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Electrical Engineering Lost 35,000 Jobs Last Year In the US 397

Posted by samzenpus
from the alice-doesn't-work-here-anymore dept.
dcblogs writes "Despite an expanding use of electronics in products, the number of people working as electrical engineers in U.S. declined by 10.4% last year. The decline amounted to a loss of 35,000 jobs and increased the unemployment rate for electrical engineers from 3.4% in 2012 to 4.8% last year, an unusually high rate of job losses for this occupation. There are 300,000 people working as electrical engineers, according to U.S. Labor Department data analyzed by the IEEE-USA. In 2002, there were 385,000 electrical engineers in the U.S. Ron Hira, an assistant professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, called the electrical engineering employment trend 'truly disturbing,' and said, 'just like America's manufacturing has been hollowed out by offshoring and globalization, it appears that electrical and electronics engineering is heading that way.'"
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Electrical Engineering Lost 35,000 Jobs Last Year In the US

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  • Is it possible that companies are afraid of US-bugged hardware, or is it automation invalidating jobs for the moment?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:48AM (#45982951)

      Is it possible that companies are afraid of US-bugged hardware, or is it automation invalidating jobs for the moment?

      Seeing a massive movement of jobs to India, where, need I remind anyone, the government all but blackmailed Blackberry into handing over encryption keys, I'd say it's highly unlikely fears about bugged hardware are the smoking gun for companies conducting layoffs.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:25AM (#45983123)

        Is it possible that companies are afraid of US-bugged hardware, or is it automation invalidating jobs for the moment?

        Seeing a massive movement of jobs to India, ...

        The low end jobs which go to India are where engineers enter industry and learn their stuff so this does matter here and is a good trend (I am really hoping India manages to use this to take their country out of poverty). You need to ask why an Indian Engineer is a tax deductible expense whilst you are a taxable employee? Why are US companies allowed to effectively employ these people with absolutely no employment rights? This is certainly nothing to do with efficiency other than "tax efficiency".

        The real thing that matters, though, is that manufacturing moved to China and now all the learning about how to actually make things is going direct to engineers in China who, if the trend doesn't reverse fast, will be better at all kinds of design that US engineers within a generation.

        As long as Americans continue to elect politicians that worship companies and the "free market" over their own countries interests you are going to continue to lose out to, biggest irony of all, a planned economy of a country that calls its self "communist".

        • by MrKaos (858439)

          The low end jobs which go to India are where engineers enter industry and learn their stuff so this does matter here and is a good trend (I am really hoping India manages to use this to take their country out of poverty).

          Nothing will take India out of poverty. Take a drive on Indian roads and if you survive you will begin to appreciate the power of massive ignorance. Many people know how to drive, but they can't read the road rules. Education is key and their is plenty of corruption in India to get in the

        • by TheSeatOfMyPants (2645007) on Friday January 17, 2014 @07:04AM (#45984257) Journal

          The low end jobs which go to India are where engineers enter industry and learn their stuff so this does matter here and is a good trend (I am really hoping India manages to use this to take their country out of poverty).

          It's a "good trend" from the perspective of people in India that benefit from it. It's not so good from the perspective of US engineers whose experience or ability is best suited to that kind of job, and when they're stuck taking crappy jobs that let them just scrape by, it's not good for their family or our society's tax base & economy.

          It's like the old swimming rule that if you see somebody drowning, don't swim right up to them -- because rather than saving their life, you are far more likely to find them dragging you under and making it extremely hard at bestto stay afloat. Countries that have severe socioeconomic gaps between privileged/underprivileged groups, with the bulk of the population living in poverty, are a lot like that theoretical drowning person. Rather than India being at all likely to improve things for its general population, it's merely dragging the US under.

          Countries tend to do their best at lasting improvements when they focus on inventing items or concepts that creatively address common problems, amuse people, or improve quality of life, and then alter the invention/idea so that it is a product people would wish to buy. In comparison, entry-level/unskilled jobs poached from other countries tend to pay less over time, they don't encourage government investment in education for higher-end jobs or for creating new industries, and virtually all of the income is taken by the facilitating company rather than being put back into the local economy by employees.

          I definitely agree with free trade & our politicians being the culprit... I have no idea how to fix the pro-corporate corruption that has taken over every facet of government, though, and we'd have to do that before we could come close to fixing the problem.

          • by TheLink (130905)
            But why do so many people in the USA think they need more women engineers?

            I can understand a push in India, China, Vietnam and other "cheaper countries" for more women engineers - it helps the women in those countries (take jobs from more expensive US workers). But a push in the USA (an expensive country) doesn't make sense to me. If women aren't that interested why encourage them to go into such areas? Many of the jobs women are more interested in aren't outsourced as much. How many preschool teachers in t
        • The real thing that matters, though, is that manufacturing moved to China and now all the learning about how to actually make things is going direct to engineers in China who, if the trend doesn't reverse fast, will be better at all kinds of design that US engineers within a generation.

