As a sign I once saw perceptively noted, "The rat race is over. The rats won." The debate about design outsourcing is also over. As this week's design-outsourcing survey and research report by EE Times and Electronic Supply & Manufacturing indicates, the outsourcing of design work in Silicon Valley and throughout the industry is now so pervasive and institutionalized that it's not worth debating anymore.
If you are an engineer whose job got outsourced, this is not much consolation. Top management and the rest of corporate America, of course, see a very different picture. To survive in an intensely competitive and global electronics market, they do not want restrictions on their access to offshore engineering talent or to local markets. So is that the end of the story? It should not be.
What we should be debating is the potential loss of America's core competence in innovation. The key to this issue is a new awareness of a real crisis: the erosion of the educational base from kindergarten through college that's hollowing out the U.S. work force.
The tide of this great debate could be turned in a few seconds. All George W. Bush has to say in his next State of the Union message is, "We will reverse the decline in qualified engineering and science graduates in the United States." Until that happens, the rats will prevail.
Richard Wallace is vice president and editorial director for CMP Media LLC's Electronics Group.