But narrowly focusing on graduation rates ignores bigger issues, such as quality. China may be producing more engineersa necessity, given its growing economybut with a factory-like approach, he said.
And no matter what the numbers are, they don’t necessarily mean more outsourcing.
The immigration reform bill in Congress is key. Supporters of its proposed annual increase of H-1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000 argue that it will lead to less outsourcing.
When companies recruit at U.S. engineering graduate schools, they find that 50 percent or more of the students are foreign nationals, said Rodney Malpert, director of U.S. immigration for Phoenix-based law firm Littler Global.
If they stay in the U.S., capital and jobs stay, too. “It’s very much in the national interest to keep these foreign nationals who graduate from U.S. universities here rather than have them work abroad,” he said.
Rather than worry about outsourcinga reality in any caseU.S. universities and industry should focus on which skills are needed, according to Wadhwa.
And employers should look hard at the salaries paid to engineers, he said. In Duke’s case, 30 percent to 40 percent of its master’s of engineering management program graduates accept jobs with greater salaries outside the profession.
There’s yet another consideration, said Duke engineering school dean Kristina Johnson. Engineers need historical perspective and understanding of technology’s public policy implications. “Whatever country does that first will create a citizenry that’s able to address the problems of the world in a more holistic context,” Johnson said.