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Mr. President, There Is No (US) Engineer Shortage

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the just-a-philosophy-major-surplus dept.

United States 580

McGruber writes "Vivek Wadhwa has written an article in the Washington Post titled, 'Mr. President, there is no engineer shortage,' which addresses the perceived national shortage of engineers. Wadhwa slams China for its practice of applying the 'engineer' label to auto mechanics and technicians, yet fails to slam the U.S. for its practice of applying the 'engineer' label to sanitation workers, building janitors, boiler operators, FaceSpace coders, MSCEs and DeVry graduates. He also says, 'Some of [the U.S.'s] best engineers are not doing engineering, and some of its best potential engineers are not even studying engineering, leaving us short-changed in solving the important problems of the day.'"

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leaving us short-changed (0)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288150)

leaving us short-changed

Who is this "us" you speak of?

Re:leaving us short-changed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288242)

sure, you're a first post engineer, but what about the rest of us?

Re:leaving us short-changed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288258)

leaving US short-changed

Thats the US we speak of.

more software engineers (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288354)

If you want more software engineers, you can create them trivially : Allocate a half billion dollars or more to an academicly overseen open source initiative, roughly like google's summer of code, but higher salaries dependent upon education level. Voila, instant developers!

If unemployment means drawing down $50k per year working on your own pet project, that'll make the field unbelievably attractive to young people, and keep old folks in the game. And those projects will ocasionally convert into commercial open source companies that employ other developers.

Shortage of engineering jobs, (5, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288206)

Shortage of engineering jobs, not of engineers or potential engineers. Its almost as if we moved many of our jobs to other countries for short term profits in exchange for long term economic vitality.

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (3, Insightful)

denzo (113290) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288344)

Shortage of engineering jobs, not of engineers or potential engineers. Its almost as if we moved many of our jobs to other countries for short term profits in exchange for long term economic vitality.

Exactly. If we actually protected our industries from being sent overseas, we would have plenty of things to "engineer." It's kind of hard to need engineers if you don't make anything. We make it easy to import cheap goods from countries like China, but it is almost impossible to sell our own goods to those same countries.

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (3, Insightful)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288530)

Net result: $14,000 iPads. I'm not sure I like the ramifications of that either.

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (5, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288886)

Net result: $14,000 iPads. I'm not sure I like the ramifications of that either.

Two counterarguments:
1. For the vast majority of consumer products, labor is not the largest expense. In addition, not all increased costs of production get reflected in the consumer price - some comes out of profits per unit, because a rational producer doesn't want to reduce the number of units sold too much. So you're probably looking a price of closer to a $1000 or $750 iPad rather than a $500 iPad even if you massively increase the cost of each worker.

2. If it really costs $13,800 to produce an iPad in a way that doesn't ruin the lives of workers, then that's the true cost of an iPad, and any price lower than that is in effect me (as the consumer) and Apple (via their profit margins) stealing value I didn't create from those workers in China. It means there might be fewer iPads in the world, but the world won't end if I don't have an iPad.

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288944)

Unemlpoyed people can't afford $500 iPads, or even to pay their mortgages, food, gas...electric etc bills.

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (1)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288968)

You are acting as if the price point of the product is based on the cost to produce rather then the price they will sell at. I would bet that the ipad costs apple less then $100 to make each one. If they were forced to make them in america, it would probably raise the cost to $300 or so to make them, and thus they would only be making $200 per unit instead of $400. Most of the money is going to the executives bonus's and the share prices. They would not raise the price of the unit, because even with apples marketing they cannot convince enough people to buy a 14,000 toy.

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (5, Interesting)

mikael (484) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288534)

Just read today that Gibson guitars from Nashville are facing their second federal shakedown to make them offshore jobs.

The first time was in 2009, when they were found to be importing wood from Madagascar in contravention of the Lacey Act 2008 Amendment. However, the lawsuit would be dropped in exchange for them offshoring some jobs.

Second time around, they have been raided with computers seized, and wood supplies confiscated. The charges are that India has a law that makes it illegal to export wood that hasn't been "finished" by local workers (varnished, polished etc...) Once again they are being asked to offshore jobs in return for the lawsuit being dropped.

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (2)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288680)

Please explain, because I don't get it at all:

What does the federal government have to gain by offshoring jobs? And in the case they do, why would they be pressuring a guitar manufacturer who probably employs very few people?

