I have seen that a lot of the mid level engineers are also leaving the field for the likes of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Once they gain some experience (5-10yrs) then they are jumping to these new trendy jobs and leaving the field altogether. This may not apply to all engineering fields, but it is an example of where the 30 somethings can end up.
I have seen numerous discussions similar to the subject of this post and I always end with the question of what are these people and companies doing to develop the next generation of engineers. Have you considered hiring an engineer directly out of college and making the investment in developing their skills to meet your needs? Not all new engineers want to write the next great app, many want to use their hardware and software skill to develop real world products. You complain about wanting that perfect ten year experienced candidate. Guess what, so does everyone else.
Most entry level engineers are fast learners and hard workers, typically with in six month they can learn enough about your product to become productive. The good news is you now have an engineer who has been trained in your particular niche of a market. This has worked out particularly well for my company (embedded hardware). We have also noted that these young engineer stay with the company longer and advance faster then many of the "10 year" vets that we higher.
Duane, your company is a small business, right? I suspect there is a disconnect between the hiring practices of small (and maybe medium) sized companies and large companies. (I work for a small company, and we've never worried abou age as far as I know - but we don't have to hire very often).
gearhead63. I'm responding to your comment because I think it brings to light the simple and defining issue creating the problem Lance Jones is writing about.
I'm a 28 year old Mechanical Engineer in Lafayette, LA. I work for a 75+ yr.-old oilfield service company with manufacturing capabilities. Everything I've learned has been from my own vested interest, failing quickly, and failing cheaply. My diploma is merely a piece of paper that gets me in to interviews.
Statistics are wonderful and insightful, and message boards are lovely venues for ongoing debate, but nothing compares with a Bell Labs type atmosphere where a solid mixture of academic and industrial mind sets converge to make relevant products. Costs are high, but that atmosphere is a long term investment that gave us the transistor.
I propose an individual-based effort on the part of all engineers and workers, within all industries, to forgo pride and fatigue for the sake of real work. If manufacturing and product development is going to thrive in America there must be a consensus among executives to foster creative and educational environments, within a reasonable deficit to the company's profit, in order to maintain the engineering knowledge prevalent to their business and maintain a steadily increasing efficiency among their employees that transcends age or skill level.
There has been an obvious decimation of talent due to retirement and the subsequent age gap, but the only relief I've been privy to is watching older engineers bow out of elevated job positions to sign on with smaller companies. Only this allows for the possibility of passing on valuable industry-related information from the experienced to the nubile. It is unavoidable; there are no distractions.
I think the solution will be found through individual effort, guided by lenient executive oversight, fostered by patience from investors. There is no silver bullet. There must be a shift of focus from what we want now, to the real work at hand.
Scott " over qualified in a science profession based upon age?"
In my experience, it's never been a case of anyone being overqualified for a job. What I have seen though, is people that are asking for a much greater salary than I can pay. If I can only afford someone with 10 years experience, I wouldn't avoid hiring someone with more if they were willing to work for a 10 year experience salary.
The other issues I've seen is the failure to keep up with technology. This isn't exclusive to people as old as I am, but I've seen it more in people my age than in younger folks. It's not that people can't be trained, but they have to want to be trained on newer technologies, and someone who has spent time learning and researching the new stuff will most likely have a leg up on someone who hasn't.
Clearly there is a generational shift comng and a big movement back to apps that Steve Jobs helped ignite--and took us off the better path to Web services, damn it!
This particiular article is a bit rambling. IMHO it doesn't really grasp the point that the apps economy depends on the chip and systems electronics economy and that there are young and old engineers in both.
Lance, I certainly agree that robots are cool. My undergraduate university was the first to offer a BS degree in robotocs engineering. See Robots at the university level, based on a my visit there last year.
In a previous comment here, I spoke of young engineers being more interested in writing apps than making hardware because apps are cool. Perhaps, but where would all those apps be without the infrastructure behind it? All those "cool" apps need electrical engineers to develop the electrical and optical networks that the apps can;t live without. Thus, all these apps should result in jobs for optical engineers, EEs with skills in high-speed serial links, signal integrity, FGPA, PCB design, etc.
The article, like others, talks about a few programmers who happened to strike it rich with a cool app, but those are few and far between.