          Just as I, and other engineers I know, predicted 30+ years ago. Whence manufacturing goes, engineering will follow. Anyone in the trenches could have figured it out. Only "higher level" people, or easily brainwashed grunts, would think otherwise.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ebno-10db (1459097)

          As long as Americans continue to elect politicians that worship companies and the "free market" over their own countries interests you are going to continue to lose out ...

          Free market? You're kidding, right? That's a line for the suckers. With tax rules that encourage outsourcing and tax capital gains lower than earned income, corporate subsidies, excessive government granted monopolies (known euphemistically and inaccurately as "intellectual property"), and a host of other abuses, the last thing we have is a free market.

          As far as "worship", the only thing politicians worship is bribes (e.g. campaign "contributions" and cushy revolving door jobs).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, US companies want cheap India/China-bugged H1-B or offshore hardware because it is so much cheaper.

    • by jythie (914043)
      I would actually point a finger at a different culprit, firmware and SoC. Over the last decade or so there has been a steady move away from specialized hardware to more general devices that can be programmed. While far from a complete conversion, it has been slowly reducing the amount of EE specific work needed for many projects. Why have someone design an entire board when you can have a chip do it? Esp given the simplified testing and FCC/UL validation?
  • Does anyone have any speculation about why this is happening?

    • by artor3 (1344997) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:50AM (#45982967)

      Pure speculation, but it could very well be a knock-on effect from off-shoring manufacturing. You want at least some of your engineers to be close to the manufacturing line to debug when things go wrong. The designers might stay in the US, but manufacturing, test, packaging, etc., will shift towards the factories. And then, some years later, you'll want the designers to be near the mfg/tst/pkg guys to allow easier communication.

      • Pure speculation, but it could very well be a knock-on effect from off-shoring manufacturing. You want at least some of your engineers to be close to the manufacturing line to debug when things go wrong. The designers might stay in the US, but manufacturing, test, packaging, etc., will shift towards the factories. And then, some years later, you'll want the designers to be near the mfg/tst/pkg guys to allow easier communication.

        It's exactly this. You want your chip designers to be working right next to the mask layout people because layout needs designers to correctly optimize the layout. You want your test people to be able to walk through the whole test program design with the designers, who will be involved throughout the test hardware and program design, because test engineers know how testers work, and designers know how the chip works, and matching those is tricky. And you don't really want to be shipping tested wafers ov

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:56AM (#45982995)

      Does anyone have any speculation about why this is happening?

      Yes. Because it's cheaper and frankly, better to have a product designed where it will be manufactured. Asia (Taiwan, and China mostly) have product design and engineering mills (called ODMs) where one can go have a set of technical meetings, and within a few weeks/months have a prototype. They are not great at the firmware... but if all you want is a chip vendor support version of Android/Linux with pre-built applications on it, they can do that too.

      Quality, Better, Unique.... don't blather on about that. Real products have to hit market windows, on time and within budget. Taiwan does this, every day, and with scale, at shops all across the country.

      • by Darinbob (1142669) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:50AM (#45983447)

        Being in a place where we design in the US, I don't see this. An off shore design just won't work except for bits and pieces. Sending your product out overseas to be designed means it will be cloned and copied, and in a lot of industries that is not acceptable at all. As well trying to give your local design requirements to someone who doesn't communicate in your language very well is frustrating. And not all of EE is about design either, there's a lot of hardware testing to be done, environmental testing for outdoor products, safety testing, regulatory testing, RF localization to other countries, signal analysis, and so forth. Some of that can be offshored much more easily than design, and some of that must be done locally.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Real cheap products have to hit market windows, on time and within budget.

        TFTFY.

        Real good products define their own market window and come out when they are ready and properly developed. You know...quality, better, unique.

        Alas, so many people have absolutely no sense for quality and design anymore.
        Cheap, cheap, cheap. Dreadful.

    • by mrbluze (1034940) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:58AM (#45983011) Journal

      Does anyone have any speculation about why this is happening?

      Well from all the electrical engineers I know, they like to collect stuff and as a result of the clutter they invariably lose stuff. So for them to collectively lose 35,000 jobs is frankly unsurprising.

      • As an EE who is a pack rat, I can tell you that's absolutely wrong. If I could hoard jobs the way I hoard junk, I'd have at least half-a-dozen in the basement.

    • by EdIII (1114411) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:07AM (#45983063)

      Brain Drain and woefully inadequate expenditures on infrastructure.

      For whatever reasons, electrical engineering is done by foreign companies. Many engineers received education in the US and then fled back to their countries to work in companies servicing us. I don't really blame them either. America has to compete fairly as a place people want to desire to live. If we were so damn good they would stay.

      This is just a side effect of all of the brain drain going on for decades. Less electrical engineers needed to support research, and less shops in the US needing those engineers, to provide high tech products to the rest.

      The rest of the world isn't stupid. Other countries have the engineering capability to do these things and the economies to compete with ourselves.

