Though much of the economy has rebounded since the dot-com crash, and though engineers are being hired now, I'm still flooded with tales of woe from developers unsuccessfully searching for work. Here's an e-mail from a correspondent who wishes to remain anonymous: "There seems to be a great discrepancy between 'official' numbers and the truth. I worked as a software engineer/embedded developer for several years, but I can't buy a job right now.
"I was laid off from my job working for Lockheed at the Kennedy Space Center in 2002. I have been unemployed since then, despite working my behind off looking for a job. The state government here in Florida constantly shouts 'Florida has low unemployment! There are plenty of jobs!' When we were laid off, the state sent 'employment counselors' to help us. They told us the only jobs were at Wal-Mart, and that we ought to be glad if we could get a job there. They browbeat us to death with Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart . . .
"The representatives of the state of Florida told us bluntly that engineering jobs were not for Americans. We were told, 'It's a global economy, and engineering jobs are going overseas. That is part of globalization. You must accept this. Your career is over. Americans are going to have to accept low-wage jobs, because that is the result of globalization. Wal-Mart is the only place that is hiring and you need to work there.'
"Oh, I've been offered jobs. I've been offered jobs in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Korea. I have also been offered jobs in embedded development but to keep the job, I would have had to sleep with a cell phone to provide 24/7 customer support. I also would have had to travel on two hours' notice, both internationally and domestically, to provide on-site support. I turned all of those jobs down. I've been mocked, yelled at and cursed. In an interview earlier this year, one engineer stood up and screamed at me, saying, 'If you won't work in Iraq for us, you don't deserve to have a job!'
"The IEEE recently published a graph that shows a massive decline in the number of EE jobs in the U.S. (www.todaysengineer.org/2005/Sep/pulse.asp).
"The current administration has promoted policies that have driven engineering jobs offshore. They've wrecked the economy, and the federal and state governments are lying about it. The job market is horrible. Unless you want to work overseas, or provide customer support (on-call, global travel), then you are in big trouble. If you have a decent job, hang on, because if you lose it, you will never work again. The number of jobs in the U.S. is declining, thanks to a bad economy, greedy CEOs, the offshoring of manufacturing and now the offshoring of engineering and software development work.
"And yes, I do know a former Lucent MTS who now works at the local Wal-Mart, wearing a blue vest."
I don't know the writer personally, so it's possible his frustration has boiled over to some level of exaggeration. But too many others write, perhaps somewhat less eloquently, with similar stories.
Are engineering jobs really so scarce? Is an $8/hour Wal-Mart job our destiny? What do you think?
- Jack Ganssle (firstname.lastname@example.org), a lecturer and consultant on embedded development issues. This piece is reprinted from the EE Times Network site embedded.com.