Lance Jones said: It could just be that we have heard for so long that everything is moving to Asia, that it has discouraged many of our young people from studying engineering.
Engineering students aren't stupid. When they get the impression that after 4-5 hard years of college and US$100K of debt, they won't be able to get a job because of no experience and even if they do they'll be discarded in 5 years because the employer wants to hire someone cheaper or move their jobs overseas, what exactly is the incentive? You do get some terrific engineering students who simply cannot imagine doing anything else. But those with alternatives are going to go where the money is -- Wall Street.
You hit the nail right on the head. I'm part of a college advisory board where we track trends like this, and the data points to many of the best and brightest going into finance instead of engineering.
Well, I am an emgineer in my early 30's, with 10 years of industry experience, and am having a difficult time finding an job. I fit right in the middle of this category, and am supposedly the missing link. I am currently employed, but looking for something new. Everywhere I go I get "We like what you have to offer, but we are looking for someone with more experience." I'm not sure how I fit into this equation, but I think employers are just being too picky. They see the downturn as an opportunity to be selective, so they set their sights high - too high, and are surprised when they have a hard time finding someone to fit their "perfect candidate". In my opinion, they need to choose candidates that match most of their requirements, and work with the new hire to develop the areas they are lacking. There is no such thing as a purple squirrel!
My sympathy @Mbt_1#1, there are many peoplelike you...yet, we are reading about this Google engineer who turned down $500,000 offer as Google pays him $3M annually already...interesting world we live in...Kris
Generation gap is clearly in place. Downturn of year 2k is responsible. Same CEO's/WallStreet types that hired everyone who was capable of few keystrokes before y2k did mass layoffs for next 3 years. Even after this time getting hired for unexperienced young engineer was extremely difficult. My friend son finished university at summer 2002. No chance for a job, he applied for master (and everyone in his class also applied) was lucky and get master degree year later. Then lost 3 years selling furniture. Fortunately he become engineer after that... what is motivation for young people for engineering? There is a gap at least from 2000- 2006/7 where most of them lost their chance and lost interest. After all average salaries at investment banking sector in same time rising above $400k level. Thats direction country is steered to, why go against mainstream?
I agree with Otta that the problem isn't only from the 2008 blip - it goes back to the 2000 drop in the NASDAQ
Before that young engineers were being trained, and assuming at some point in their career they could join a magic startup and make millions when it did it's IPO.
When the buble burst a lot of the job opportunities went off-shore in the interest of saving money, and the bright kids were lured into other places where the money seemed easier. It wasn't only banks but a raft of softer services. You only have to look back at the falling number of engineering graduates over the last decade or so to see the trend, plus factor in the percentage of foreign students being trained by US schools.
It's been obvious for a long time that the supply of competent engineers in the US is both aging and reducing. I believe other industries have similar problems - airline pilots for example.
In the end it's a product of our society and it's only society that can change it. It we want to continue the rate of innovation that's made us more productive and wealthly year on year since the beginning of the industrial revolution, we've got to shift the reward system so the technologists get better rewarded and merchants and people who take percventages of othr peoples money in the name of financial "services" are less well rewarded.
Meantime the electronics industry faces one heck of a problem in the US over the next couple of decades as engineers retire with nobody to replace them.
While US society gives freedom to their kids in choosing a profession, in India parents wants their kids to become either engineer or doctor. They just dont settle with less. I have seen the cases where the boy doesnt have the intelligence level not interest in studying engineering but mother and father of the boy want him to complete his engineering at any cost. As a result the society is full of engineers.
Not necessarily incompetent, but certainly unhappy. Generally -- but not always -- you get better performance from people who enjoy what they're doing, and great ideas from people who are passionate about what they're doing.
What ever happened to Dad and Son mentoring ? Maybe the culture of engineering should be passed on to children from the parents ?
Like the "good old days" of Heathkit, amateur radio, and electronic kits. Even grandpa in the garage with his crystal radio set. Many of the top engineers I know had such mentoring backgrounds as kids.
Unfortunately, I watched our cultural decay for decades now. Whole families "vegging out" in front of the TV, internet, video games and don't forget a glut of porn.
Despite this pleasure drunk society with its many bursts of elations the kids and parents still seem to be more sad and lost than ever as time goes on.
We've lost our ability to find lasting joy in constructive things such as solving a difficult math/physics problems in homework books. In fact kids that do find joy in equation solving are scorned and mocked as geeks whilst great honor is given to football thugs.
For decades there have been books written on the harmful dummying up of our schools systems.
Question is what to do ? Answer: Dads get very involved with the joy of training your kids. Also join or start a "high tech oriented" ham club.
You may ask what's high tech in ham radio ?. Well AMSAT, Space Balloons, Moon bounce (EME), Meteor scatter, Laser comm. and the such. Of course there are many ways of using digital techniques in ham. But far more neglected and brain challenging is the analog side. Building amplifiers, Impedance matching, UHF/EHF engineering and much more.