      With respect to electrical engineering in particular, the US simply does not spend enough on infrastructure to stimulate that part of the economy. Which is sad. We need to not just create new transportation and material sciences, but implement them on a wide scale.

      Not doing that, so the engineers shouldn't hold their breath waiting for a game changing high tech rail system being deployed across the US.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        We also leave the field because we have to eat. I've got 3 patents for neurological interfaces, but the pay for hopping to systems engineering jumped 50% my first day. I slso spent a lot of time cleaning up designs that had been offshored: I don't care if you have a little line on your chart that says "gorund" and "0 volts", when you actually make it out of wire or the thin sheet metal of a circuit board copper, it *will* have voltages on it from the big surface mount capacitor you mounted flat on top of it

    • by ToadProphet (1148333) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:20AM (#45983105)

      Because outsourcing is moving up the chain. First the unskilled labour, then the skilled professionals, and finally the rest of the company (aside from sales and the CXX's).

    • by geogob (569250)

      I've read a lot of speculative answers here. Cheeper, easier, closer to manufacturing, etc.
      I'll add another one no one dared to write or thought possible... Maybe are engineers elsewhere better and/or more efficient.

      I'm not there and can't really do more than speculate, but from an outsider perspective, it seems that engineering is on a sharp decline in the US. I know there are a lot of very competent and skilled engineers in the US, but there are also a lot of very bad ones, which seem to have been betraye

      • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:12AM (#45984819)

        it seems that engineering is on a sharp decline in the US. I know there are a lot of very competent and skilled engineers in the US, but there are also a lot of very bad ones

        And you think that's any different elsewhere, or in any other field?

        engineering is on a sharp decline in the US ... seem to have been betrayed by the education system

        No. We have some of the world's best engineering schools. I've also known some excellent EE's that graduated from Podunk Tech. I've known a few that never graduated. I don't mean to diminish the value of a good university education, but with the possible exception of a few very theory intensive specialties, it's not the most important thing. At least as valuable are an interest, an aptitude, and learning the craft from good mentors after you graduate.

    • by ImOuttaHere (2996813) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:35AM (#45983871)

      Does anyone have any speculation about why this is happening?

      What I'm about to say is not speculation. It's the truth -

      Certain companies have convinced themselves that not only can they move manufacturing to China, they can also move product development engineering (including, shockingly to me, electrical engineering).

      A CEO of a company I worked for told a packed audience of software, electrical, and mechanical engineers (many of us in the industry for 20+ years) that China produces over a million "qualified", "well trained" engineers a year. He told us it'd be crazy for him not to move engineering overseas, since that's where the "talent" is. You could have heard a pin drop. That's how shocked we were.

      Anyone who's studied China carefully will know that the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) is struggling for credibility. You will also know that the Chinese university system that pumps out thousands of "qualified", "well trained" PhD degreed engineers has a serious problem. 98 percent of the PhD thesis are either straight rip-offs of Western thesis, or contend things that are not reproducible by any known means.

      The company I worked for generates north of 3 billion dollars a year and has a sky high stock valuation. They acquire high-tech companies, gut them, send the remaining manufacturing and engineering to China, and leave small staffs of engineers in the US to keep existing products alive.

      In the case of the original company I worked for, pre-acquisition we numbered 4,500+ employees and 900+ engineers (mechanical, electrical, software) world wide and were number one in four market segments and successfully competed against two other equally sized US companies. We generated over a billion dollars a year in revenue. Four years after the acquisition, there are less than 800 employees with fewer than 150 engineers, and that's after a huge build-up in it's China engineering and manufacturing operations. Revenues in the original company have fallen by 50 percent, and the take-over company hides this fact through acquiring other companies and puts them under the original companies "umbrella" operations.

      These kinds of take-over companies are called asset strippers, or in Wall Street parlance; roll-up companies. They can be worse than private equity firms.

      Here is an example of how electrical engineering jobs are lost to China. The company later acquired a highly specialized electronics firm. Their products require a very careful manufacturing technique, overseen by electrical engineers, to meet very high product design specs. Within 6 months, the company had taken the process to China and tried to train four different Chinese companies before they found one that might eventually meet the specs. The US-based staff were immediately terminated and the Chinese built products, even today, can not meet the original design specifications. In "normal" times, this might be considered treasonous activity on the part of the company as defense contractors used to rely on the technologies to "keep America safe." Knowing that engineering and manufacturing were shifted to China, defense contractors had no choice but to buy from someone else. The irony was that the President of the company that moved these operations to China claimed on national media that defense contractor sales had dropped dramatically and, therefore, he needed to lay off even more engineers as a result.

      In another case, the company moved certain electrical re-engineering functions to it's China operations. In the US it took only 5 employees to keep the operations functioning correctly. I recently learned that they had hired 37 Chinese to implement the electrical re-engineering function and were intending on hiring more. The reason? The Chinese could _not_ do the job. The 5 US-based engineers had been laid off and there is no "going back."

