I'm not sure I like the ramifications of that either.

          Two counterarguments:
          1. For the vast majority of consumer products, labor is not the largest expense. In addition, not all increased costs of production get reflected in the consumer price - some comes out of profits per unit, because a rational producer doesn't want to reduce the number of units sold too much. So you're probably looking a price of closer to a $1000 or $750 iPad rather than a $500 iPad even if you massively increase the cost of each worker.

          2. If it really costs $13,800 to produce an iPad in a way that doesn't ruin the lives of workers, then that's the true cost of an iPad, and any price lower than that is in effect me (as the consumer) and Apple (via their profit margins) stealing value I didn't create from those workers in China. It means there might be fewer iPads in the world, but the world won't end if I don't have an iPad.

      • by mikael (484) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:23PM (#37288534)

        Just read today that Gibson guitars from Nashville are facing their second federal shakedown to make them offshore jobs.

        The first time was in 2009, when they were found to be importing wood from Madagascar in contravention of the Lacey Act 2008 Amendment. However, the lawsuit would be dropped in exchange for them offshoring some jobs.

        Second time around, they have been raided with computers seized, and wood supplies confiscated. The charges are that India has a law that makes it illegal to export wood that hasn't been "finished" by local workers (varnished, polished etc...) Once again they are being asked to offshore jobs in return for the lawsuit being dropped.

        • by vadim_t (324782)

          Please explain, because I don't get it at all:

          What does the federal government have to gain by offshoring jobs? And in the case they do, why would they be pressuring a guitar manufacturer who probably employs very few people?

          • by mikael (484) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:59PM (#37289000)

            Sounds crazy but it is documented:

            Gibson Guitar Corp. Responds to Federal Raid [gibson.com]

            âoeThe Federal Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. has suggested that the use of wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers is illegal, not because of U.S. law, but because it is the Justice Departmentâ(TM)s interpretation of a law in India. (If the same wood from the same tree was finished by Indian workers, the material would be legal.) This action was taken without the support and consent of the government in India.â
            Gibson Guitar tangled in Madagascar wood law [ultimate-guitar.com]

            Gibson has now become the first company in the world to be investigated, though not yet charged, with violating new provisions of a 100-year-old law called the Lacy Act. It says a plant can't be taken or a tree cut in another country against its own laws, and secondly, that illegal plant can't be taken into the United States.
              But was the wood found at Gibson cut or traded illegally?
              "Historically and currently, the laws of Madagascar have allowed for the exportation of ebony and rosewood in certain finished forms, fingerboards being one," said Bruce Mitchell, Gibson's attorney.
              Guitar components called fingerboards were taken in the raid. The inlay and fret lines were added in Nashville, but Gibson said even what appeared to be bare pieces were not unfinished.
              "Finished isn't an English dictionary term; it's a legal term in Madagascar. It's defined, and the law specifically defines a fingerboard blank as a finished good," said Juszkiewicz. "It's not illegal. It's not illegal under Madagascar law. You can't argue with the facts."

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Grishnakh (216268)

            I dunno, ask Obama. He's the one in charge of the DOJ, and the DOJ submitted a court brief telling Gibson they need to offshore their work. Obama keeps talking about creating jobs, so why does he want to lay off workers in Memphis (who are probably all black, given that city's demographics)?

            And what makes you think one of the most prominent guitar makers in the world "probably employs very few people"? Guitars require a lot of labor to make; in case you haven't noticed, the good ones aren't cheap, usuall

        • by sandytaru (1158959) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:35PM (#37288702) Journal
          From what I understand, the "off-shoring jobs" is a threat from Gibson, not the US government. Gibson has been asked to prove that the wood they source is environmentally harvested all the way to the source, and the US is charging that they knowingly purchased "tainted" wood from a seller that was illegally harvesting from Madagascar. Gibson contends the wood came from a legal sourcer in India. If Gibson has the paperwork that backs of their claim, the investigation is over. If Gibson doesn't have the paperwork, the investigation goes on. Gibson can threaten to offshore jobs all they want, but they'd lose their critical "Made in America" claim if they did.
        • by PPH (736903)

          Gibson guitars from Nashville ...