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (3, Informative)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288702)

From what I understand, the "off-shoring jobs" is a threat from Gibson, not the US government. Gibson has been asked to prove that the wood they source is environmentally harvested all the way to the source, and the US is charging that they knowingly purchased "tainted" wood from a seller that was illegally harvesting from Madagascar. Gibson contends the wood came from a legal sourcer in India. If Gibson has the paperwork that backs of their claim, the investigation is over. If Gibson doesn't have the paperwork, the investigation goes on. Gibson can threaten to offshore jobs all they want, but they'd lose their critical "Made in America" claim if they did.

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288896)

It would be nice if either one of you cited your sources so we could get a better understanding for ourselves instead of a bunch of hearsay.

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288928)

Read between the lines, idiot.

Essentially the US Government is requiring Gibson to prove something that they already did by constantly moving the goal-posts as to what evidence they'll accept.

There's only one way Gibson can avoid being required to produce the impossible: move production to India.

Essentially, the US Government is requiring that Gibson offshore its jobs if it wants to keep its doors open and not be shut down by US red tape. (Regulation at work, everyone!)

Why would the US government demand that Gibson offshore jobs? Good question. Part of it is certainly good old government incompetence. However, the remainder is the continual removal of manufacturing jobs from the US. Corporations don't want any manufacturing jobs to exist in the US, because if they did, it would prove that they're lying when they say that the only way to compete is to offshore.

So the instant they see a company succeed while keeping manufacturing in the US, the big companies send in the US government to fix that. And you get things like the Gibson debacle, where the US government is being used to force Gibson to offshore jobs, by making it impossible for them to continue to manufacture guitars in the US. All to continue the lie that offshoring is the only way to remain competitive.

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (1)

Lieutenant_Dan (583843) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288750)

http://money.cnn.com/2011/09/02/smallbusiness/gibson_guitar/ [cnn.com]

Didn't read anything that they have to offshore jobs. Or is that implied because they can't get the raw food, they would have to build the whole guitar in India/Malaysia/etc?

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288762)

Gibson guitars from Nashville ...

Second time around, they have been raided with computers seized, and wood supplies confiscated. The charges are that India has a law...

So, did Indian authorities execute the raid? WTF are we doing kicking down the doors of our own businesses in search of evidence to support foreign charges? [The answer is: We need foreign law enforcement's cooperation in order to enforce things like unitary taxes. So its a quid pro quo.]

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288790)

I knew there was a lawsuit, well two, regarding potentially illegal wood. Do you have a link to the source for that? The only articles/repeats of that version I am finding are 9-11 truther sites, people who believe flouride is a mind control plot and that FEMA has death camps ready to go for the liberal revolution.

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (5, Insightful)

Technician (215283) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288734)

There is a shortage of engineering jobs paying engineering wages. Due to the rising cost of education, it is hard to find enough low paid engineers and they have to pay their student loans.

Why is education prices high?

Education is expensive for the same reason home prices spiked. There was easy access to low interest government backed loans. If you are out of work, the answer is go back to school and learn a new skill. When you can't find an opening in your new field at your minimum income needs, you become underemployeed in a field other than engineering, while your engineering position goes to someone with lower overhead.

The student loan crises is the next Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac. Only problems are there are no short sales, no ropo, and no forgiveness of debt on student loans. The student loan crises is larger than the housing bubble. Tuition fees are the bubble. Nice if you are a school selling your wares. Bad if you are borrowing money to buy their wares.

The engineers will be working outside of the engineering field, in an under the table payment, so they can eat and not have their wages completely taken away to pay the student loans.

The bubble will collapse when free education of the likes of Kahn Academy become recognized as legitimate schools by employers and the high text book fees and admissions are replaced by on-line content.

For these reasons, I am NOT an Engineer, but I still work in R & D in high tech in the semiconductor industry. I am officially an Engineering Technician. I work under engineers. I have no student loan. I have not had any history of unemployment longer than 7 days. Without the overhead of a big loan, I keep more of my lower take home pay.

I know way too many friends and relatives with student dept that are unemployed, or under employed.

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (1)

trvd1707 (793036) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288840)

in exchange for long term economic vitality.

I don't know where you are seeing this vitality. This outsourcing model applied here, with the predatory competition, took us to an unviable economy.

Re:Shortage of engineering jobs, (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288954)

I don't know where you are seeing this vitality. This outsourcing model applied here, with the predatory competition, took us to an unviable economy.

Only because there's so much regulation that few people in their right mind would want to set up a new company in a new field to employ the engineers whose jobs have been shipped offshore.

Does Not Compute (2)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288232)

Some of [the U.S.'s] best engineers are not doing engineering, and some of its best potential engineers are not even studying engineering, leaving us short-changed in solving the important problems of the day.