      As to why a company would gut it's US engineering operations and hire in China when the Chinese are clearly i

      • I can resume this as: "Modern CEOs = Cancer". Well said, sir
    • When I studied EE, you'd learn about circuit and filters and such. You're taught about how lithographic processes work, and how quantum theory works. But it's not the everyday work of most EEs. You'd also be expected to do a lot of software type stuff. For instance, a lot of VLSI design is done in what is essentially a programming language. Unsurprisingly, this meant that EE folks could transition into software relatively easily.

      At the moment there's a lot of hype about software, and not so much about hardw

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @08:18AM (#45984573)

      I am/was an EE with a degree, coincidentally, from RIT. I switched careers about 5 years ago because I saw this coming even though I had a very senior design position at a major chip designer. I even presented about it at a meeting at RIT some years back with a presentation called "why electrical engineering is the next textile industry." I laid out 3 key reasons why this was going to happen.
      1. Growth of skills external to the country.
      2. Consolidation and standardization of technology.
      3. Improvement in tools and processes.

      1. Is pretty self explanatory it's outsourcing 101
      2. Could be two items. In terms of consolidation a lot of the tech diversity we had 15 years ago is gone. In the processor space we had SGI, Sun, HP and others designing their own chips and that work is all gone because they all got out of those markets. Standardization was great for technology and great for consumers but bad for engineers. Again go back 15 years. You had so many different ways to connect peripherals to to the computer which has almost entirely been replaced by Bluetooth and USB. The same thing has been going on at the hardware integration level. Interconnect standardization has resulted in just using other peoples designs and hanging them off a bus rather then designing your own or at the very least designing your own bridge.
      3. As tech standardized tools could as well, faster models and predesigned test packages as well as newer ways to find bugs and get better test coverage just meant the need for less people. On one of my last projects a new piece of software did in two hours what we had one or two people, depending on the project, working full time on. If we needed to tweak a test post fab it took just a couple minutes instead of a week. It got to the point that management really started treating testing a validation people as second class citizens. They were cut and never back filled or replaced with a non-engineer because the job was really just button pushing. You also saw what used to be 3, 4, or 5 chips merged into one which greatly simplified board level design and made that part of the board reusable because you were never going to mess with a mix of chips.

      I still keep in touch with my old colleagues and I don't see it changing any time soon. I still keep hearing stories about how these people hot let go because of a new tool. These people got cut because that got moved to India. These people got cut because we just decided to use this standard interface or an off the shelf component instead.
      If anything I'm sort of surprised it hasn't happened a little quicker.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by masseydvt (3503491)
      As one of the 35,000 American electrical engineers who was laid off in 2013, I can tell you that my duties at IBM (Ethernet ASIC design) are now being done by two or three Chinese engineers who, combined, earn less than I did. I speculate that American companies do it to save money in the short-term.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:48AM (#45982955)

    A lot of EEs used to be needed to design discrete circuits. Nowadays most of that probably gets implemented in SW. So maybe not so many are needed any more?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:16AM (#45983095)

      Interestingly, I think this may be part of it. 20 years ago products would be designed by 5 electrical engineers and 1 developer for drivers and interfacing or MCU programming and now it's 1 electrical engineer and 11 software engineers on a product.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      In some arenas yes, but in other stuff you can't do it that way. People want hardware because it's faster than software. A lot of EE people do programming too, such as DSP signal analysis, since most newer computing grads aren't qualified (they spent college dreaming of being game testers or phone app programers). Now there's a blurred line with ASICs and FPGAs but those tend to be programmed by EE people more often than CS types. And of course software can't do much at all about signal communication su

      • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:34AM (#45984983)

        A lot of EE people do programming too, such as DSP signal analysis, since most newer computing grads aren't qualified

        I don't think many CS grads ever did serious DSP work (disclaimer: I'm an EE who also writes DSP code). The techniques and algorithms are what you learn in EE, not CS. Time vs. frequency domain, calculating filter coefficients, z-transforms, phase locked loops, stochastic signals, detection and estimation theory, etc., are all EE subjects. The "CS" part of it is actually very simple. The data structures are arrays and the control structures are loops. Nothing fancy, so a CS education is of limited value.

        Now there's a blurred line with ASICs and FPGAs but those tend to be programmed by EE people more often than CS types.

        Same explanation as above. I don't think I've ever seen a CS person doing FPGA or ASIC design. The fact that VHDL and Verilog look a lot like programming languages is not a big deal. You're designing circuits, not software.

    • A lot of EEs used to be needed to design discrete circuits. Nowadays most of that probably gets implemented in SW. So maybe not so many are needed any more?

      Needed?!? We don't care who's needed. In the world of politics, "jobs" are a magical substance, and are all about the heart.

    • As one who specializes in Digital Signal Processing (DSP), I was designing DSP circuits with discrete ICs early in my career, then switched over to designing software as DSP became more of a software-based art. So, I replaced myself.