Electrical engineering should be a way a life for family and community not some dead zombie like science. No wonder why so many engineers hate their jobs. They missed out on the family and fun part. I lament you if that's the case with you. Perhaps it's not too late! Rather than fret over our countries demise why not start something today ?
I don't think throwing more STEM tax (or inflated dollars) at the problem will get us very far. The solution is grassroots in nature. Love and good works are not very expensive. It's more about attitude.
Saving our innovative American heritage is not some grievous duty. It's a ton of fun!
@Rob Best: The best father-son interaction would be for the engineer-father to advise his son to join the debate club in high school as a prelude for a Juris Doctor degree and an appellate-court clerkship.
Rob Best asks: What ever happened to Dad and Son Parent-Child mentoring?
In my case, engineering skipped a generation. However, I did get appreciation of art, movies, comics, and humor from my Art Historian father, and an appreciation of literature, languages, and music from my English Lit mother.
RB: In fact kids that do find joy in equation solving are scorned and mocked as geeks whilst great honor is given to football thugs.
That describes perfectly my high school experience many decades ago. If anything, it's better now with more participation by girls and the popularity of shows like The Big Bang Theory.
RB: For decades there have been books written on the harmful dummying-up of our school systems.
Sounds like a waste of time to write books like that. The people who need to read them are too busy watching TV or cat videos to benefit from them :-) 'Merca has long had a tradition of glorifying ignorance and holding learning in contempt. I agree it has gotten worse as more of the work force grew up with TV destroying their concentration and attention span.
I believe the problem is both Wall Street and Asia. Not sure which one came first, but the Wall Street CEO's 'aint complaining. They got extremely fat thanks to some very smart engineers and physicists. They continue to get fatter, even in the wake of apparant disaster. Large tech CEO's 'aint complaining either, they get their imports made for free. Good luck reversing either trend.
The problem is not confined to the USA, it's the same in Europe too, and I suspect it will travel to the emerging countries eventually. Kids do not want to do engineering degrees as they are too hard work and not considered 'sexy' enough. And the pay and career progression, which can be good for older experienced people (because there are so few younger entrants) puts off graduates.
When I was a kid, there was a buzz about technology - the Apollo years, the possibilities of electricity being so cheap (due to nuclear power) and the promise of reduced work hours due to technology making life easier. None of that really materialised, and governments, the media and ordinary people came to conclude that science and engineering wasn't the panacea it was supposed to be.
The powers that be simply don't notice, or don't care. However with declining science and engineering prowess, we will revert to pre-industrial revolution economies. That's right, agriculture. There will be a lot of social disruption (read: wars) on the way. Is it too late to change?
Yog-Sothoth wrote: When I was a kid, there was a buzz about technology - the Apollo years, the possibilities of electricity being so cheap (due to nuclear power) and the promise of reduced work hours due to technology making life easier.
Yes, I remember a topic in grade school we considered: "what would people in the future do with all their extra leisure time?" Actually, many people have lots of leisure time these days: the 7% who are officially unemployed in the USA and the many more who have given up looking for a job and are no longer counted. In many European countries it's far worse.
The problem is poor distribution of leisure time -- you have engineers and teachers working 60-80 hour weeks, and unemployed people with oodles of time but no financial resources to use it effectively for things like further education and travel. OTOH, many unemployed middle-aged people are living with and caring for aged parents, so it's not like they're doing absolutely nothing. In fact, I suspect that if the jobs picture improved overnight there would a crisis finding enough people to care for the elderly.
@Yog-Sothoth:Employers want their folks to work yet more hours to be productive. Yet this was never the plan, we are doing this to compete with far east working practices. Are we just lazy ?
We are all in favor of competition when it benefits us in terms of lower prices and increased choice. We are far less thrilled when we have to compete.
The global economy is increasingly flat. As a rule, work flows to where it can be done cheapest. Union efforts and government regulations at best delay the inevitable. The rise of the Internet means that many technical jobs can actually be done from any location, so there is no requirement to hire someone who lives where the company is located to do the job.
When we buy goods and services, we look for the best deal. Wages are a business expense, funded by the revenues gained through sales to customers. Since price is an area in which companies compete, they have a strong incentive to keep labor costs down to be able to offer attractive deals to customers.
So employers, as a rule, will pay only as much as they have to to get the employees they need, will think hard before they add new employees, and may look at reducing headcount to reduce the wage bill.
To command a high salary, one or both of two things must be true: you must either be a scarce commodity - you are one of the few people who actually knows how to do what the employer wants - or you are in an area with high costs of living, and employers in that area must pay more for local workers to provide a living wage. (Stats I saw a while back had salaries for comparable positions 100% higher in San Jose than in West Virginia, because its cost so much more to live there.) And being a scarce commodity is transitory. Today's hot skill set is tomorrow's latest thing to outsource. You can earn high wages for a time, but cannot expect that state to continue. All too soon, there will be other people who can do what you do and will be willing to do it cheaper.