So...we're not short on engineers...except that we are. At least we're short of excellent engineers and short of willing candidates to be tomorrow's excellent engineers. He whines that China labels sub-par losers and mere technicians as engineers, but then admits we're not putting out our best either. And still contends we're not short.

I'm really not sure how Wadhwa thinks he's disproving or even strongly contrasting Obama's postulate. He's certainly not coming within a thousand miles of justifying his title.

Re:Does Not Compute (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288250)

we dont have a shortage of engineers. we have a shortage of engineering jobs.

Re:Does Not Compute (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288552)

That, and well-paid engineering jobs that earn respect in the public eye. No one blinks at a doctor pulling down $400K after a few years but engineer salaries are often flat across an engineering career. A lot of people think they can do engineering as well as an engineer. no one would operate on them selves, but they think that most of engineering is "common sense" and "anyone can do it". Either that or that engineers are dweebs who deserve no respect.

Re:Does Not Compute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288812)

That's because an engineer can't tell you fast and fluent, full of charm why you could save millions by doing some things only engineers would understand, while a smooth talking marketing graduate can tell you how to outsource things by paying him millions.

Did I get it right? I'm pretty sure I did.

Re:Does Not Compute (5, Funny)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288856)

Can the medic build a sentry gun? No. Can the medic build a dispenser? No. Can the medic build a teleporter? No.

There are some good medics out there, and a good medic/heavy combo can wreck your ass worse than goatse, but most of the time a team will have 2 or 3 engineers and not a single medic.

Re:Does Not Compute (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288914)

The U.S., as a community, is hemorrhaging wealth via international trade deficits to the tune of $50+ Billion a year. If this keeps up, then its not going to matter what a job is like, or staffed by whom. Queue up U.S. and "Fourth World Feudal Wilderness" in the same sentence. It should not take much imagination to stop this flow by such trivial means as "Port Exit Duties", "Road Use Duties", "Import Inspections", an a personal favorite, "Use Duties."

As a side thought, the multinational corporations of today are acting more like a swarm of locus than benefactors. Their litany of "we create jobs" comes at the cost of wholesale devastation of entire sovereign state's economies; their actions are to suck an economy dry of wealth, then move on. As an example, one need only review the Ireland Debt Crisis.

Re:Does Not Compute (1)

stevew (4845) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288570)

Maybe so - but facts on the ground in Silicon Valley prove his point.

There are thousands of out-of-work engineers looking for work here in all disciplines. Granted that the valley is not the entire US - but it is certainly one of the premier US technical hubs. Mind you - California prices and anti-business policies don't help any.

Re:Does Not Compute (2)

Machtyn (759119) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288586)

Hmm, according to a previous article listed on /., we should be overrunning with older engineers that no one wants to hire.

Re:Does Not Compute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288684)

What people miss is that we are swimming in engineers. There are plenty.

There is a shortage of *CHEAP* engineers. That is what they are saying. They are not playing the same game as you guys. They are playing a game of numbers where engineers like to build things.

Not just the problems of today (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288234)

"... leaving us short-changed in solving the important problems of the day.

And it's only going to get worse if the education budget continues to act as some sort of financial punching-bag and educators keep being demonized. Think things are tough now? We haven't seen a damn thing yet.

Re:Not just the problems of today (1)

what2123 (1116571) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288452)

In real life terms, I believe this is more of our society (US) believing that there is real value in servicing and IP than there is in actually creating new tools that will continue humanities march into the future. We seem to be at a point where only profits are motives, actual research is put on the backburner because it is very difficult to prove it's profit value in the NEAR future. So in terms of educating society and our youth, it's as if there is a "satisfaction" that we can maintain our livelihood at the current pace without actually pursuing anything endearing to us.

Re:Not just the problems of today (1)

Machtyn (759119) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288638)

It's not the educators being demonized, it's the teachers unions that are rightly demonized. And, yes, politicians love to punch the education bag. They've pounded that thing too much and too long. Education doesn't need more money, it needs to better spend its current funding. Reduce the administrator to teacher ratio, allow performance based pay increases for teachers (no tenure after 3 years, that's crazy), and allow the truly bad teachers to be fired.

Re:Not just the problems of today (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288738)

I used to college was way too expensive.. Then I realized that, for my $500 per class, plus $500 for the other 20 students, that class was only bringing in $10,000 to the university. If that class took up 1/6 of the day for the professor, and if he got every dime of it, he'd be making less than most of the fresh graduates in the field. We do need to spend more on education, but we need to focus on higher education, and accept that not everyone should be going to college. It would help if we as a society didn't see college as a 4 year long party extravaganza, too.