      Another thing that probably replaces some EEs are Computer Engineers. That degree didn't exist at my school at the time I went there, but it seems to have become more widespread over the years. I'm still not exactly sure what it is, but it seems to be somewhat like EE except

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:48AM (#45982959)

    There are still jobs out there for power engineers - I have a friend that works at a construction engineering firm and they have trouble finding qualified and experienced electrical engineers to fill some positions.

    I'd imagine that a lot of electronics design work has been outsourced to the same companies that are building the electronics, and probably a lot of the tricky electrical design work has been replaced by digital electronics. Using a 16Mhz microcontroller might be overkill to read at a few analog inputs to generate some outputs, but your offshore manufacturer can likely use an off-the-shelf design to implement it for less than the cost of using discrete chips.

    • by RightwingNutjob (1302813) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:55AM (#45982991)
      I've worked with degree'd EE types who seem to have gotten their degrees in protoboard tinkering and not much more. Technically they're EE's, but soft math skills and limited design capabilities beyond plugging IC's together. Maybe 10-20 years ago, there was a place for them to support the Real Engineers. Today, you buy a plug-and-play PLC-like device or Labview box for a few thousand, and suddenly a lot of the work that used to take one of those degree'd EE can be done fairly reasonably by a technician or an intern.
      • by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:37AM (#45983161)

        On the flip side in the real world I haven't used a single piece of advanced mathematics that I endured during my degree. We often joke about how everyone should brace themselves because one of the engineers is reaching for the square root button, but the reality is much of the maths has been replaced by advanced simulation software.

        With simulation software able to calculate all things RF, analogue impedances, filters, interactions between different parts of a circuit due to inductive coupling etc. what is there left to do for an EE that actually requires the practical application of this maths? The only person I know who uses it works for a company which sells simulation software.

        That said your complains are partially true except I think slightly misdirected. It's not core maths that many of the more useless EEs lack but it's a basic understanding and common sense approach to circuit design. They are the type which will pull out the typical application diagram from a datasheet and bolt it down to a circuit board and then complain that the parts have gone up in smoke because they don't understand concepts like stability, feedback, etc. Maths does not save them here. General EE understanding does.

        I know of a perfect example of someone who went through university who got a got high distinction grades in every subject yet can't tell you the difference between a PNP or an NPN transistor. That said after I drew it for her she spat out the complete circuit equation and solved it in minutes. I blame her for my poor math skills :-)

    • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@wSLACKWAREorf.net minus distro> on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:24AM (#45983119)

      There are still jobs out there for power engineers - I have a friend that works at a construction engineering firm and they have trouble finding qualified and experienced electrical engineers to fill some positions.

      There are tons of EE jobs out there. Its just that the one everyone wants - the ones related to computers and digital logic, are really popular and many places are churning them out. But, like supply and demand, well, those jobs are also moving offshore because they're portable, and offshore education is getting really good as well.

      However, power engineers, a discipline who has seen the number of members drop steadily to the point where a graduating class may be counted on one hand (if at all! Sometimes there are years with zero graduates) can see good work. Their jobs generally aren't portable, and they deal with all matter of power - from generation, transmission, transformation, etc. Many electric utilities are paying handsomely for fresh graduates because they're hard to get (power engineering isn't very sexy).

      Likewise, you have analog IC designers, a role that's also so short on people, fresh grads can demand 6 figure salaries. Analog IC design is not just stuff like opamps and all that, but mixed-signal ICs, and modern digital ICs often contain analog interfaces. Even "digital" communications often do a lot of analog design (the Ethernet PHY is a mixed-signal chip - the signal comes in as analog and you have to recover a digital signal from that). There's also CMOS sensors for cameras, and many others.

      Then there's RF - which is in demand (think smartphones) - besides IC designs, there's antennas, communications, weak signal, etc.

      Computer and software? Well, there are just too many of them and they're portable.

      There's plenty of jobs out there. And because of shortage of supplies, damn the starting salaries can be double of a computer engineer.

      If you're an analog IC designer with RF experience....

      • by slew (2918)

        How times have changed...

        When I went to university many moons ago, I studied Analog VLSI and power electronics. Upon graduation, I discovered that for most companies, they wanted someone to essentially apprentice for about 6 years before they would let you touch a circuit (they had senior engineers to do the "real" work). Taking a job on the computer engineering side of the fence was ticket to being able to do real work (and paid better too boot) and I was lured over to the "d" side...

        Too bad I stopped lo

      • I think most people go to college because they don't want to have to worry about things like arc flash and electrocution.

    • I have a friend that works at a construction engineering firm and they have trouble finding qualified and experienced electrical engineers to fill some positions.

      No, they have trouble finding qualified and experienced electrical engineers for the apparently low salary they're paying. I'll bet if they doubled the salary they'd be swamped in great applicants. The problem is with the pay rate they're offering, not the labour pool.

