Actually, I've read that some manufacturing is returning to the USA particularly if your product requires high quality and careful control of what parts actually get manufactured into your product. You can get quality manufacturing in China, but from what I've heard it requires a great deal of effort -- and thus cost. If your volumes aren't big enough to warrant that effort, you may be better off in the USA or Europe.
A recent example of this is the Raspberry Pi, which originally was to be manufactured in the UK but costs required that the first large-scale manufacturing be done in China. However, once volumes reached a certain point they moved production to Wales and had better quality. If your product is mostly assembled by SMT robots, the labor cost difference no longer applies.
Engineering jobs are quite portable ... hence, companies will continue to ship jobs outside the US if such outsourcing saves money. This trend could gradually change the face of the American economy - making it more like the UK - a country profoundly dependent on services.
If the electronics industry entailed kids playing video games and walking around sending text messages then I could find a million candidates but lets face it it's not like it was 20 or 30 years ago and kids aren't interested in being engineers but in all honesty it is not their fault but I see a major part being the fault of some of the big named electronics companies for not nurturing potential employees.
I have been doing RF design for avionics for 25 years now and for the first time since 2011 I am enjoying it but unfortunately there is nobody in the wings to fill my space when I kick off or retire.
It's probably not good that my high school and college aged children watched from the wings while I had to work 60+ hour weeks for 21 years with no rewards at my previous job while all the time stuck in the boonies of a Northern Arizona Avionics company, can you say boored children?
Fortunately now I have found an excellent avionics company in the Pacific Northwest, this is a company that makes excellent wise descisions and treats their employees like nothing that I have ever experienced.
They are in fact A++ I must say and this new company that I now work for is a total reversal of my past work at the English owned avionics company that I worked for in Prescott Arizona.
Unfortunately the damage was already done by my previous employeer and no matter how unique the company that I now work for is, my kids saw what I called the dark 21 years of the Arizona Employeer and the damage was already done years ago.
My children where totally and entirely turned off to engineering so in my case it was my previous employeers attitude and their lack of giving back to their workers and to the local community that turned off the generation that I was involved with.
EDIT:Oh I left one very important point out in my experience, at one time, just over a year ago, I did had one son who was actually in the EE program at Arizona State, with a 3.9 average and after 3 years in the EE program and after countless semesters trying for intern positions at numerous Arizona companies he finally decided that engineering sucked and finace was the future.
If companies complain about the lack of Engineering grads then it is only thier fault for not nurturing the students and turning them on instead of turning them off.
I wonder how the ranks of managers would deal with mandates sent down by their boards of directors not to hire any managers with over 10 years of experience, in order to not pay them excessively so as to improve the bottom line? (Assuming they could still mandate that hiring above a certain position would require that the candidate possess an MBA etc.) What's good for the goose would NOT be seen as good for the gander! It always strikes me as odd that company management generally gets away mandating all manner of declarations so long as they can attach to it "if we don't make this change it will adversely impact our bottom line and our ability to compete in the marketplace". I tend naturally to be closer to the political right but there are various ways to accomplish social change, as I recall a fairly large portion of the movement that helped abolish apartheid in South Africa was accomplished in essence through the mechanism of financial boycott, I wonder if it would be possible to shame US managers into hiring more experienced employees by boycotting those who wouldn't? Wishful thinking on my part I suppose, yet for those of us who are LTU the "punishment" sure doesn't seem to fit the "crime". I tend to think it would be more reasonable to expect results if we could get Congress to reform the employment law (and "corporate welfare") that applies to large corporations, but I would note that a larger percentage of US voters than ever before are either registered or acknowledge that they vote as independents because the current Congress is perceived as so useless as far as supporting the middle class is concerned. And the Citizens United Supreme Court decision (money=speech) doesn't help much either.
That is the only solution...companies must start hiring new grads again...but I am afraid they will just continue outsourcing to India and China claiming there is a shortage of skilled people here...they will not hire 50+ years old as some posts are hoping, nobody wants to pay $120k+ and have someone leave in few years...better pay $60k and hope they learn quickly...but the best is to outsource at $20k or less...Kris
The hole in the middle seems quite real, and as others have said, we can look to the crash of 2000, the rise of outsourcing and the crash of 2008 as some of the causal factors. The decline in STEM graduates during that period is not surprising at all -- many of our best & brightest young people who could've made great engineers chose to pursue fields where they had a better chance of getting a job and pursuing a long-term career path.
Anecdotally, it seems that many U.S. companies are again hiring new college grads (NCG's in HR-speak), and smart companies should be taking advantage of the experience of their older engineers and cultivating mentorship to help bridge that "hole in the middle."
It is with ennui I read this pedantic trolling article that needs more fleshing out of what is really being said. HR essentially wants young low paid mindless drones that can be wise old Einstein's on demand and can lay golden eggs (i.e. code) like a Gatling gun for 25 hours a day in a small cage. Then add about 50 or so "and can do" to approximate a typical entry level position's requirements and search though thousands of resumes only find no one is ever qualified. This about covers HR's short list. Peeling back the typical HR drumbeat and sniveling, you have a lot of baby boomers who have evolved with the changing technology in their 20-30 years career, know their stuff, want paid something, and want a life. They are accused of not being team players. On the other hand, schools crank out hoards of fresh engineering graduates who can pass tests really great but cannot get on a team to play. Some stats say about 50% of engineering grads do not go into engineering. Why is this, if there is a shortage? I also look at my fellow engineers and see they live like technicians. Many of their smart and observant children are shunning engineering so the next generations of engineers are lost. Would "smart" people upon looking at the plethora of paradoxes and contradictions in engineering careers say, sign me up! I want some of that >;-). Nay, we have STEM programs to seduce the young. Have you seen other major disciplines begging? Toss on to the mix for fun that the rest of the world wants their smart people to also become engineers. Over the years I have read the same threadbare arguments and wrote several like replies. I grow tired of the repetition.
@Wnderer - Excellent observation. I think you nailed it.
Given this data and the anecdotal evidence of the other posters (including the article), I have to think that middle of the road experienced engineers are indeed difficult to come by.
So, if the choice comes down a fresh engineer with some level of basic skill sets at ~$60K/annum and an 20-year experienced engineer at ~$120K/annum with far more experience and presumable far more than a 2x productivity difference, isn't the choice fairly simple? Age favoritism anyone?