The post garnered an inbox full of responses; some angry, many frustrated, others in agreement. Some readers felt the argument was a political one, blaming one party’s policies or another.
Others felt the issue was situational, with too many tech jobs located in areas where fewer engineers could take advantage of them.
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“I wish I was 25 instead of 52 so I could just pick up my 5 lbs. of stuff instead of 50,000 and jump right over there,” wrote one unemployed software engineer from New Jersey.
Lack of work experience was blamed for many “average” engineering grads unable to get starter jobs right out of college, while other readers complained that the curse of unemployment made it even more difficult to get back on the job ladder.
“The engineer shortage is a fantasy of the high tech companies,” wrote reader Steve Sodos, holder of a BSEE from Stanford who lives in Silicon Valley. “I cannot get a job because I am unemployed. The high-tech companies are only interested in people who have a specific job skill set so they will ‘hit the ground running.” Sodos said the solution to the engineer "shortage" is simple: "Don't reject all of the applicants!”
Steve Anderson, self-proclaimed “lab guy” at Sonoma State University, said President Obama was the only candidate who gave "lip service" to STEM. "He is the one who said those words, and has committed to a program to support it," Anderson said.
On the other hand, Anderson argues candidate Romney just believes in supporting charter schools, which do not comply with No Child Left Behind testing. “The Republican main science plan is to bust public employee unions and demonize teachers,” he said.
Anderson believes one reason for the dropping rates of STEM students is because NCLB testing does not require physics, as it’s “too hard to put true-false science questions onto a bubble test.”
“Physics is science and science creates engineers,” Anderson added.
Thanks for the great article Sylvie.
I was remiss at crediting, in my indignation, and need to add that, 8 Mil$ at SSU was a public-private collaboration.
We have many generous industry donors that supported engineering at a small liberal arts campus; Agilent, JDSU, Keck Foundation, Cerent, Calix, AFC, with focus on telecomm, EE, fiber optics, and scientific instrumentation.
thanks again for illuminating this issue. I see from some responses "what shortage is that? I am unemployed"
Nice recap of what was said in the many posts.
Just one point, though. I'm not so sure that the majority non-technically-inclined teachers is such a big obstacle. I, for one, never expected my teachers, certainly not through grade school, to be interested in what I enthused over. But kids who care about anything have a way of pursuing these things on their own. No matter what subject matter.
It does matter more in high school, because you need the basics down cold to make it to college STEM majors.
As to what other kids think is cool? Egad. Anyone who gets dissuaded by that wouldn't have the stamina to stick it out anyway.
This same debate happens every few years when there are big layoffs in the industry. This time is different. The jobs are not coming back...
What's the point of a STEM education if there are no jobs or stable career prospects. Better to go to a trade school and learn to be an electrician or a plumber. At least you can support a family.
This is the sad state of affairs due to free market nuts who dismissed engineers being required to have licenses years ago when we had a chance to prevent this disaster. Now, companies are free to layoff good local engineers and hire cheaper offshore ones. They can do this as long as technology remains stagnant -- which is guaranteed with less funding for basic research under Republican administrations. Technology stagnation gives offshore engineers time to come up to speed on current practices.
This should be seen as a national security issue. Fewer trained engineers means we will loose our technology edge in defense and open ourselves up to cyber attacks by allowing foreign equipment to be installed in our telecom networks.
I urge anyone who is out of work and and looking for a job to start a company in your garage/basement. Don't just sit there waiting for some politician to solve your problems. Things will get a lot worse before they get better.
Starting a company is no longer an option. I know many people that have tried that strategy, and the minute your product hits the marketplace, unless it is patented, cheap clones will put you out of business. And even patent protection is not foolproof. It's easy for big corporations to do a workaround.
The solution is an import duty on products from foreign companies that do not play by the rules. How can you compete with foreign companies that have masses of workers in dormitories ready to work 14-16 hour days at a moments notice?
If the playing field is level, we can compete. But it's not.
There is much truth to the HR "cookie cutter" filter folks; applicant "A" doesn't fully meet the stated qualifications for the req so reject him.
But Let applicant "A" actually talk with the engineers and technical management who opened the req in the first place and you'll experience totally different hiring outcomes.
Companies don't want to spend the money to do on the job training despite the fact that nearly every employee needs some time/training to become proficient in a particular company's processes and procedures;
proficiency in the latest EDA design flows is necessary but not sufficient to ensure the recent hire will be productive.
After all, bright, talented people can master any tool but mastery of a tool doesn't imply brightness, talent or ability to make a contribution.
I recently retired from a large aerospace company, and have a couple of comments regarding the "engineer shortage". First, over the last few years of my career, my employer outsourced the recruiting function. The company chosen was not technically savvy (related to me by friends who I suggested apply for open engineering positions). As has been related in other responses, such recruiters (maybe company HR personnel as well) abdicate the filtering task to a software "key word matching" program. Thus, only applicants who have mastered the art of buzz word resume construction make it through the filter.
Secondly, over the last few years, my employer off-shored as many engineering design jobs as possible, and did as much as possible to force the remaining engineers (especially senior staff) to leave. Any high school student bright enough to survive an engineering curriculum is also bright enough to see the limited employment future with large US companies. My employer is not unique in this regard, many of the largest employers of engineers are following the same practice.
I'm glad I've retired, and my career was good to me; financially in that I could retire, intellectually because keeping up with the ever changing technology provided mental challenges and growth, and I got to create some really cool products and work with some really neat technologies. Not sure similar opportunities exist today.
The hiring process is broken. The old saying goes "Once you have a job everyone is willing to offer you a job." The hard part is getting past HR and meeting with the people behind the doors who need help. If you don't have a job don't apply here. Great. My youngest has a B.S. in Chemistry ... no jobs for anyone 'right out of college'. Sound familiar? Entry level jobs specify 3-5 years experience. Great. If there is a shortage it is because of 'diversity'. I've witnessed over the decades that if you don't have the right 'plumbing' or 'paint job' you are not considered in the (rare) new hires process.