If there's no shortage of engineers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288244)

where are our teleporters and dispensers?

(Sorry, it had to be done. Getting it out of the way early.)

Re:If there's no shortage of engineers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288352)

There is a dispenser on the wall in most public bathrooms and your mom's bedroom. Replicators are still a little ways out though.

Re:If there's no shortage of engineers... (1)

ThisIsSaei (2397758) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288454)

Replication is actually a side effect of dispenser misuse or neglect. It was part of the human kernel.

Latest Obama Jobs Report (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288254)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2V3CfD8TPac

WTF? (1)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288266)

'Mr. President, there is no engineer shortage'

He also says, 'Some of [the U.S.'s] best engineers are not doing engineering, and some of its best potential engineers are not even studying engineering, leaving us short-changed

So he's being misleading, if not outright contradicting himself. A crappy engineer is no engineer at all, so if we need more good engineers then there very much is an engineering shortage.

Re:WTF? (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288310)

There was another story from the same Wadha guy a short while ago, about age bias in IT? Looks a bit like someone might be hitting on easy tech hot button talking points to get their name out there.

Re:WTF? (2)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288396)

> some of its best potential engineers are not even studying engineering, leaving us short-changed

I'm pretty sure I'm potentially the worlds best brain surgeon, although I don't know because I've never studied or practiced anything to do with medicine.So because of my actions there's now a shortage int the US of brain surgeons.

Re:WTF? (1)

dzfoo (772245) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288468)

You too? I myself am potentially one of the worlds' best brain surgeons, although I also potentially dabble in world's best rocket-scientistry and mathematiciancy.

Perhaps we should get together and potentially discuss our potential for world domination.

        -dZ.

Re:WTF? (2)

jdbannon (1620995) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288410)

That's not contradictory at all. He says that not only do we not have a shortage, but that many good engineers have had to take up other careers. Why is that difficult to understand?

Re:WTF? (2)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288592)

Nonono, what he says is that some of our best engineers noticed that they can make more money as a crappy manager than as a good engineer. People follow the money, it's that simple.

Re:WTF? (1)

TheReaperD (937405) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288772)

Well, not directly related to TFA, the main problem from what I hear is that there are no decent engineering jobs in the US so any decent or good engineers are finding other lines of work and college students are taking other majors that are either easier and/or will give better paying jobs. You know that huge glut of MBAs in the 1990s and 2000s? So, there is an engineer shortage but, it's a chicken and egg problem now. Until there are engineering jobs, there will be no engineers and right now, unless the federal government does it, I don't see any engineering jobs being created in the US in the next few decades.

X Engineer (4, Funny)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288288)

"fails to slam the US for its practice of applying the 'engineer' label to sanitation workers, building janitors, boiler operators, "

I knew a woman who used to demand the title of "Domestic Engineer". Also known as "housewife"

Re:X Engineer (5, Funny)

ctrimm (1955430) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288374)

I knew a woman who used to demand the title of "Domestic Engineer". Also known as "housewife"

You should have told her to go engineer you a sandwich.

Re:X Engineer (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288436)

sudo engineer you a sandwich.

Noob.

Re:X Engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288540)

That's only if you don't have permissions. I prefer to make my sandwich making daemons respond readily in user-space and have permissions that are amenable making sandwiches with no additional authentication required. There's no reason you should need to be root to use a sandwich making daemon, in spite of what XKCD says.

Re:X Engineer (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288978)

So what you're saying is your wife will make me a sandwich too?

Oh exploitable!

Re:X Engineer (2)

ctrimm (1955430) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288606)

sudo engineer you a sandwich.

She's a "Domestic Engineer." Sounds to me like she's already rooted.

like "compuer scientist" (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288402)

Some people complain about adding the word "science" to professions that may be less rigorous science.
Social Sciences
Computer Science

Re:like "compuer scientist" (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288424)

I used to have "Technology Premadona" printed on my business cards.

Re:like "compuer scientist" (2)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288458)

I hope you didn't spell it like that....

Re:like "compuer scientist" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288472)

I used to have "Technology Premadona" printed on my business cards.

Must have cost you a lot of business. I certainly would have tossed it into the wastebasket.

Re:like "compuer scientist" (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288484)

Well it depends.

Computer Science can be proper science. Algorithms, Formal Languages et cetera are ultimately based on mathematics and scientific principles. So Computer Science is forgivable.

Re:like "compuer scientist" (1)

fredrated (639554) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288724)

"less rigorous science.. Computer Science"

You really think Computer Science is less rigorous? When I went to school at Berkeley most of the professors in computer science had joint appointments in either the Mathematics or Engineering departments, departments not usually considered "less rigorous"

Re:like "compuer scientist" (1)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288740)

Computer science isn't less rigorous science, it just isn't science. Depending on your work it's a form of engineering or math, or some combination thereof.