          Second time around, they have been raided with computers seized, and wood supplies confiscated. The charges are that India has a law...

          So, did Indian authorities execute the raid? WTF are we doing kicking down the doors of our own businesses in search of evidence to support foreign charges? [The answer is: We need foreign law enforcement's cooperation in order to enforce things like unitary taxes. So its a quid pro quo.]

      • by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday September 02, 2011 @02:31PM (#37289398)

        Exactly. If we actually protected our industries from being sent overseas, we would have plenty of things to "engineer." It's kind of hard to need engineers if you don't make anything.

        The problem is that the stupid business people have this idea that you can move production overseas, but keep the high-level design in-house. It doesn't really work like that. When you move the actual manufacturing somewhere else, now you don't need your manufacturing or process engineers, who set up your factory, keep it running, and figure out how to improve yield. Those people need to be on-site, so all that work goes overseas along with the factory worker jobs. For a while, you can then have your design engineers in-house sending stuff over to the manufacturing engineers offshore, but that's not really very efficient, since the two need to interact a certain amount to get the best efficiency; so the foreign company brings in their own design engineers, and since they're on-site and more familiar with the manufacturing process (and their salaries are lower), pretty soon the offshore site gives a presentation to the company showing them how much money they can save them by having them outsource all their low-level design work, and just letting them do the really high-level stuff in-house. So, all the software engineers, PCB design engineers, etc. all get laid off and only some high-level "designers" are left, who design the plastics, the overall UI, etc. Of course, this isn't all that efficient either since the high-level guys need to interact with the low-level guys. But the offshore company then starts doing its own high-level design, since they have a whole facility set up with all the engineering and manufacturing expertise to build whatever their designers design, and they make products which compete directly with the original company's products, but are much cheaper. Pretty soon, the original company is out of business, and only the offshore company remains.

        Obviously, it's not all black-and-white either; there's lots of places where, instead of having a vertical monopoly, a company will outsource (either offshore or not) certain parts of their work, because it makes more sense to concentrate on their "core competencies" (as one company I worked at called it), and not go to the expense of trying to build up capabilities in other things. So, for instance, an electronics manufacturer may outsource their PCB manufacturing, as it's pretty easy to just have your PCB designers generate some Gerber files and send them to any board house in the world for production. Or, an automaker may outsource design and production of their interior electronics modules (stereo, etc.), and concentrate on engines, suspensions, chasses, and final assembly. Unless your volumes are enormous, it may be cheaper to just outsource certain things like that to a company that specializes in that one thing (like PCB manufacturing), whereas you don't have either the expertise or the equipment and tooling to do it cheaply, and even if you did make that investment, you still wouldn't realize a savings because that task is only one small portion of your overall work.

        So obviously, there's a balancing act there; trying to do everything in-house may be too expensive or may not pan out, but outsourcing your "core competencies" isn't a good idea either because you're basically giving away the things that make your company special.

    • by Technician (215283) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:37PM (#37288734)

      There is a shortage of engineering jobs paying engineering wages. Due to the rising cost of education, it is hard to find enough low paid engineers and they have to pay their student loans.

      Why is education prices high?

      Education is expensive for the same reason home prices spiked. There was easy access to low interest government backed loans. If you are out of work, the answer is go back to school and learn a new skill. When you can't find an opening in your new field at your minimum income needs, you become underemployeed in a field other than engineering, while your engineering position goes to someone with lower overhead.

      The student loan crises is the next Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac. Only problems are there are no short sales, no ropo, and no forgiveness of debt on student loans. The student loan crises is larger than the housing bubble. Tuition fees are the bubble. Nice if you are a school selling your wares. Bad if you are borrowing money to buy their wares.

      The engineers will be working outside of the engineering field, in an under the table payment, so they can eat and not have their wages completely taken away to pay the student loans.

