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Electrical Engineering Lost 35,000 Jobs Last Year In the US

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the alice-doesn't-work-here-anymore dept.

Businesses 397

dcblogs writes "Despite an expanding use of electronics in products, the number of people working as electrical engineers in U.S. declined by 10.4% last year. The decline amounted to a loss of 35,000 jobs and increased the unemployment rate for electrical engineers from 3.4% in 2012 to 4.8% last year, an unusually high rate of job losses for this occupation. There are 300,000 people working as electrical engineers, according to U.S. Labor Department data analyzed by the IEEE-USA. In 2002, there were 385,000 electrical engineers in the U.S. Ron Hira, an assistant professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, called the electrical engineering employment trend 'truly disturbing,' and said, 'just like America's manufacturing has been hollowed out by offshoring and globalization, it appears that electrical and electronics engineering is heading that way.'"

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Afraid of bugged hardware? (2, Insightful)

ButchDeLoria (2772751) | about 7 months ago | (#45982913)

Is it possible that companies are afraid of US-bugged hardware, or is it automation invalidating jobs for the moment?

Re:Afraid of bugged hardware? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45982951)

Is it possible that companies are afraid of US-bugged hardware, or is it automation invalidating jobs for the moment?

Seeing a massive movement of jobs to India, where, need I remind anyone, the government all but blackmailed Blackberry into handing over encryption keys, I'd say it's highly unlikely fears about bugged hardware are the smoking gun for companies conducting layoffs.

Re:Afraid of bugged hardware? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983123)

Is it possible that companies are afraid of US-bugged hardware, or is it automation invalidating jobs for the moment?

Seeing a massive movement of jobs to India, ...

The low end jobs which go to India are where engineers enter industry and learn their stuff so this does matter here and is a good trend (I am really hoping India manages to use this to take their country out of poverty). You need to ask why an Indian Engineer is a tax deductible expense whilst you are a taxable employee? Why are US companies allowed to effectively employ these people with absolutely no employment rights? This is certainly nothing to do with efficiency other than "tax efficiency".

The real thing that matters, though, is that manufacturing moved to China and now all the learning about how to actually make things is going direct to engineers in China who, if the trend doesn't reverse fast, will be better at all kinds of design that US engineers within a generation.

As long as Americans continue to elect politicians that worship companies and the "free market" over their own countries interests you are going to continue to lose out to, biggest irony of all, a planned economy of a country that calls its self "communist".

Re:Afraid of bugged hardware? (2)

MrKaos (858439) | about 7 months ago | (#45983755)

The low end jobs which go to India are where engineers enter industry and learn their stuff so this does matter here and is a good trend (I am really hoping India manages to use this to take their country out of poverty).

Nothing will take India out of poverty. Take a drive on Indian roads and if you survive you will begin to appreciate the power of massive ignorance. Many people know how to drive, but they can't read the road rules. Education is key and their is plenty of corruption in India to get in the way of that. That's not a criticism of India, by the way, I love the place - just an observation that us arrogant westerners are appalled by things we don't understand.

Besides, there are over 35 million people below the poverty line in the US, that's almost the entire population of Canada. That would be a good problem to fix too.

You need to ask why an Indian Engineer is a tax deductible expense whilst you are a taxable employee? Why are US companies allowed to effectively employ these people with absolutely no employment rights? This is certainly nothing to do with efficiency other than "tax efficiency".

Because that is what a commodity is. Rejoice! This is the free market and globalization working. If you don't support globalization then you must be a communist pinko redneck terrorist.

The real thing that matters, though, is that manufacturing moved to China and now all the learning about how to actually make things is going direct to engineers in China who, if the trend doesn't reverse fast, will be better at all kinds of design that US engineers within a generation.

1% of the population has 49% of the power, the other 99% has 51% of the power and don't know how to use it. Adolf Hitler said "How fortunate for leaders that men do not think."

If you want to change it - start writing letters to politicians.

As long as Americans continue to elect politicians that worship companies and the "free market" over their own countries interests you are going to continue to lose out to, biggest irony of all, a planned economy of a country that calls its self "communist".

The biggest irony of all is that communist China does capitalism better than America.