Re:X Engineer (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288572)

Oh, that label inflation doesn't end at engineer and scientist. How about "Facility manager"?

Back in my days at Siemens, we used to add "The only manager whose job description actually requires him to do something meaningful".

Lack of Incentive? (1)

kiehlster (844523) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288328)

So what you're saying is that I'd be wasting my time reading this article and we still have an effective shortage of engineers because our engineers are not motivated to do engineering, don't have jobs available to them, or found other jobs that pay better than their engineering field. I think I've heard this before. Sounds like we have an incentive problem.

Re:Lack of Incentive? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288548)

We have a salary problem, simply and plainly. As long as there's more money in lawsuits and shoving money around than in actual, meaningful work, people will sue and manage hedge fonds rather than, well, work.

It is not a matter of job title (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288360)

Wadhwa slams China for its practice of applying the 'engineer' label to auto mechanics and technicians, yet fails to slam the US for its practice of applying the 'engineer' label to sanitation workers, building janitors, boiler operators, FaceSpace coders, MSCEs and DeVry graduates.

The question is this, do the Chinese count auto mechanics among those they count in their official job numbers as being engineers? I know that the U.S. does not count "sanitation engineers" as "engineers" in its job numbers.

Re:It is not a matter of job title (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288500)

I think the article implies that in counting "engineer" graduation numbers, China was counting technicians and mechanics as engineers while the US counts those that graduate with an engineering degree like electrical, petroleum, etc.

Re:It is not a matter of job title (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288830)

I did not read the article, but even from the misleading summary I got the impression that the article was making some such comparison.

It's not that we don't have enough engineers... (1)

PNutts (199112) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288406)

...we have too many of these types which skews the numbers by comparison:

"Vivek Wadhwa is a Visiting Scholar at the University of California-Berkley School of Information, Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization, Exec in Residence at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, Senior Research Associate at Harvard University’s Labor and Worklife Program, Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Emory University’s Halle Institute of Global Learning, and faculty member and advisor at Singularity University. He helps students prepare for the real world; lectures in class; and leads groundbreaking research projects. He is also an advisor to several startup companies, a columnist for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and a contributor to the popular tech blog TechCrunch. He also writes occasionally for several international publications. Prior to joining academia in 2005, Wadhwa founded two software companies. He holds an MBA from New York University and a B.A. in Computing Studies from the University of Canberra, in Australia."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/vivek-wadhwa/2011/05/28/AGtx1eFH_page.html [washingtonpost.com]

Too much Vivek Wadhwa (2)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288486)

True. He's a pundit. He did a Y2K COBOL-conversion startup back in the 1990s; that's his contribution to "engineering". His academic positions are "hanger-on" types, not actual professorships.

I've been a visiting scholar at Stanford. It's not a big deal.

Re:Too much Vivek Wadhwa (1)

DRBivens (148931) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288818)

I was curious about that myself. This is the second /. article mentioning him in the last 5 hours or so. How did he manage that, I wonder?

McGruber Op-Ed hits Gov't Econo Spin. (1)

ThisIsSaei (2397758) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288414)

It's hard to tell if this piece has any real content due to the barrage of [uncited] opinions; Otellini's blame of American market decline squarely on how many people graduate in a certain field, Wadhwa's push that it's a shortage of applied engineers rather than engineers period, and McGruber's notion that Wadhwa failed in making a valid comparison between the US and China. Wonderful.

(Personally, I think that pushing for too many Engi's will make the team weak to a Demo / Uber-Push and won't be sustainable. Better to have a heavy/medic team hold over the dispenser and have more modular support. )

NASA Engineers (4, Informative)

wideBlueSkies (618979) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288442)

How many NASA guys are now pumping gas in Florida?

Lack of engineers, my ass.

Hey Mr President, we need jobs and stuff to be designed and built. Then you'll see the engineers get back on the grid.

the problem is (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288446)

Lawyer > MBA> engr

Who is an engineer? (1)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288474)

An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical and practical problems. Engineers design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, safety and cost.[1][2] The word engineer is derived from the Latin root ingenerare, meaning "to create". - Wikipedia

Anyone else have a definition they would like to bandy about?

Re:Who is an engineer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288590)

According to devry, a computer engineer is someone who can assembler a computer, install Windows, connect to a network and set up a linksys router....

Re:Who is an engineer? (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288744)

I thought that was a network technician.