    • I have a friend that works at a construction engineering firm and they have trouble finding qualified and experienced electrical engineers to fill some positions.

      No shit! That's because the PHBs refused to hire entry-level ones, so nobody has a chance to become "qualified and experienced" anymore!

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:20AM (#45983107) Homepage Journal

    Here's some data points, and a question for the economists:

    1) Productivity has been rising for decades. US productivity per capita is about $51,000 [google.com] this year. That's $50,000 per person, including kids and non-working spouses.

    2) Human needs follow a "priority queue" [wikipedia.org]; meaning, that once a level of need is satisfied there is no further demand. Population needs will plateau and become steady - there is no "infinite demand" for more goods. If you have all the food you need, you don't consume more even if it's free &c.

    2a) And population is stabilizing [google.com] in all industrialized nations. Birth rate less than 2.0 per woman in the US, our population only grows due to immigration. Similar in other industrialized nations.

    Given this data, here's a hypothetical question: Suppose efficiency grows so that the infrastructure could produce all the needs of the population using only 90% of the current workforce.

    Q: What happens to the unneeded 10% workforce?

    For a follow-on, consider Google's self-driving car. There are currently around 3.5 million [truck-driver-salary.org] professional truck drivers in the US, which is about 2% of the total work force. This doesn't count delivery vehicles such as FedEx, UPS, or USPS. Very soon this ~3% of the workforce will no longer be needed.

    Q2: Are we already in this "10% is unneeded" situation?

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      A: Reskilling. You see this constantly over the years. People's skill set becomes obsolete and they move on. If their skill set was brainless control (truck driving, digging with a backhoe, pushing buttons on a big machine, moving boxes around, then their reskilling is easy, they typically move to a different production line, or a different machine.

      When they are a skilled trade which has gone then things are more difficult and they may elect to stay in the trade but using a different skill, e.g. the underw

    • Needs are not fixed. I have access to all sorts of things that I didn't even know I wanted when I was growing up. (like the internet). So it is possible to keep everyone employed as productivity increases. (Until I have my own planet terraformed the way I want, I can make use of more total productivity - and by then I may think of more things I want).

      That said, I think there is a different problem. If automation can do a job more cheaply than a worker, it is likely to replace that worker. As automation imp

    • Great question.

      I heard in one of the presidential speeches that the need for foot solders is waning and more highly trained technical personnel is waxing.

      So, to take your hypothetical question even further . . . what happens when 20% or even 50% of the workforce is no longer needed to produce what we all need to survive or even thrive? How do the economics work out then?
      • So, to take your hypothetical question even further . . . what happens when 20% or even 50% of the workforce is no longer needed to produce what we all need to survive or even thrive?

        Compulsory military conscription.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      What happens to the unneeded 10% workforce?

      Soylent Green

    • by Solandri (704621)

      Given this data, here's a hypothetical question: Suppose efficiency grows so that the infrastructure could produce all the needs of the population using only 90% of the current workforce.

      Q: What happens to the unneeded 10% workforce?

      We passed that point long ago. Once a country's productivity advances past the point where it can fulfill everyone's needs, it starts fulfilling people's wants. That's why a huge chunk of our economy is devoted to TV shows, movies, music, fiction books, games, sports, fash

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Here's some data points, and a question for the economists:

      You seem to have accidentally left out all the data points relating to poverty and hunger (now known as "food insecurity").

      Given this data, here's a hypothetical question: Suppose efficiency grows so that the infrastructure could produce all the needs of the population using only 90% of the current workforce.

      Q: What happens to the unneeded 10% workforce?

      I imagine 10% of the workforce will effectively go on an endless vacation.
      Or does your definition of "produce all the needs of the population" not include needs like "food" or "shelter" or "heat"?

      Q2: Are we already in this "10% is unneeded" situation?

      Depends on your perspective.
      A Fortune 500 CEO might say "yea, we're already there"
      A family depending on food stamps and food banks might disagree.

    • Tyler Cowen, Average Is Over.

      He talks about exactly this problem. You get two populations, a highly skilled but small group that gets paid for providing all the stuff for everyone. And burger flippers.

    • Productivity has been rising for decades.

      Productivity has been rising for millennia.

      Yet somehow, the dystopias only seem to arrive when we take large political actions designed to prevent them from arriving.

    • by Muad'Dave (255648)

      If you have all the food you need, you don't consume more even if it's free ...

      Sadly, yes I do. That's also why I weigh almost 20 stone.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:21AM (#45983111)

    Corporate America is making a very clear statement. They will not hire Americans under these rules and we can't make them.

    We need to really do a gut check on a lot of our labor policies, taxes, and regulations that effect labor prices in the US and... then ask ourselves if we'd rather keep the laws as they are and accept high levels of permanent structural unemployment... or if we're willing to compromise to get people into careers.

    The whole issue is very politically charged. A gaggle of people might well respond to this post calling me names for suggesting compromise here. But the thing is labor policies are irrelevant to you if you don't have a job and can't get one.