      The bubble will collapse when free education of the likes of Kahn Academy become recognized as legitimate schools by employers and the high text book fees and admissions are replaced by on-line content.

      For these reasons, I am NOT an Engineer, but I still work in R & D in high tech in the semiconductor industry. I am officially an Engineering Technician. I work under engineers. I have no student loan. I have not had any history of unemployment longer than 7 days. Without the overhead of a big loan, I keep more of my lower take home pay.

      I know way too many friends and relatives with student dept that are unemployed, or under employed.

      • "Education is expensive for the same reason home prices spiked."

        Wow; I didn't realize that student loan officers were convincing undergrads to take out bigger loans than they needed (and loans that the lenders knew were bigger than the students could afford) just so they could sell them off to bundlers. And that those bundlers didn't care about the possibility of non-payment, because they were just combining them all together, skimming a top tranche off the top, and selling it as a AAA-safe investment, ev

        • Those loans are safe for investors. They come with a government guarantee. The next bailout is will come due soon. The bailout will be bigger than Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac combined.

          Think about it. The loans are made to people that are out of work. There is no collateral.

          When the student remains unemployed after graduation, doesn't graduate, or is under employed, what assets do you have? The only card is the debt is not forgivable. It will haunt them for the remainder of their life.

          The losers are t

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 02, 2011 @02:36PM (#37289446)

        Why is education prices high?

        Because students have to keep taking English over and over again, never quite passing it.

      • by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday September 02, 2011 @02:55PM (#37289692) Homepage Journal

        Why is education prices high?

        I don't no, why are it?

  • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:04PM (#37288232)

    Some of [the U.S.'s] best engineers are not doing engineering, and some of its best potential engineers are not even studying engineering, leaving us short-changed in solving the important problems of the day.

    So...we're not short on engineers...except that we are. At least we're short of excellent engineers and short of willing candidates to be tomorrow's excellent engineers. He whines that China labels sub-par losers and mere technicians as engineers, but then admits we're not putting out our best either. And still contends we're not short.

    I'm really not sure how Wadhwa thinks he's disproving or even strongly contrasting Obama's postulate. He's certainly not coming within a thousand miles of justifying his title.

    • by stevew (4845)

      Maybe so - but facts on the ground in Silicon Valley prove his point.

      There are thousands of out-of-work engineers looking for work here in all disciplines. Granted that the valley is not the entire US - but it is certainly one of the premier US technical hubs. Mind you - California prices and anti-business policies don't help any.

    • by Machtyn (759119)
      Hmm, according to a previous article listed on /., we should be overrunning with older engineers that no one wants to hire.
  • 'Mr. President, there is no engineer shortage'

    He also says, 'Some of [the U.S.'s] best engineers are not doing engineering, and some of its best potential engineers are not even studying engineering, leaving us short-changed

    So he's being misleading, if not outright contradicting himself. A crappy engineer is no engineer at all, so if we need more good engineers then there very much is an engineering shortage.

    • There was another story from the same Wadha guy a short while ago, about age bias in IT? Looks a bit like someone might be hitting on easy tech hot button talking points to get their name out there.

    • by JustNiz (692889)

      > some of its best potential engineers are not even studying engineering, leaving us short-changed

      I'm pretty sure I'm potentially the worlds best brain surgeon, although I don't know because I've never studied or practiced anything to do with medicine.So because of my actions there's now a shortage int the US of brain surgeons.

      • by dzfoo (772245)

        You too? I myself am potentially one of the worlds' best brain surgeons, although I also potentially dabble in world's best rocket-scientistry and mathematiciancy.

        Perhaps we should get together and potentially discuss our potential for world domination.

                -dZ.

    • by jdbannon (1620995)
      That's not contradictory at all. He says that not only do we not have a shortage, but that many good engineers have had to take up other careers. Why is that difficult to understand?
    • Nonono, what he says is that some of our best engineers noticed that they can make more money as a crappy manager than as a good engineer. People follow the money, it's that simple.

