EE Times hit the exhibition floor at DesignCon 2012 to get engineers' perspectives on whether high-tech jobs are coming back to the U.S.
EE Times took to the streets—or more accurately the halls of the Santa Clara Convention Center—in support of our ongoing series "Rebuilding America."
The quest was simple—to find rank-and-file engineers on the tradeshow floor at DesignCon 2012 and ask them, "Are technology jobs coming back to the U.S.?"
Some of our interviewees agreed to appear on camera with the caveat that they felt that they had no particular expertise on this matter. But all of them had informed and relevant opinions based on what they see in their jobs day in and day out.
That was really kind of the point. There are statistics on job growth in the high tech sector published monthly by the U.S government, and it's pretty easy to get the spin from any number of trade groups about the job situation. We have and will continue to explore those avenues. But what we really wanted was to talk to the guys (or gals, though none that we approached agreed to be interviewed) on the front lines and ask them how they felt based on what they were seeing and hearing.
Those who agreed to appear on camera were, for the most part, surprisingly upbeat about this topic. Several reported seeing an uptick in manufacturing in the U.S. Although they acknowledged that products with huge volumes like Apple's iPad were likely to continue being made outside of the U.S., some said a lot of lower volume manufacturing was actually coming back to the U.S., largely because of logistics and quality control issues. One interviewee, Lee W. Ritchey of design consulting firm Speeding Edge, pointed to an old and reliable barometer—the scarcity of commercial real estate in Silicon Valley—as evidence that yes, indeed, tech jobs are coming back.
It should be noted that a lot of people on the show floor declined to be interviewed on camera for this story. Some were simply camera shy or too humble to believe that their perspective on this complex issue was relevant. But sadly (though not surprisingly) a number of them—too many—said or implied that they were afraid that talking on camera about this issue might land them in hot water at work. Any company that doesn't encourage employees to express their opinion on issue of importance to society should seriously re-think that policy.
Video 1: Seeing some tech manufacturing coming back to the U.S.
Thomas Smith, regional manager at high-performance connector manufacturer Positronic Industries Inc., said he's seeing some companies bring back some manufacturing back to the U.S. to ensure better quality control. "Anything that does come back, it'll be about quality."