The challenge for today's worker is to make themselves worth what they'd like to be paid. Value is relative. Something is worth what someone else will pay for it, and employers are looking for the best deals just like everyone else. It doesn't (and shouldn't) mean putting in extreme hours. It may mean figuring out how to accomplish that much work in the time frame you want to work. Call it an engineering challenge.
Are we lazy? Probably not. But we aren't used to having to compete.
I have seen this as well looking for embedded firmware people. We get senior people, but can't pay them at the level they were used to before the big company layoff.
We were looking for a journeyman level, not green, just out of college, not to senior. Too many senior people does not work as a team either.
The 25-35 year old engineer is not doing test or semi or embedded. They do Java, Python, database, web front ends and mobile, Android and iOS. That is what the cool kids were doing when they graduated, so that is their expeince.
Semiconductor and industrial need better marketing about the advantages. Maybe the maker movement will save us.
There are those saying that college is a waste of money--you come out in debt and can't get a job. There are also those who say just learn to code and you can make a decent living without college.
"The 25-35 year old engineer is not doing test or semi or embedded. They do Java, Python, database, web front ends and mobile, Android and iOS. That is what the cool kids were doing when they graduated, so that is their expeince."
The 25-35 year old engineer is not doing test or semi or embedded. They do Java, Python, database, web front ends and mobile, Android and iOS. That is what the cool kids were doing when they graduated, so that is their expeince.
And therein lies the problem. Hardware isn't cool. Makes we wonder what you call a "tech" job. I read about how NYC is becoming a tech center, but it's all for the programmers you mention here. So what is "tech" anyway?
I would agree that a big part of the problem is that hardware does not seem sexy enough anymore. The entire semi-conductor field is just not as sexy as it used to be. As it contijnues to become more and more of a commodity it makes it more difficult to sell to the new negeration, and I am not sure I blame them. What would we do in their shoes?
Lance, unless you're purely designing chips, everything else has both hardware and software. Take robotics. You've got analog, digital, software, power, measurements, and host of other components. Robots are cool, not like semiconductors.
Since when is 20 years experience a bad thing? And if you're not willing to hire young engineers, train them and provide them with experience who will? Employers like you are the problem. The 'Too Young' is caused by engineers who give up the profession and never attain the experience. The 'Too Old' are not too old and are what's left over from a more enlightened age.
Nobody said EAG did not end up hiring people with both more and less experience than we were looking for. I personally have over 30+ years in the industry. The blog was meant to ask the question about there being a hole in the experience pool that could cause some issues both now and in the future for the industry as a whole. It is also a problem for companies to not have a variety of experience on their staff so you can get different perspectives and approaches to the issues. We and many other companies have programs where we actually do hire fresh grads and train them in parallel with other hiring. Those grads need mentors.
I'm with Wnderer. Employers are the problem. In the years that I worked as an engineer, only once did I work for a manager who knew what he was doing. And the higher ups? Forget about it. They only cared about themselves, not the company or the engineers that worked for them.
Why is 20 years of experience a bad thing? Companies say that they can't afford to pay these guys, but can they afford not to?
Wow, I totally agree with the "you are the problem" sentiment! Although I apply it at both ends -- to young and older engineer candidates.
Since when have US companies insisted on hiring just a narrow age group of engineers? With just enough experience to land running full tilt, and young enough that they will potentially stay for decades?
It may be true that we need more young people to enroll in STEM majors at universities, but it's equally true that we need corporate managers responsible for hiring people to quit with the excuses already. Tech companies traditionally have hired young kids straight out of school, and then invested perhaps a couple of years in getting these young people to full operating strength.
If companies don't take the responsibility to help train young engineering graduates on the job, as they have always done in the past, then these companies have no business complaining that young people are discouraged from enrolling in STEM majors in school. If young grads can't find jobs, what message does that send to kids entering college?
A company looking to hire only engineers in a tight time window of 5 to 10 years experience should figure out that just maybe, other companies are also looking to that narrow window, and consequently they have created their own shortage. "Too young or two old" means that there are many engineers outside a 5-year span of experience? Come now. Doesn't that sound a bit contrived?
I agree completely, something changed radically in the way HR is being handled. Of course back when we still had a healthy defense industry it would have been unheard of to even think about "too much" experience! But now not only has that industry been sharply defunded, there's some new thinking along the lines of "manned aircraft are obsolete in modern warfare" and other ideas that are equally premature to be declared completely resolved that COULD tend to render older technologies somewhat less in demand and similarly those who designed in them. But I think perhaps what's been creeping into the more commercial side of the business could be more of an "Asian" approach to human resources and personnel management that I can't completely quantify. Of course the acceptance of these premises also sounds the death knell for corporate support of ideas like "continuous education" and introduces the concept that it's perfectly OK to throw a decent employee on the scrap heap if there's a cheaper (therefore more "acceptable"?) candidate waiting in the wings. This is all of course HORRENDOUSLY shortsighted and will cripple the industry and poison corporate reputations for decades, but I guess it's not that easy to "stop progress", especially when no one is willing to listen to the premise that it really isn't?