    • Well, not directly related to TFA, the main problem from what I hear is that there are no decent engineering jobs in the US so any decent or good engineers are finding other lines of work and college students are taking other majors that are either easier and/or will give better paying jobs. You know that huge glut of MBAs in the 1990s and 2000s? So, there is an engineer shortage but, it's a chicken and egg problem now. Until there are engineering jobs, there will be no engineers and right now, unless th

  • X Engineer (Score:5, Funny)

    by Haedrian (1676506) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:08PM (#37288288)

    "fails to slam the US for its practice of applying the 'engineer' label to sanitation workers, building janitors, boiler operators, "

    I knew a woman who used to demand the title of "Domestic Engineer". Also known as "housewife"

    • by ctrimm (1955430) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:13PM (#37288374)

      I knew a woman who used to demand the title of "Domestic Engineer". Also known as "housewife"

      You should have told her to go engineer you a sandwich.

    • Some people complain about adding the word "science" to professions that may be less rigorous science.
      Social Sciences
      Computer Science
      • by Kenja (541830)
        I used to have "Technology Premadona" printed on my business cards.
      • by Haedrian (1676506)

        Well it depends.

        Computer Science can be proper science. Algorithms, Formal Languages et cetera are ultimately based on mathematics and scientific principles. So Computer Science is forgivable.

      • by fredrated (639554)

        "less rigorous science.. Computer Science"

        You really think Computer Science is less rigorous? When I went to school at Berkeley most of the professors in computer science had joint appointments in either the Mathematics or Engineering departments, departments not usually considered "less rigorous"

      • Computer science isn't less rigorous science, it just isn't science. Depending on your work it's a form of engineering or math, or some combination thereof.

    • Oh, that label inflation doesn't end at engineer and scientist. How about "Facility manager"?

      Back in my days at Siemens, we used to add "The only manager whose job description actually requires him to do something meaningful".

  • So what you're saying is that I'd be wasting my time reading this article and we still have an effective shortage of engineers because our engineers are not motivated to do engineering, don't have jobs available to them, or found other jobs that pay better than their engineering field. I think I've heard this before. Sounds like we have an incentive problem.
    • We have a salary problem, simply and plainly. As long as there's more money in lawsuits and shoving money around than in actual, meaningful work, people will sue and manage hedge fonds rather than, well, work.

  • Wadhwa slams China for its practice of applying the 'engineer' label to auto mechanics and technicians, yet fails to slam the US for its practice of applying the 'engineer' label to sanitation workers, building janitors, boiler operators, FaceSpace coders, MSCEs and DeVry graduates.

    The question is this, do the Chinese count auto mechanics among those they count in their official job numbers as being engineers? I know that the U.S. does not count "sanitation engineers" as "engineers" in its job numbers.

    • I think the article implies that in counting "engineer" graduation numbers, China was counting technicians and mechanics as engineers while the US counts those that graduate with an engineering degree like electrical, petroleum, etc.
  • ...we have too many of these types which skews the numbers by comparison:

    "Vivek Wadhwa is a Visiting Scholar at the University of California-Berkley School of Information, Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization, Exec in Residence at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, Senior Research Associate at Harvard University’s Labor and Worklife Program, Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Emory University’s Halle Institute of Global Learnin

    • True. He's a pundit. He did a Y2K COBOL-conversion startup back in the 1990s; that's his contribution to "engineering". His academic positions are "hanger-on" types, not actual professorships.

      I've been a visiting scholar at Stanford. It's not a big deal.

      • by DRBivens (148931)

        I was curious about that myself. This is the second /. article mentioning him in the last 5 hours or so. How did he manage that, I wonder?

  • NASA Engineers (Score:5, Informative)

    by wideBlueSkies (618979) * on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:17PM (#37288442) Journal

    How many NASA guys are now pumping gas in Florida?

    Lack of engineers, my ass.

    Hey Mr President, we need jobs and stuff to be designed and built. Then you'll see the engineers get back on the grid.