Re:Who is an engineer? (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288708)

I've often wondered about the nuances of who you're supposed to call an engineer, big or little-e, or scientist.

Some are accused of throwing the words around like they don't mean anything, but as you pointed out, sometimes that gets directed at folks that seem to fit the descriptions.

It really is a bit confusing.

Re:Who is an engineer? (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288820)

Sounds like what I do. I suggest design changes, and point out critical design flaws all the time. (I have also been given tasks of giving design alternatives in the past.)

Prior to taking this job, I used to custom fab farm equipment and did computer technical work. It is only now that I realize that I was always an engineer.

I am certain that there are no shortages in the total numbers of such people. The problem is that our society looks down on manufacturing and fabrication as being somehow "dirty", and uncouth. It instead seems to epitomize "ideas" rather than solutions.

Software people recognize this immediately when they "work" for people that give them a nebulous set of ideas without any thought put into how it could (or should) be implemented, and treat the finished work as if it was all their hard work, and downplay the real intellects that turned their pipedream into a reality.

Engineers often get the same shortchange, and get replaced just as easily because the pipedreamers look for whoever they can exploit the cheapest.

To further add insult to injury, hobby engineers often get handed an intractible situation where industry and government work to create a perfect storm that requires absurd credentials to do just about anything, which steals even the joy from hobby engineering and fabrication.

(That is to say, granny McParanoid down the street sees him bulding something, thinks it might be a bomb or something because she has no idea about such things, and the next thing he knows, he is being handed fines for doing his hobby while his creation gets exploded by the bomb squad. The usual "do you have a permit for this?" Where the "permit" is only granted to large firms, for crazy money, and where "this" is the area of engineering practice his hobby takes him- be it chemical, electrical, biological, et al. I am very much reminded of the polymer chemist on the east coast who had all his lab notes and research samples destroyed by the local police for daring to do safe polymer research in his house instead of a high priced and zoned research lab.)

If the president wants to turn around the brain drain trend, then he needs to make it safe to be an independent engineer, and put a stop to the anti intellectual and fearmongering madness that current politicians are thriving on.

inconceivable (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288878)

in-con-ceiv-a-ble
Adjective: Not capable of being imagined or grasped mentally; unbelievable

Seemed time to nail that one down too.

The "shortage" is there (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288512)

There is definitely a shortage of engineers. A shortage of engineers that are willing to invest multiple thousands of dollars into a degree so they can watch BA majors rake in 3-5 times what they earn, who are willing to spend the better part of their life paying off their tuition bills while working their ass off, knowing that they, too, could have gotten that BA degree. Probably with less stress and less work.

Yeah, there's a shortage of smart people who are dumb.

Re:The "shortage" is there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288758)

BAs suffer the most during recessions and depressions. BS degree holders tend to have better success at getting a job in their field than BAs.

I would stay away from private colleges that give BAs in engineering...

Wow! (5, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288556)

I just addressed this problem a few minutes ago, here [slashdot.org] . Too many people with technical degrees feeding the legal, MBA, patent, PHB food chain. Too few doing work.

Anecdote: Back when I joined Boeing (many years ago), we had a 'lead engineer' system. The lead engineer was just the go to guy (women not yet taken seriously there) who had the final word on technical issues within a group. That freed the first level manager to to his reports, go to meetings, etc. He was just (usually) the senior guy in the group who knew the system and could mentor the new hires. Then, it became common practice for management to offload planning, scheduling, employee evaluations and other tasks onto the leads. Pretty soon, that was the majority of their job (the question was: where were the managers going during the day). Management had long since become detached from the technology and it was common for the boss to have no clue about how their system worked. A few leads took voluntary demotions or shifted to different groups to get out from under these duties. Pretty sad. Soon, even the leads had become mini managers and were becoming separated from the actual work going on. In my final position with the company, management brought in a lead engineer who had no clue about what we did or the state of the art in our field of work. All he did was to run around and pester people for formal reports on their schedule projections and progress, and budget inputs in order to assemble his own reports on the same thing (Even though he had no idea what we were doing. He reported that we were through task X because we said we were.).

Everyone wants to get an MBA and be a manager. Because its the hierarchy and that's what dictates reward and respect. We need a system like sports teams have. The coach might be a fat slob and not necessarily the best player in his career. The star players get rewarded commensurate with their skills. The coach is rewarded for the ability to hold the whole thing together. But those are separate skill sets and often its the bad coach that gets sacked more often than the players.

Re:Wow! (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288822)

You know, anybody can be an MBA. This 'cat engineer' [youtube.com] got an MBA, it can't be that hard.