What is it with this society that older folks can't create or not productive and should be committed to pasture -- of course there are some who should. However, one should look at the value they get from years of practical experience and the knowledge base. One cannot dismiis someone simpley because they are old. Evaluate individuals based on what they can contribute and not on thier age.
Given the market for engineers crashed about five years ago, it's no surprise to me that there are few candidates in the 5-10 year experience range. None at 5 years because no one was hiring them five years ago to have given them that experience. At the higher end, anyone with 5 years of experience who survived the downturn and kept their job is probably not out looking for a new job because they are already well situated. The ones with 20 years of experience, though, may have numerous reasons for seeking a new position, including being pushed out of their current position due to their high salaries and competition by their 10-year experienced coworkers.
In the meantime, it's true that fewer students are entering engineering in the US, in part because that same crash scared off some students entering or in college at the time, and in general because the glamor of engineering faded with the decline of space programs.
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sure, money moves around searching for the lowest cost...but why manufacturing would return to North America? you are not assuming that in 40 years people in Africa will be paid more so it would be cost effective to come back here?
I am not sure about Africa, Krisi, but Asia could definitely be a more expensive manufacturing base than the West in 40 years. Mind you it's not just about the money, there is also the availability of skilled labour, the rule of law etc. If you add everything together, I can well envisage a move back of manufacturing to the West in 40 years time.
PS. A French company CEO told me recently that China is now becoming more expensive than France to hire good Engineers for his company. This was based on a rigorous cost analysis according to him. I am seeing the gap reducing in my own line of business too. Manufacturing will ultimately follow.
I thought the same Krisi but he was adamant. He did say it was just the cost of employment (excluding productivity). When I probed him further he said the state in France provide a lot of subsidies for employment and I believe that to be true.
It may follow, at least for some products because of quality and control issues. Communication is also an issue. I've been hearing this for years and I have heard of some companies that have pulled manufacturing back from China.
Try to remember kids, its a never ending race to the bottom (i.e. the Walmart model). Maximizing profits at every turn. In short, it's modern business and in their lexicon there is no word for "enough".
If the government and industry were serious about fixing this problem, why isn't there large incentives for kids to go into engineering? Partial or total tuition subsidies for example. The promise of a job at graduation. Realistically, we do it for farmers who grow stuff we don't need (e.g. corn). So why not invest in something that helps the future of the country?
"isn't there large incentives for kids to go into engineering?"
If businesses were that forward thinking, they'd create such incentives and that would flod the market with engineers. Oversupply would cause engineering salaries to drop and the businesses would make back their investments and maybe even profit. But, the time for ROI is a minimum four years, more like 10+. Stockholders don't want to wait that long.
I am not sharing that vision. If engineering school were easy your postulate would be correct. You still need to have the intellect and interest to succeed. It's not like the degree would be handed to them. Even if your idea were true (and I don't think it is) having a ready pool of engineers is never a bad thing. They tend to be pretty good at most anything they try to do.......well except maybe modern dance.
@KB3001. Fast forward 40 years ... I think the balance of economic power will even shift more in Asia's favor. I forsee even more production and consumption being driven by Asia. And I see things staying this way for some time (I don't see the per capita income in Asia becoming significantly greater than that of the US any time soon).
Even if Asia does develop and surpass the US (... in education, technology, innovation etc) - perhaps Africa would then be the next destination in the cycle for the outsourcing exercise. I don't think much production will come back to the US - as it has already been said. Never mind the government mantra about creating "green jobs"
Someone made a valid point in saying executive jobs could eventually be at risk as well. This is because companies could eventually deem it expensive to always keep the business side of their organisations in the US. The Asian Business schools are rising in profile by the way.
In addition, individuals can take on most tech jobs - such as coding, database, networking - without having university degrees. I think this trend also contributes to reduced engineering enrolment in schools.
I want to know when Bill Hewlett or Dave Packard ever fired a staff member for having "too much experience"! Hogwash, this is one of two things, it's either an excuse for firing someone whose level of experience would otherwise legitimately qualify them for a raise, or it's a new cloak for that ancient practice of age discrimination applied instead to your own employees. It's also a clear misunderstanding that everyone WANTS to move into management, that if you've been on the technical side for a decade or more you're just "a management candidate who could never cut it" that the corporation would be better off without.
Now I do understand that technologies have a much shorter "half-life" than they used to but this can get carried to extremes. I recall the story of the son of an acquaintance of mine who was hired as a summer intern before he even had a sheepskin to work for a networking outfit that was later acquired by Intel. He THOUGHT he had the "inside line" on a rewarding career, only to be approached by his boss to say that they had to let him go because he was "over the hill" in his chosen profession - if I recall the story correctly at that point he was all of 26!!