Now let's get back to our race to the bottom.

Re:Afraid of bugged hardware? (0, Flamebait)

cold fjord (826450) | about 7 months ago | (#45982975)

Is it "possible" that fears of "US-bugged hardware" are responsible? Sure, as long as those companies are using crystal balls to place their orders based on knowledge of the future. (IOW - No)

At least now we won't have to live with the suspense of wondering when the first reference to NSA would come up.

Loss of the "D" in "R & D" (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 7 months ago | (#45983329)

There are plenty of "R" in the USA. The "D", on the other hand, is losing ground to places like Singapore, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, China, and yes, India.

If you go to south of the border, yes, that country famous for the "la cucaracha" song, they have a lot of "D" lab, while in the USA, many of the "D" guys are either retired, or are actively looking for jobs in Mexico or China.

Re:Afraid of bugged hardware? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983037)

No, US companies want cheap India/China-bugged H1-B or offshore hardware because it is so much cheaper.

Re:Afraid of bugged hardware? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983069)

Neither you moron. They're shipping the jobs overseas to cheaper labor. At least try to pretend you read the article you fucking idiot.

Re:Afraid of bugged hardware? (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 7 months ago | (#45983645)

You're lucky if we read the summary.

How many lives were lost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45982915)

Sure, jobs are important, but how many electrical engineers died?

Re:How many lives were lost? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983003)

Sure, jobs are important, but how many electrical engineers died?

Probably quite a few once they found they couldn't pay their mortgage and their wives found a better source of income.

Re:How many lives were lost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983255)

Gold-digging another man-hole?

I find this strange (1)

digitaltraveller (167469) | about 7 months ago | (#45982925)

Does anyone have any speculation about why this is happening?

Re:I find this strange (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45982963)

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist.

        Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

        Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Jew.

        Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came_...

Re:I find this strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45982985)

That's great, .... except nobody is "coming" for anybody in the US.

Re:I find this strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983059)

the government is coming for drug users

Re:I find this strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983235)

the government is coming for drug users

Unlikely. See what is happening in Colorado...

Re:I find this strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983553)

I give it until the next Republican president/congress.

Re:I find this strange (-1, Troll)

epyT-R (613989) | about 7 months ago | (#45983153)

They came already.. KGB infiltrated us in the 50s, pushed the communist propaganda in the universities in the 60s via the cpusa (many of its members are/were in academia), resulting in so-called social 'justice' movements in the 70s. From the 80s onward, it's a steady march to dystopia as these 'educated' individuals use their positions in the state to push these imperatives. It's showing up in public schools, now, in place of proper encouragement to learn. The soviet union did not survive this long term program, but it is one of the empire's legacies.

Today, the USA is losing ground because its leadership is too politically correct and afraid of being "against something" to actually make the critical decisions needed to defend liberty for the citizens it supposedly represents. All they do is tow the line and make bilateral deals with corporations (and even our political enemies) that screw the population over. It's sad and scary because, at this rate, the USA will be a 3rd world country by the 2050s. While the two big parties play this socialist/neoconservative catfight against the voters, the fortune 100 use it to manipulate the government, and therefore the taxpayer, to their advantage.

So while no one technically invaded, the positive aspects of USA culture have been permanently damaged by outside influences. Globalization has done little to help this. This is the big picture component as to why technical jobs are drying up in the US. It's becoming a consumer society, just like the fortune 100 want. They'd rather keep the technical workers in china where they can pay them pennies on the dollar.

This is not a troll. It is an opinion.

Re:I find this strange (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983285)

This is not a troll. It is an opinion.

You are one obviously miserable and extremely paranoid person.

The US did the damage to itself, by virtue of greed. A rational person knows this
and doesn't try to blame how things are now on external influences.

Re:I find this strange (1, Insightful)

epyT-R (613989) | about 7 months ago | (#45983367)

I'm paranoid and miserable, yet you respond with fallacies and your own spin of propaganda? I'm sure you'd be just as quick to blame the US for its 'outside influence' on other countries, right? It's not a unilateral situation. The US was/is not immune to outside influence, certainly not during the cold war.

Of course the US itself is partly responsible. If you actually read my post you'd see it stated there (try rereading the middle paragraph). However, outside influences cannot be denied.