  • An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical and practical problems. Engineers design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, safety and cost.[1][2] The word engineer is derived from the Latin root ingenerare, meaning "to create". - Wikipedia

    Anyone else have a definition they would like to bandy about?

    • by SomePgmr (2021234)
      I've often wondered about the nuances of who you're supposed to call an engineer, big or little-e, or scientist.

      Some are accused of throwing the words around like they don't mean anything, but as you pointed out, sometimes that gets directed at folks that seem to fit the descriptions.

      It really is a bit confusing.
    • by wierd_w (1375923)

      Sounds like what I do. I suggest design changes, and point out critical design flaws all the time. (I have also been given tasks of giving design alternatives in the past.)

      Prior to taking this job, I used to custom fab farm equipment and did computer technical work. It is only now that I realize that I was always an engineer.

      I am certain that there are no shortages in the total numbers of such people. The problem is that our society looks down on manufacturing and fabrication as being somehow "dirty", a

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:22PM (#37288512)

    There is definitely a shortage of engineers. A shortage of engineers that are willing to invest multiple thousands of dollars into a degree so they can watch BA majors rake in 3-5 times what they earn, who are willing to spend the better part of their life paying off their tuition bills while working their ass off, knowing that they, too, could have gotten that BA degree. Probably with less stress and less work.

    Yeah, there's a shortage of smart people who are dumb.

    • Umm.. engineering is one of the best college majors for return on investment relative to loan cost. About the only ones that are better are law and medical, and both of those take on a much higher risk.

      The failure rate for business majors is significantly higher than engineers, even if the possible top rewards are higher.

      That said, as someone who interviews entry level software engineers, I'll say only roughly 1/3 of the grads we talk to are people I would ever want to work with.

  • Wow! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PPH (736903) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:25PM (#37288556)

    I just addressed this problem a few minutes ago, here [slashdot.org]. Too many people with technical degrees feeding the legal, MBA, patent, PHB food chain. Too few doing work.

    Anecdote: Back when I joined Boeing (many years ago), we had a 'lead engineer' system. The lead engineer was just the go to guy (women not yet taken seriously there) who had the final word on technical issues within a group. That freed the first level manager to to his reports, go to meetings, etc. He was just (usually) the senior guy in the group who knew the system and could mentor the new hires. Then, it became common practice for management to offload planning, scheduling, employee evaluations and other tasks onto the leads. Pretty soon, that was the majority of their job (the question was: where were the managers going during the day). Management had long since become detached from the technology and it was common for the boss to have no clue about how their system worked. A few leads took voluntary demotions or shifted to different groups to get out from under these duties. Pretty sad. Soon, even the leads had become mini managers and were becoming separated from the actual work going on. In my final position with the company, management brought in a lead engineer who had no clue about what we did or the state of the art in our field of work. All he did was to run around and pester people for formal reports on their schedule projections and progress, and budget inputs in order to assemble his own reports on the same thing (Even though he had no idea what we were doing. He reported that we were through task X because we said we were.).

    Everyone wants to get an MBA and be a manager. Because its the hierarchy and that's what dictates reward and respect. We need a system like sports teams have. The coach might be a fat slob and not necessarily the best player in his career. The star players get rewarded commensurate with their skills. The coach is rewarded for the ability to hold the whole thing together. But those are separate skill sets and often its the bad coach that gets sacked more often than the players.

    • MBA and MIS programs are beginning to realize this, and more are looking at hybrid programs that try to teach both the technical aspects as well as the business side. Unfortunately this is only an option at the larger universities that have engineering schools as well as business schools.
  • All about pay (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Matt_Bennett (79107) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:27PM (#37288584) Homepage Journal
    There is a lot of engineering talent (and potential engineering talent) in the US. The problem is that companies aren't willing to pay for it! The MBA management style has made it very hard to have a long tern engineering career- the engineer is viewed as a commodity (why do you think it is called "human resources"?) that can be easily replaced by another unit in another location, across the country or across the world. Why give a raise to retain an engineer in a position when you can save money by shipping the job somewhere else? Many people who are smart and want to have an income that slightly outpaces inflation may start in engineering, but don't stick around.
    Some manager gets a promotion for lowering (apparent) costs by outsourcing, and after they're gone, another gets stuck with fixing it. We are very good at training engineers in foreign countries how to do what we do well, and in that, we have managed to do is to shift the engineering talent overseas, where it also gets more expensive, negating the benefit.
  • applying the 'engineer' label to sanitation workers, building janitors, boiler operators, FaceSpace coders, MSCEs and DeVry graduates.