Honestly if you don't have anyone working on the technical side with more than 10 years of experience, in my opinion you're just being condemned to repeat the mistakes of history you never had the opportunity to learn in the first place. I realize not everyone will agree but there HAS to be more to engineering than "early retirement" at 50 (that no one can afford to take anyway), given that HR departments (especially in Silicon Valley) are set up so they never need to interview anyone over that age for an engineering positon so they can't be accused of discriminating in the first place.
@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?
Demographers have been saying for some years now that companies seem unprepared for the departure of the baby boomers, considering the smaller generation to replace them. I suspect this is due to the prevalent short-term bias that pervades corporations, likely coupled with the idea that any talent deficiencies can be easily fixed via outsourcing or H1-Bs. Which of course justifies the unwillingness to train or mentor. Endless restructuring didn't help either.
Perhaps there is a ray of hope, as I have noticed some companies appear to be (slowly) recognizing that constantly churning employees hurt productivity and institutional memory. Considering the depth of the recession, the panic layoffs didn't seem to cut as deep as prior downturns. But I wonder whether the lack of hiring is the flip side of that, as essential work is still too often undone or delayed, particularly in new product development.
While we aging semiconductor engineers are working fewer hours, many of us are still working part time. The key seems to be to adjust your salary expectations for the reality of globalization in manufacturing, and deregulation of the financial gambling systems (a really great paying job as only quant in the "banking" game?) I simply kept lowering my expectatations and going to where the work was offered. And now that can be done from home, via Google Hangouts and high speed data mining.
The math is quite similar, since automation in manufacturing and in finance have taken us to the point where knowledge workers are either experts at structuring information and data, or experts at predictive modeling of that data. And the CEO's are just good looking well dressed folks that need some quants around to assure their bonus each quarter.
What used to be called "machine learning algorithms" such as nearest-neighbor or genetic or neural models can be used on streaming sensor data from machines, or on cash flows and options trading and with some hardware (and knowlege on how to use it) high speed trading is much like high speed manufacturing.
What we really need to bring this late 1980's brain drain to its logical conclusion is to automate the bungie-CEO jobs, by simply letting the quants and the customers work more cooperatively, getting the C-suite out of the way. Just a thought. Financial Engineering and Semiconductor Engineering require similar skills to great extent (with some specialized but very old physics and some specialized but not only old but flawed econometrics being the only serious difference perhaps.
My best teacher at Carnegie Tech in 1950's said that the last job to be automated out of existence would be heavy equipment operators, since automation of hand-eye-coordination was more difficult than the management and engineering decision processes given powerful computers. And I notice that Google is testing out high speed hand-eye coordination, so maybe these overpaid CEO's really have no clothes at all??? Might be an interesting experiment. Many startups did fine until they were told to hire a CEO. Maybe its time to finish automating those non-value-added jobs and keeping the quants productive without so many middle men preventing the customer from being served well? Lean Six Sigma Supply Chain adjusted in real-time by Customer Satisfaction Algorithms?
Besides the reasons covered here, it could be that younger engineers with some experience flock to "sexier" fields than what a particular company offers.
Fresh graduates, especially in need of visa sponsorship, could choose a bigger company regardless of its attractiveness.
Same with older folks like us who may lack hot high-demand skills.
I dont think Google or Facebook (or Apple) have issues with finding right candidates.
This problem is even more pronounced in traditional industries: a friend of mine who works in old school high voltage electical enginnering, complains for years that it is impossible to find good candidates - they are all gone to microelectronics.
If we are going to have a future workforce in the area of engineering and computer science, we must start educating students while they are young. And yes, we must be honest with these students. You will have to enroll in advance math classes and learn how to solve problems. This is one of the setback of recruiting good students to major in the area of engineering. Many of today's students entering college are not prepared for college based on a recent study conducted by Center for Community College Student Engagement, http://www.ccsse.org/center/. We as a community have to do a better job encouraging and preparing students for college. When a child enter first grade, one of the first word they need to learn is COLLEGE.
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.
Finally, someone admitting what my friend and I have known for several years.
My friend graduated in 2003 (BSEE) and 2007 (MSEE) from a public university in Silicon Valley (easy to guess which one), and he ended up not finding a career job after graduation.
Many, if not all of his friends, who graduated around that time were like that.
All he got was 6 month contract he and there, and he ended up being on federal UI extension for about 2 years in 2008 to 2010.
However, he noticed that substantial number of foreign students (i.e., students from India) in graduate school seem to have found some kind of job at least until 2011 or so.
Until about 2001, people who received BSEE from this university pretty much were guaranteed to find work in engineering at graduation or within 6 months of graduation.
It is no longer like that and the enrollment has been decimated in the past few years (The EE department used to graduate about 150 to 200 undergraduate per year, now it is more like 60 to 70 per year.).
I take courses part time at this university, and honestly, I am losing interest in graduation due to the way job market has been for more than 10 years.
The degree from the university I attend seem to be getting treated like an associate degree from a junior college by employers in Silicon Valley, and that weighs on me.
I had a different friend who used to work at major FPGA vendor A (not X) from 2001 to 2003, and he told me that employees in Silicon Valley hated the existence of Penang, Malaysia operation, which was this firm's outsource design center.