Re:I find this strange (5, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | about 7 months ago | (#45982967)

Pure speculation, but it could very well be a knock-on effect from off-shoring manufacturing. You want at least some of your engineers to be close to the manufacturing line to debug when things go wrong. The designers might stay in the US, but manufacturing, test, packaging, etc., will shift towards the factories. And then, some years later, you'll want the designers to be near the mfg/tst/pkg guys to allow easier communication.

Re:I find this strange (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45982995)

Does anyone have any speculation about why this is happening?

Yes. Because it's cheaper and frankly, better to have a product designed where it will be manufactured. Asia (Taiwan, and China mostly) have product design and engineering mills (called ODMs) where one can go have a set of technical meetings, and within a few weeks/months have a prototype. They are not great at the firmware... but if all you want is a chip vendor support version of Android/Linux with pre-built applications on it, they can do that too.

Quality, Better, Unique.... don't blather on about that. Real products have to hit market windows, on time and within budget. Taiwan does this, every day, and with scale, at shops all across the country.

Re:I find this strange (5, Informative)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 7 months ago | (#45983447)

Being in a place where we design in the US, I don't see this. An off shore design just won't work except for bits and pieces. Sending your product out overseas to be designed means it will be cloned and copied, and in a lot of industries that is not acceptable at all. As well trying to give your local design requirements to someone who doesn't communicate in your language very well is frustrating. And not all of EE is about design either, there's a lot of hardware testing to be done, environmental testing for outdoor products, safety testing, regulatory testing, RF localization to other countries, signal analysis, and so forth. Some of that can be offshored much more easily than design, and some of that must be done locally.

Re:I find this strange (5, Funny)

mrbluze (1034940) | about 7 months ago | (#45983011)

Does anyone have any speculation about why this is happening?

Well from all the electrical engineers I know, they like to collect stuff and as a result of the clutter they invariably lose stuff. So for them to collectively lose 35,000 jobs is frankly unsurprising.

Re:I find this strange (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983025)

Because we don't have enough H-1Bs, that's why.

Re:I find this strange (3, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | about 7 months ago | (#45983063)

Brain Drain and woefully inadequate expenditures on infrastructure.

For whatever reasons, electrical engineering is done by foreign companies. Many engineers received education in the US and then fled back to their countries to work in companies servicing us. I don't really blame them either. America has to compete fairly as a place people want to desire to live. If we were so damn good they would stay.

This is just a side effect of all of the brain drain going on for decades. Less electrical engineers needed to support research, and less shops in the US needing those engineers, to provide high tech products to the rest.

The rest of the world isn't stupid. Other countries have the engineering capability to do these things and the economies to compete with ourselves.

With respect to electrical engineering in particular, the US simply does not spend enough on infrastructure to stimulate that part of the economy. Which is sad. We need to not just create new transportation and material sciences, but implement them on a wide scale.

Not doing that, so the engineers shouldn't hold their breath waiting for a game changing high tech rail system being deployed across the US.

Re:I find this strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983081)

Does anyone have any speculation about why this is happening?

The environment.

Re:I find this strange (5, Insightful)

ToadProphet (1148333) | about 7 months ago | (#45983105)

Because outsourcing is moving up the chain. First the unskilled labour, then the skilled professionals, and finally the rest of the company (aside from sales and the CXX's).

Re:I find this strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983369)

It seems like many folks like to speculate about how the low-me on the totem pole get screwed while the sales and CXX folks probably get to keep their jobs.

In reality what happens is that when a company attempts to outsource, it effectively teaches the country what types of products to make. Then several foreign company attempt to duplicate the business w/o the sales and CXX overhead and distribute their product on sites like Alibaba. The original company will eventually go out of business making the sales and CXX folks lose their jobs because, well they are overhead and paid from profits (if there are minimal profits, you can't afford much overhead).

The only people that get to keep their jobs in this scenario are longshoremen and FedEx/UPS drivers...

Re:I find this strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983643)

Sales will go when the buyers are from a different culture. This has been the case for awhile now.
CXXs will go when the only source of capital investment is overseas.