    So the labor policies are doing NOTHING for those people. Consider changing the laws so it actually helps them get and keep a job... and we'll actually be moving in a more positive direction.

    • by guevera (2796207)
      Which labor laws are you talking about? Minimum wage/overtime? OSHA and worker's comp? SSI/SSDI/Medicare taxes? Sexual harrasment liability? I mean we've got something like 6% private sector union penetration. Unless you admit to firing someone because of their sex, race, religion, or in some states sexual orientation.... You sure seem pissed about something, but damn if I can figure out waht it is.
      • Which labor laws are you talking about?

        Oh come on there's far more than that and they're very unreasonable.

        Like not being able to pay employees in credits to be redeemed at the company store. Employees not being able to sell themselves into indentured servitude, that sort of thing. those regressive policies are harming our corporations.

      • Its not just the unions that are an issue. The unions are frankly a nonstarter at this point. Entirely non-competitive in most cases.

        Which is why most new jobs especially factory jobs are in right to work states.

        The unions have frankly negotiated themselves out of a job.

        And they can talk about how safe and secure they are when they're unemployable. Boeing is leaving Washington state amongst other things because of this crap. Do you have any idea how expensive that is for them? How much they have invested th

    • Corporate America is making a very clear statement. They will not hire Americans under these rules and we can't make them.

      We need to really do a gut check on a lot of our labor policies, taxes, and regulations that effect labor prices in the US and... then ask ourselves if we'd rather keep the laws as they are and accept high levels of permanent structural unemployment... or if we're willing to compromise to get people into careers.

      The whole issue is very politically charged. A gaggle of people might well respond to this post calling me names for suggesting compromise here. But the thing is labor policies are irrelevant to you if you don't have a job and can't get one.

      So the labor policies are doing NOTHING for those people. Consider changing the laws so it actually helps them get and keep a job... and we'll actually be moving in a more positive direction.

      If you compromise to compete against workers with no rights, you will end up with no rights.

      • We don't need to go that far. There are a lot of things going for the US.

        We have superior infrastructure, more secure and reliable legal code, we have proximity to the actual corporate governance which makes administration cheaper, and there are various issues with securing intellectual property that are easier in the US then elsewhere.

        The corps are actually hiring in parts of the US. Places like Georgia, the Carolinas, and Texas.

        Do that along with making the insurance and medical costs of hiring someone le

    • ... and just how would you propose to make labor policy changes in the face of America's strong position in the WTO and implementation of NAFTA and GATT?...

      I submit that current labor policies in America are fitting the "needs" of a certain class of people just fine. Maybe America should take a stronger policy position with regards to that (small) class of people?

      • which class are you referring to here?...

        And really it doesn't serve anyone in the long run. In the short run it might be expedient for some. But the system is showing signs of systemic melt down which would ruin things for everyone. Everyone. Even the politicians.

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:21AM (#45983113)

    According to the BLS report from 2012 [bls.gov], there were 295k electrical & electronic engineers, and an additional 80k computer hardware engineers, who aren't counted in the total for whatever reason.

    According to the BLS report from 2002 [bls.gov], there were 272k EEs and an additional 67k computer hardware engineers.

    So that's a total of 375k in 2012 and 339k in 2002. If my math is right, that's a growth rate of 1% per year. The US population growth rate averaged over the last ten years is around 0.9%.

    So what am I missing? Where is TFA getting their startling decline from?

    • by Macman408 (1308925) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:47AM (#45983431)

      Yeah, there's more too: Last year, there were 335k employed EEs with 3.4% unemployment, so about 347k EEs total. This year, there are 300k employed EEs with 4.8% unemployment, so about 315k EEs total. So by their numbers, sure, jobs declined by 10%, but the people looking for said work declined by 9% as well.

      It's also worth noting that in their linked article from the year before, job numbers were up 25k; so the net from 2011 is a loss of 10k. Also, this variability makes me wonder if their method of counting is subject to a lot of noise, and we should be looking more at long-term average trends rather than year-to-year variability.

  • Why do you not move? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pablo_max (626328) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:56AM (#45983237)

    Seriously, if there is hard to find work in your field, why not move? I don't mean move to Texas or Oregon, but move to Germany or the UK.
    There are loads of engineering openings here in Germany and not enough Germans to fill them. If you are coming from the US to a German company, it is really easy to get a VISA.
    Yes, I know not everyone can do so because of this or that reason, but a lot of people can.

    Do not follow cheap manufacturing. Instead look to countries who spend loads of money on educating their young. Like Germany. It seems like such a basic concept that American politicians and much of the public do not understand; If you do not properly educate your population then eventually the country will collapse. No purely consumer based society is sustainable.