This pretty much guaranteed that NCGs were not able to get an entry level job around here to start their engineering "career."
Of course, the management, especially the CEO, is in love with Penang because it tells the employees in Silicon Valley that they need to keep their salary expectations down while he made $10 million in stock option during 2010-2011 period.
When I was an "intern" (My skill is really a mid to senior contractor level because I learned to design with FPGA on my own, but I needed money, so I got in as an "intern.") at major FPGA vendor A in 2011, the management has outsourced so much work to the point that Penang was designing most of 2 of the 28 nm process FPGAs (low and mid range).
Silicon Valley people at this firm had the lowest employee satisfaction rate according to their internal employee survey, and I was not surprised to see this (Interestingly, Penang had the highest satisfaction rate even though they get paid 1/3 of Silicon Valley employees.).
When I did an interview with a memory chip startup in 2013, one Indian descent early 50s looking engineer told me, "Wow, it is really hard to find someone with VLSI background in your age group. They tend to go to Internet or software companies. You are really rare."
I ended up getting turned down by this firm (I am a white U.S. citizen.).
The way the Top 1% of the Silicon Valley is running these firms are similar to how Wall Street banks and brokerages are ran which is short term cost oriented financial management is their No. 1 concern, and considering that the knowledge in engineering trade is not being passed down to older babyboomer generation to millennial generation, I am not too optimistic that Silicon Valley or U.S., for that matter, can compete with countries in Asia in 10 to 20 years in the hardware design area (manufacturing is largely lost, especially in Silicon Valley).
As for myself, I no longer plan to work for an employer and I plan to start my own FPGA-related design service business. I am likely going to have to struggle in my career and life, but I rather do this than working at a retail store.
If I were to go into more taboo subject of who is hired and what is the demographic of the people getting hired, I think H-1B visas are really screwed up many U.S. citizen and Green Card holder NCGs, at least at this public university in Silicon Valley.
I used to attend this university's job fair, and whenever I waited in line to speak to a representative of high-tech firms for internships, etc.
Pretty much I was the only white person in the line.
Everyone else looked Indian descent, and I was lucky to see a few east Asians in the line . . .
I have done this for a few years, and I got maybe 1 or 2 interview.
Yet, when I look on LinkedIn, I do not have too much difficulty finding Indian descent graduate students having done internships at firms like Cisco System, Intel, etc. who graduated from this university.
Is there a secret favortism game going on at Silicon Valley firms for who gets hired?
I have discussed this with my friends, many of them are not Indian descent, and pretty much most of them agree that there seems to be some kind of preferential treatment going on for Indian descent people who will be on H-1B visas.
I do understand that this is a taboo subject that many Indian descent people reading this will not like want to hear, but at least this is how many of my friend and I think of this situation in Silicon Valley.
Part of the issue lies with a total lack of understanding on the part of existing engineering managers AND educators as to what really makes a good hire, from a business owner's perspective.
The entrepreneurial track has overtaken the educational track as a path to success within high technology companies, and it's actually been this way for a while. As a consequence, fewer talented STEM candidates are entering ABET-accredited programs (or completing them), in favor of jumping into the job market with both feet, using the skills they already have. Others select undergraduate majors that will better serve their management roles during, say, their startup funding cycles.
Want talented engineering staff? Get rid of that MSEE or BSEE requirement in your job postings, evaluating your hires based on technical aptitude and demonstrated skill, not on the degree (or GPA) requirements laid out to you by your corporate HR person. This might be very difficult at first, but it is likely that you'll soon be able to gauge the aptitude of a potential hire rather quickly. (We've been doing this in the developer community for a long time.)
Chances are, you'll find an eager pool of candidates that will grow with your company and will perform their work as if they had something to prove, judged by the quality of their work and not by their educational qualifications. You will get better bang for buck AND provide them with the experience that makes their (subsequent, elective) education more relevant.
If you are an educator reading this post, let me make this clear–as a business owner, it is less expensive for me to hire someone whose formal education may be incomplete but possesses a greater desire to succeed based on their own merit, than it is to hire someone whose career expectations have been unreasonably set by their college guidance counselor. You must add value, both to the student and to the industry that they will be helping to build and sustain.
Whoa, are you saying that job candidates don't need any formal education that might be gained in engineering schools?
If you want people to design complex products involving semiconductors, RF or analog design as a few examples, enthusiasm and self-learning aren't going to cut it. These areas require years of study to master starting with basic math.
Now, does the US job market reward those years of training? Apparently not...
If you've got a good, solid mathematics background (discrete math, numerical analysis and differential / integral / multivariate calculus) and are capable of self-disciplined learning on your own, yes, that's about all you'd need. Hardly any engineering graduate comes out of school as a fully-formed, practicing engineer; a significant amount of anecdotal and application-specific training is required to be industrially productive.
In the bigger picture, the cost of a good university education has gone up dramatically, as the return on investment has dropped significantly. There is no reason to be saddling twenty-somethings with the immense amount of student-loan debt as we do in this country. This does NOT make better engineering graduates, only more desperate ones.