    OK, who is an engineer? By "sanitation worker" I guess you mean the guy who picks up the trash, right? Boiler operator not an engineer - what sort of boiler? "FaceSpace coder"? Hoho, so amusing. I hate Facebook and Myspace as much as anyone who's been on the Internet more than 10 minutes, but are you suggesting that someone who codes something clever and effective for either is not an engineer? MSCE... irrelevant. I read the In A Nutshell guides for the MSCE exams about 11 years ago but never took them. Wou

  • I have to point out that the author of the article just earned from me a well-deserved title of dipshit [slashdot.org] for spewing uninformed crap about C programmers.

  • My friend, an unemployed teacher who has been struggling for two years to find work, had a similar reaction when Obama claimed there was a shortage of teachers in his state-of-the-union address.

    There may very well be a shortage of competent teachers, or skilled engineers, but that's an entirely different matter, and increasing the number of degrees handed out will do nothing to fix that. It is as likely to exacerbate the problem. The problem is more in the hiring and employment practices.
  • The problem with the US, is in most aspects we do slap the title Engineer on a lot of titles. In reality only those who hold a P.E. (Professional Engineer -- somebody who is licensed by the State to be an engineer) should be called an Engineer. Sure, lots of people do engineering (Software Engineers, etc), but they are not true engineers...

    • by jbengt (874751)

      In reality only those who hold a P.E. (Professional Engineer -- somebody who is licensed by the State to be an engineer) should be called an Engineer. Sure, lots of people do engineering. . . but they are not true engineers.

      In my experience, a PE license is a license to hire non-PEs to do all the engineering, under the PE's "direct supervision and responsibility" (supervision usually amounts to glancing at the work and asking when it will be finished, and responsibility is often figuring out how to wriggle

  • the US Federal Government are puppets for multi-national corporations & international bankers...
  • says, 'Some of [the U.S.'s] best engineers are not doing engineering, and some of its best potential engineers are not even studying engineering, leaving us short-changed in solving the important problems of the day.'

    I know many engineers who took years getting into an engineering position - 2/3rds of my graduating class did not find engineering jobs right out of university. So that's problem #1. Secondly, many engineers excel in a management role - problem solving, critical analysis, and cool under pressure - plus the opportunities that moving into a management role provides is enticing. Finally, 'potential' is not really quantifiable. If he is a brilliant student but has no interpersonal skills, and she is a C+ student but works great within a group, who the better potential engineer? What about someone who can almost instantly understand concepts such as thermodynamic closed systems and who is a deity in a machine shop, but enjoys creating art? What is their potential?

    It's a silly argument.

  • Malinvestment (Score:4, Insightful)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:41PM (#37288784) Homepage
    If the U.S. government weren't preoccupying its engineers with "defense", even more engineers would be available for productive endeavors.
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:58PM (#37288980)

    But there is a shortage of people willing to work for the rates that companies want to pay.

    The problem is one of expectations. Most adults in the english-speaking world have a self-image of a nice big house, medical care, a partner, alimony, some kids, a pension, a dog, foreign holidays and a car for everyone (except maybe the dog). To support that lifestyle needs a certain, high, level of income.