    • by epyT-R (613989)

      Because those countries aren't exactly friendly towards americans (probably justified), even if their governments are. Plus most technology people simply cannot learn a whole new language at levels required for technical work. As it is,retraining for the jobs themselves is now getting close to a decade of expensive school, and now employers want bi and tri lingual abilities on top of that? Fuck that. People simply don't have enough time on this planet to 'educate' themselves enough to meet such crazy sta

      • by Trepidity (597)

        I agree language is an issue, especially to learn it to a professional level (much harder than learning enough German to order in a restaurant). But in some countries you can get a job in English no problem. The UK, as you might guess, is such a country. Most engineering firms in Scandinavia are also happy to hire English-speakers.

        • I agree language is an issue, especially to learn it to a professional level

          It isn't, provided you learn it at a young age. Basically kids seem to be language learning machines and have an ability to learn languages that cannot be matched by adults.

          It requires the education system to actually care about teaching languages to kids at a young age, however.

          • by Alioth (221270)

            Being young is overrated. I started learning Spanish when I was 35 (in 2008). Being an adult is not an excuse to not learn a language.

            Sure I have a terrible accent when I speak it but I've given technical talks in Spanish in front of an audience and they understood fine. When I go to Spain I don't speak a word of English while I'm out there. If the employment situation in Spain wasn't so dismal, I would be entirely comfortable applying for a job there and working there.

            You just have to learn languages the r

      • by Alioth (221270)

        Actually it's easier to learn a language at a level required for technical work. I'd be perfectly comfortable doing a technical job in a Spanish speaking country because most of the specialized words are actually English. Or English with Spanish decorations. Technical work in a foreign lanugage is much easier than "artisan" type work because in so many technical fields, all of the domain specific words are loan-words from English. You could get by in a technical job in Germany with just intermediate German.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        "People simply don't have enough time on this planet to 'educate' themselves enough to meet such crazy standards. "

        Yes we do. Want to know how?

        1 - Stop this bullshit summer off for school. It is not needed, we are not an agricultural society anymore.
        2 - Stop the bullshit 6 hour day. 9 hour day is what kids need.
        3 - Stop stupid parents. Education is not only at school, it continues at home. We should not have to waste time teaching home-ec in school, It's the parents job to do this.
        4 - Stop being afr

        • Stop ... summer off for school. Stop ... 6 hour day. 9 hour day is what kids need.

          We had summer vacations and 6 hour days back when the US invented the transistor, the laser and the integrated circuit, and sent men to the moon. It didn't seem to be a problem back then, so why is it now?

          • by Lumpy (12016)

            Back then we did not require a bachelors degree to be a janitor or receptionist. Executives are retarded morons today so we have to be over edumacated to satisfy their egos.

  • EE long in decline (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wansu (846) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:42AM (#45983411)

    Thirty five years ago, there were at least 50,000 workers employed in electronics manufacturing in the RTP area of NC. I was one of them. I started as an assembler, then as a technician and later as a design engineer. During the 90s, most of these jobs quickly disappeared. Today, there a few small niche players left employing perhaps a few hundred workers. That's it.

    I retrained as a software developer and successfully changed careers. It was difficult.

    I'm not surprised to see reality check stories like this, particularly after being treated to incessant propaganda about shortages of STEM students over the past couple years. This shortage talk has been going on for decades. Yet, no actual shortages of engineers have materialized.

  • Shouldn't we be celebrating this as a triumph of capitalism. A 10% culling of the Electrical Engineering workforce will mean that the price of that labour can be driven down to near poverty levels for a skilled profession. Prices will fall and everyone will be happy.

    Except the E.E's - but as long as we're ok, everything is good - but hey it can never happen to us, right?

  • by ihtoit (3393327) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:08AM (#45984791)

    those 35,000 lost jobs in America in 2013 turned into 70,000 jobs filled in China for one tenth the cost.

    Such is the price of offshoring. Still a great idea?

  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:31AM (#45984951)
    not requiring becoming an EIT to graduate and eventually a PE to practice. Had they followed law and medicine it would be a lot harder to offshore work, and salaries would be higher due to fewer engineers. In addition, like law or medicine engineering schools would have to be accredited so there would be fewer new graduates which also would dive up salaries. Licensing is not about ensuring quality as much as limiting supply and erecting barriers to entry.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mrhippo3 (2747859)
      Getting a PE license is dependent on working on a firm that still employees a PE. As a PE is expensive, this is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Companies will fire high salaried individuals. Yet another complication is that you have to stay employed at one firm long enough to get the time required to qualify. Frequent job switches (which always happen in engineering) make the goal of getting a PE still more elusive. At one SW firm, I had eight bosses in five years. I have not done the math, but the
    • Actual law is a horrible example because there has been a bubble of lawyers now and it's kept starting legal salaries actually fairly low. I know because my and I have talked about this and she is a lawyer and I went to law school, but ended up starting a tech company I sold instead. Financially we are well off enough that when we have kids she could take a couple years off. But if she does she can kiss having a comfortable job as in house corporate counsel good bye. And she has a JD & MBA.

      It's so c

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