This is NOT to say that I did not gain any benefit whatsoever from my own university education, but I can only imagine what it would have been like to have had access to the online learning and research resources we have available today....
The current U.S. higher educational system is badly broken, and it is no surprise that foreign students and workers succeed where our students fail. If you possess any desire to save engineering as a professional discipline in this country, it's time for a radical change. Scrap ABET and the existing university model, and start with a clean slate.
What about linear systems theory? Or, intro to circuits class that taught KVL/KCL, etc.? Or, the beginning physics classes in E&M? Or, linear algebra (which Google's PageRank uses extensively)? I learned lots of great things in college. I don't understand what's "broken" about engineering education. Sure, the cost is escalating, but that's not a problem with the material itself.
You need a job that cannot be outsourced or shipped overseas. Something like an auto mechanic specializing in electrical problems. That job is H-1b proof too. And in todays market it pays better than many engineering jobs. I mean HP just laid off 5,000 more employees. You can use your smarts to actually run an independent auto repair business rather than working in the cube waiting for the pink slip. Become a master licensed electrician. Let's see that job shipped overseas.
When I graduated as an Electrical Engineer back in 1974, the word COMPUTER was associated with something like magic , here in India, even among the intellectual community.
But there was a growing demand for software engineers and no formally trained software engineers were available at that time.
The industry in India at that time absorbed all those engineers and science graduates and sometimes even the non-science graduates who were keen and having the IQ to get trained in computers and software . The senior people in all those companies and the organizations arranged for the training for all those novices and inducted them into the mainstream of the software industry.
This shows that if the industry is willing and has capable leaders in the middle management ,then it need not depend upon the rightly qualified engineers coming from the universities , but instead it can have the intern programs that will ready the young and willing graduates to become professional engineers .
Interesting. Maybe H1B is replaced by company internship programs for US engineering graduates---or some combo thereof: if your US company imports "work ready" talent using H1B, you have to hire the same number of newly graduated EEs who are US citizens and give them on the job training. Anyone know if that's already in the H1B regulations, or at least proposed?
The first thing that came to my mind is WHY? After all, the author did say "We tried to target an experience level of five to 10 years for some senior positions." but then didn't adequately explain why this level of experience was the target. What's wrong with someone with 20 years? And what is wrong with someone who has 12 years (they fall just outside the target zone)??
The profession of cognitive psychology has told us that we, as humans, hold particular biases in our brains that cause us to make tremendous errors of judgement. This article smacks of erroneous bias.
I would encourage the author and everyone else to self-asses to ascertain what dangerous biases are held that can cause you to take a path to error.
Perhaps targetting was just a poor choice of words. What we posted for was anyone over 5 years of experience. We did not have an upper bound. We just expected that when we posted that we would get different distribution, especially since the systems we were looking for experience for have only been around for a little over 10 years. We ended up hiring someone with over 20 years overall experience, but also experience on the systems we needed requested the experience on.
Having said that there is a certain distribution you need in a company to stay healthy and well rounded. It is not a good distribution when you have either college grads or those of us closer to retirement and little in between. Culturally and for diversity it helps to have a good mix in you work force.
What you are saying is what I saw exactly at major FPGA vendor A in 2011 as an "intern."
There were hardly anyone below age 35 at their Silicon Valley HQ in engineering.
In fact, I had one person in IT department who introduced me to a guy in my age group because as she told me, "This guy wants to have similar age group friends at the company, and can you see him?"
I ended up not really becoming friends with this person, but you will get the idea that the management shutting the door to NCGs in 2001 and outsourcing jobs to Malaysia and Canada had an effect of hollowing out/decimating the 20s to early 30s age group in engineering.
The CEO recently claimed to EE Times that they hired number of NCGs and experienced candidates in 2013, so maybe the demographics has changed somewhat by now, but I wonder what the hiring mix is.
This is one of the reason why I don't really plan to work for a corporation, and I rather economically struggle as a small business owner than wanting to work for these corporations in vain.
I live near Dallas, and have talked with several individuals with engineering degrees. Seems like a LOT of young (20-30's), fresh graduates can't find jobs because of not having experience. A couple of the older ones with years of experience have told me that they (all the EE's they worked with) lost jobs a couple years ago, some were hired quickly and others still looking. Not many places want or can give these youngsters a chance and some training. It's really sad. I'm 50, and there are many places that don't even want to talk to me because of my age. Even though I may have the experience they're looking for. I don't get it. When I have hired people before, their age didn't come into play, their ability and attitude were the biggest deciding factors.
@ gearhead63 When I have hired people before, their age didn't come into play, their ability and attitude were the biggest deciding factors.
That's because back then the interviewing and hiring decisions were made by the technical folks. Now we have HR departments staffed by those whose major ability is using keyword-matching software to turn a big pile of resumes into a small pile. Age does become a factor even though none will admit this.