Re:Wow! (2)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288868)

MBA and MIS programs are beginning to realize this, and more are looking at hybrid programs that try to teach both the technical aspects as well as the business side. Unfortunately this is only an option at the larger universities that have engineering schools as well as business schools.

All about pay (5, Insightful)

Matt_Bennett (79107) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288584)

There is a lot of engineering talent (and potential engineering talent) in the US. The problem is that companies aren't willing to pay for it! The MBA management style has made it very hard to have a long tern engineering career- the engineer is viewed as a commodity (why do you think it is called "human resources"?) that can be easily replaced by another unit in another location, across the country or across the world. Why give a raise to retain an engineer in a position when you can save money by shipping the job somewhere else? Many people who are smart and want to have an income that slightly outpaces inflation may start in engineering, but don't stick around.
Some manager gets a promotion for lowering (apparent) costs by outsourcing, and after they're gone, another gets stuck with fixing it. We are very good at training engineers in foreign countries how to do what we do well, and in that, we have managed to do is to shift the engineering talent overseas, where it also gets more expensive, negating the benefit.

no true engineer (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288618)

applying the 'engineer' label to sanitation workers, building janitors, boiler operators, FaceSpace coders, MSCEs and DeVry graduates.

OK, who is an engineer? By "sanitation worker" I guess you mean the guy who picks up the trash, right? Boiler operator not an engineer - what sort of boiler? "FaceSpace coder"? Hoho, so amusing. I hate Facebook and Myspace as much as anyone who's been on the Internet more than 10 minutes, but are you suggesting that someone who codes something clever and effective for either is not an engineer? MSCE... irrelevant. I read the In A Nutshell guides for the MSCE exams about 11 years ago but never took them. Would I have un-become an engineer if I'd taken and (almost certainly) passed?

But the DeVry insult really takes the biscuit - especially when following the argument of someone who was obviously an engineer yet whose undergraduate studies were in Canberra (oh wow!) and whose next qualification was an MBA (sure aren't enough of them!). Hey, McGruber, maybe the problem is that you don't know what an engineer is?

Two things (1)

MrHyd3 (19709) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288624)

There is no shortage per se. But there is a disturbing trend.

1 - These so called Engineers are too linear. Especially in the healthcare field. Personal experience - while working on a project for a practice, installing DS3's connecting a practice to a hospital for radiology readings, I had to file paperwork and work with not 1, not 2, not 3, but 7 people to get it going. If any of you have worked with Dr's, you know they are VERY impulsive and inpatient. A network engineer, firewall engineer, routing engineer, applications manager, server administrator, data center manager, telecom technician, really? For a small-medium sized hospital? Project took 2 months after the DS3's were turned up my the carrier (ATT) and planning/scheduling was started the day of carrier contract signing.

2 - Lazy or lack of work ethic. Call it what you will but I see too many engineers who become out-dated and refuse to educate themselves or won't take a pay cut for their worth value in the competitive field. Tenure is only for the lazy and non-educated - yes, even professors become comfortable and out-dated in their position.

This dipshit again? (2)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288630)

I have to point out that the author of the article just earned from me a well-deserved title of dipshit [slashdot.org] for spewing uninformed crap about C programmers.

Teachers, too. (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288650)

My friend, an unemployed teacher who has been struggling for two years to find work, had a similar reaction when Obama claimed there was a shortage of teachers in his state-of-the-union address.

There may very well be a shortage of competent teachers, or skilled engineers, but that's an entirely different matter, and increasing the number of degrees handed out will do nothing to fix that. It is as likely to exacerbate the problem. The problem is more in the hiring and employment practices.

Real Engineers... (1)

quetwo (1203948) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288656)

The problem with the US, is in most aspects we do slap the title Engineer on a lot of titles. In reality only those who hold a P.E. (Professional Engineer -- somebody who is licensed by the State to be an engineer) should be called an Engineer. Sure, lots of people do engineering (Software Engineers, etc), but they are not true engineers...

Re:Real Engineers... (1)

Entrope (68843) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288864)

... and no true Dutchman would call himself an engineer without a P.E. license!

the gov sold out the uc citizens a long time ago (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288676)

the US Federal Government are puppets for multi-national corporations & international bankers...

DeVry grad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288686)

Really? I'm a DeVry grad.

Best is not the best (2)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288694)

says, 'Some of [the U.S.'s] best engineers are not doing engineering, and some of its best potential engineers are not even studying engineering, leaving us short-changed in solving the important problems of the day.'