    However those very same people will baulk at paying for goods designed, developed and manufactured by workers who share that aspiration. They all want cheap stuff - and plenty of it. To satisfy that demand and price-point, the manufacturers can only afford to pay their employees enough for a bicycle, rice and vegetables and a family TV set.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday September 02, 2011 @02:12PM (#37289170) Journal

    Seriously, if you reward certain jobs with lots of money, the smart people who don't care what they do will go there. It's the same problem with engineers, general practice physicians, teachers, and nearly every other skilled position. They are paid on a fixed basis, and there is only so much "fixed" to go around. Find some smart kid and tell him he can have 2% of a transaction if he manages it, and show him billions of dollars of transactions a day - then tell him he can get $40/hr to work in the system or 2% of ten million dollars to close a deal, directing the $40/hr people to do all the work. Which will he choose?

    If I knew now what I knew in college, I'd have gone Wall Street and been retired by now. As it was I wanted to work for NASA as an aerospace engineer, so I did - and I've got some really cool memories and patches of missions I was in charge of, and a $100k in a 401k that's gone nowhere for the last decade.

  • by awrc (12953) on Friday September 02, 2011 @02:53PM (#37289676)

    My own unemployment situation is terminal - but it's a product both of the economy and my inability to relocate. If I'd been free to move to an area where the jobs in my field are three or four years ago, chances are I'd never have become unemployed in the first place. Of course, I've now been unemployed so long that I couldn't even get a job in those areas anymore. However, living where I do there's a major mismatch between what employers seem to want (seems to mainly be enterprise Java coders) and where the bulk of my experience lies (systems engineering). However, while I have the skill set to work with EJB 3 or Spring, that's just a side effect - in my last job, the work I was hired for never really materialized, so I ended up doing a fair bit of Java before they decided that they'd be better off using the money they were paying me to get a couple of dedicated coders, without all of the baggage of my experience doing other stuff, straight out of college.

    While I've given up looking, I think a lot of problems lie in the areas of HR, whether in-house or through an agency. With the exception of a few particularly specialized tech-oriented agencies, there's a real disconnect between the people who run the departments who have the vacancy and the people who do the hiring. That's a problem, since it's difficult to convey what's really needed for the job, and where having skills A and B is a valid substitute for C, or cases where you've got experience in D and they don't know that implies your expertise in E and F is off the chart, or where experience in G can get you up and running with H very quickly even if you're not experienced with it. They feed the resume through their buzzword checker, and kick it out if it doesn't include C, E, F and H. So somebody who is quite capable of doing the job doesn't even get through the preliminary culling of resumes. A good tech agency can do a lot there - and I had one for a while, who put me forward for jobs that even though I didn't look like a good match to HR, they knew from extensive interviews and their own expertise what I could and couldn't do.

    In the end though, I think a bigger contribution to me stopping looking was the way I'd been treated by employers and potential employers over the years. In my last job, my boss was *so* insistent that I had to get a specific piece of work done by an arbitrary date (arbitrary because it was between Christmas and New Year, and those who were depending on it weren't going to be back in the office until January 5th) that I had to work over Christmas day, and *then* laid me off on January 7th. Then there was the Dream Job where the hiring manager seemed *super* enthusiastic from the first interview, and had me in for a second and third interviews on the next couple of days, then told me that while he couldn't say I had the job since he had to get his manager's manager to sign off on it, it was really just a technicality - then it took 2-3 weeks for them to actually pin down the right people and get them to sign on the dotted line, so long in fact that the company changed its policy so that they would no longer hire people through agencies before it was all done, and after keeping me hanging on with "any day now" for close to a month it was "Sorry, we can't hire you, bye." Of course, the agency that had put me forward had me under an agreement whereby the company in question couldn't hire me directly for a year. Even though the agency went out of business about three months later, it was still too late. That one pretty much broke my spirit completely - it was the only job in my field that I've *ever* seen advertised here (excluding one local company that has as a mandatory requirement experience with a particular DoD standard that you can only get in this state by working for *that* company).

    So I gave up. In theory I'm having a go at getting going on my own in iOS/OS X development, trying to funnel what I did for fun in my spare time into a job, but that's getting nowhere. I've spent seven of the last ele

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