Good points. The export of talent requirements has hit me hard. I'm in the 20+ catagory. The companies I have interviewed for leave me a distinct impression that they do not want to hire someone who needs a manager. I think this stems from their business model driven by the fact that they can offshore what they need and leave the management part up to them. State side it's phone calls and video conferences that get the job done. I think they have shot themselves in the foot.
Amateur radio is a great hobby for the whole family. It engages folks on many levels, from the rag-chewers to the hardware geeks. Parents can spend a few hours a week with their kids, and in a few years we will have all the engineers we need.
The author is correct, US corporations have done this to themselves. At some point in the 90's the corporations started outsourcing to the rest of the world. Older employees were laid off or dumped because of their compensation. The business schools taught the industry to hire experienced people only. What this did was removed opportunity to train and develop new experienced workers. So the US execs dumped and stomped on the older experience. The middle of the work force found other jobs and of course no one in university would spend thousands on an education where there are no job opportunities. So now the execs come crying there are no experienced people. Well guess what, those same execs created this situation. The older experienced people don't trust the execs after decimating their benefits over the years (can't blame them) and have settled into retirement and don't want to go back. The middle tier of experience is just not there. The young tier won't get hired cause the execs don't want to pay to train them. On top of this, those few in the middle tier have been taught not to stay at anyone company for longer than 5 to 7 years so they jump ship to get a big raise because the idiotic execs won't pay them to stay. The fact is there is no free lunch. If the execs want experience they need to pay for it and develop it. However, there is no motivation to stay once you have that experience. What the execs in the US got was a one time cost saving and the realization that they killed the next generation of experienced engineers. Guess what executives, if there are no engineers in the US, there is no need for execs in the US, you just killed the next generation of US execs.
Interesting reply. I'm glad that you posted this because I have been hearing a variety of opinions regarding the topic of us not having enough engineers in America. However, I do know quite a bit of engineers from a variety of backgrounds who are looking for opportunities. I think the issue is the number of engineers looking for opportunities and the knowledge to fill some of the open positions. Have you done an assessment of the number of jobs available and compared it with the available number of engineers looking for a job? I'm curious.
Electrical engineering jobs in US went down by 10.4% last year. We lost 35,000 electrical engineering jobs and unemployment rate for US EEs went to 3.4%, according to an analysis of US Dept of Labor data by IEEE USA. "The trend in electrical engineering employment is occurring despite the emergence of the so-called Internet of Things, which promises to put networked electronics into every imaginable consumer and industrial product," according to this article in Computerworld.
"The trend in electrical engineering employment is occurring despite the emergence of the so-called Internet of Things, which promises to put networked electronics into every imaginable consumer and industrial product."
The "Internet Of Things" is a marketing buzzword, not a reason for industry to hire 35,000 engineers.
I find these comments hillarious and totally uninformed. Manufacturing has not left the west - the Anglo-Saxon world turned its back on manufacturing.
Germany has the world's biggest net trade balance - bigger than China. It has had a positve trade balance since 1952 - seven years after the war ended. Germany does not have a service industry - most of its exports are manufactured product. Incidentally they have a desperate (real!) shortage of engineers and technicians.
Britain lost most of its manufacturing industry but is now poised to have its car industry manufacture as many units as it last did in 1972 thanks to significant government incentives - so there might just be some hope for the US and Canada - provided the politicians and big companies do the right things soon.
The other signifiant impediment that I see is that unlike Britain, the US is unlikely to let foreigners take over an entire industry. In Britain, Bentley and Rolls Royce are now German and Land Rover and Jaguar are Indian - on the other hand Chrysler is now solidly Italian so perhaps there is hope for us in North America. LOL
If a company does not know how to utilize Chinese engineers, it would find them more expensive to use because work will not get done. Most of the Chinese engineers require mentoring for a few weeks and close supervision. After that they can be very productive and cost efficient. I think the design development process is not widely understood in China because China has entered industrialization relatively late and educational institutes teach theory but not practice. Language is also a barrier. In most companies in the West as well as in US, CEO's themselves do not understand the development process so they cannot understand why their attempts in China are not productive. I have personally worked with a Chinese enginneer who was labeled "non productive and useless" by several people. I was given the opportunity to utilize him. After about 4 to 6 weeks of handholding and indoctrination he became a star performer and few years later he managed a team of over 15 enginners. A diamond has to be processed before it is useful. The French CEO probably failed because work was thrown to the Chinese engineers without understanding where they came from and without proper initiation.
Could the reason you're finding it difficult to hire engineers be that you're not offering enough money? Surely, you could entice some engineers to switch jobs if you offered competitive (or better) compensation.
We have always been able to find engineers, even if it took longer than expected. It has been rare for us to have anyone turn down an offer, compensation is actually more of an issue for us to retain talent than to bring in new talent.
In some businesses, 10 years experience is considered senior. A software engineer friend in his early 40s is the most senior person in his department by far. He's surrounded by 20-something programmers who work 18 hours a day because they have no family to go home to every night.