I know many engineers who took years getting into an engineering position - 2/3rds of my graduating class did not find engineering jobs right out of university. So that's problem #1. Secondly, many engineers excel in a management role - problem solving, critical analysis, and cool under pressure - plus the opportunities that moving into a management role provides is enticing. Finally, 'potential' is not really quantifiable. If he is a brilliant student but has no interpersonal skills, and she is a C+ student but works great within a group, who the better potential engineer? What about someone who can almost instantly understand concepts such as thermodynamic closed systems and who is a deity in a machine shop, but enjoys creating art? What is their potential?

It's a silly argument.

Shortage of freedoms (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288704)

USA is suffering shortage of liberties, not shortage of engineers.

I am looking at Obama right now and I almost pity the ... man.

If I could do 1 thing right now in his place, I would stop the wars and bring all troops home.

If I could do 2 things, the second thing would be this: stop printing and borrowing money.

If I could do 3 things, the third thing would be this: stop subsidizing businesses and people.

If I could do 4 things, the fourth thing would be this: stop regulating businesses, especially this concerns all new startups. If you are a startup, you should be able to get up and running in a couple of days. That should be the goal.

If I could do 5 things, the fifth thing would be tax reform and abolishment of income taxes, payroll taxes, all income related taxes.

The thing that would be 6th: stop the drug war, let all the people out of jails who are there for non-violent drug related offenses.

The 7th thing: allow competition in money.

The only real thing is of-course: follow the Constitution, your job is to protect the liberties, not create jobs, not provide capital, not regulate monopolies, not be the world's police.

Of-course USA lacks engineering jobs. It won't get them back until it is clear that it stopped trying to destroy the foundation upon which the jobs can be created.

Malinvestment (3, Insightful)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288784)

If the U.S. government weren't preoccupying its engineers with "defense", even more engineers would be available for productive endeavors.

McGruber trying to make a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288788)

The article says that China was inflating the engineering graduate numbers by including things the US does not count as Engineers. The US labor statistics has a very precise definition of Engineer and it includes none of the things McGruber cites. I am just trying to determine if he is an idiot, or I am for not getting the joke?

Contraditions (1)

devnullkac (223246) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288824)

The OP complains that Wadhwa is inconsistent about engineer labels, but I think the entire article has a consistency problem: he asserts in multiple ways that, market forces being the way they are in the US economy, there is no problem with our engineer numbers, but at the same time says having more engineers is better than having less and that we need to make engineering "cool" because we have so many resource and other problems that need engineers to solve. If he really has faith in market forces, then he needs to acknowledge that too many engineers is at least as bad as too few (all those wasted years learning something no one wants you to know) and the reason we haven't got more people stepping up to become engineers to solve our resource problems is that, as a nation, we don't currently care about solving them.

Who the heck is Vivek Wadhwa ? (1)

demiurg (108464) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288888)

The guys is quoted twice on the same slashdot page... do we have slashdot celebrities already ?

DeVry Graduates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288950)

"...DeVry Graduates..."

With a comment like that, it sounds like someone is trying to justify their outrageously expensive Engineering degree.
I'll put my DeVry degree up against your engineering degree any day.

Advice to the young (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288960)

I had been in the aerospace industry as a thermal engineer and a systems engineer my entire adult life. I got laid off at 59. Two years after that I advised my doctor whose son wanted to go into aerospace engineering to tell him to instead go into accounting. The US's plethora of regulations plus insane tax code insure that that role is required by every business (big and small) in the country.

There's no shortage of engineers OR jobs (3, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#37288980)

But there is a shortage of people willing to work for the rates that companies want to pay.

The problem is one of expectations. Most adults in the english-speaking world have a self-image of a nice big house, medical care, a partner, alimony, some kids, a pension, a dog, foreign holidays and a car for everyone (except maybe the dog). To support that lifestyle needs a certain, high, level of income.

However those very same people will baulk at paying for goods designed, developed and manufactured by workers who share that aspiration. They all want cheap stuff - and plenty of it. To satisfy that demand and price-point, the manufacturers can only afford to pay their employees enough for a bicycle, rice and vegetables and a family TV set.

"Boiler Operator?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37288988)

Where do you think the word "engineer" comes from if not "one who operates engines?" The term has always been applied to those operating the large power plants of locomotives and steamships, and it is from the required knowledge of physics and mechanics to operate these large, complex devices that the term "engineer" has come to be applied to other, unrelated fields.

Let's call Scotty "Chief Warp Drive Operator" while we're coopting terms!

If you want to be a purist, if you have no idea what a "steam table" is, let alone how to use one, you don't get to call yourself an "engineer," let alone dictate who else can or cannot.

Jackasses...

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