Re:I find this strange (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983121)

My guess: Baby Boomer retirement is finally outpacing Gen X/Y interest in engineering. Then to add to this: The suits have seen this coming for decades, so they've been slowly moving operations overseas to avoid a vacuum in 2010-2039 as the boomers retire.

Re:I find this strange (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983157)

I'm an electrical engineer... I work at a company where many EEs work at, under the "software engineer" title. Some mechanical engineers work under that title as well. Is it possible that all Engineers are falling into generic titles which may indicate the change in the statistics?

Re:I find this strange (1)

geogob (569250) | about 7 months ago | (#45983737)

I've read a lot of speculative answers here. Cheeper, easier, closer to manufacturing, etc.
I'll add another one no one dared to write or thought possible... Maybe are engineers elsewhere better and/or more efficient.

I'm not there and can't really do more than speculate, but from an outsider perspective, it seems that engineering is on a sharp decline in the US. I know there are a lot of very competent and skilled engineers in the US, but there are also a lot of very bad ones, which seem to have been betrayed by the education system (this is my own observation). Only the few who get the chance to enter the right school for their field seem to have proper formation. Other often show potential, but lack the tools and their skills are not properly developed.

In such a context, I am certain the good ones are quickly placed... Remains the others one the job market. For companies looking for engineers which don't have the connexions to get the better ones, this must be very frustrating. I would also consider looking elsewhere... ... If I havne't already because of financial reasons, practicality, etc.

Maybe they were replaced by Software Engineers? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45982955)

A lot of EEs used to be needed to design discrete circuits. Nowadays most of that probably gets implemented in SW. So maybe not so many are needed any more?

Re:Maybe they were replaced by Software Engineers? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983095)

Interestingly, I think this may be part of it. 20 years ago products would be designed by 5 electrical engineers and 1 developer for drivers and interfacing or MCU programming and now it's 1 electrical engineer and 11 software engineers on a product.

Re:Maybe they were replaced by Software Engineers? (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 7 months ago | (#45983461)

In some arenas yes, but in other stuff you can't do it that way. People want hardware because it's faster than software. A lot of EE people do programming too, such as DSP signal analysis, since most newer computing grads aren't qualified (they spent college dreaming of being game testers or phone app programers). Now there's a blurred line with ASICs and FPGAs but those tend to be programmed by EE people more often than CS types. And of course software can't do much at all about signal communication such as dealing with RF.

Depends what kind of engineer (4, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | about 7 months ago | (#45982959)

There are still jobs out there for power engineers - I have a friend that works at a construction engineering firm and they have trouble finding qualified and experienced electrical engineers to fill some positions.

I'd imagine that a lot of electronics design work has been outsourced to the same companies that are building the electronics, and probably a lot of the tricky electrical design work has been replaced by digital electronics. Using a 16Mhz microcontroller might be overkill to read at a few analog inputs to generate some outputs, but your offshore manufacturer can likely use an off-the-shelf design to implement it for less than the cost of using discrete chips.

Re:Depends what kind of engineer (5, Interesting)

RightwingNutjob (1302813) | about 7 months ago | (#45982991)

I've worked with degree'd EE types who seem to have gotten their degrees in protoboard tinkering and not much more. Technically they're EE's, but soft math skills and limited design capabilities beyond plugging IC's together. Maybe 10-20 years ago, there was a place for them to support the Real Engineers. Today, you buy a plug-and-play PLC-like device or Labview box for a few thousand, and suddenly a lot of the work that used to take one of those degree'd EE can be done fairly reasonably by a technician or an intern.

Re:Depends what kind of engineer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983047)

So where do you get EE's that understand the math and can do more than Labview? They don't even teach labview at school, and my degree had a lot of advanced math we had to go through.

One thing that they could have taught us better in school is soldering and technical type skills, but you pick those up quickly on the job...

Re:Depends what kind of engineer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983167)

EE degrees are a great example of the "misunderstanding" of what a college degree is. Nearly every Bachelor's program in E. Engineering from 4-year universities graduates people who have nearly Zero experience (directly or even on-paper) designing real-world projects. These degrees (arguably, like all degrees from 4-year universities) are *not* meant to be job training. They are meant to be education, useful for one to then go get job training.
      It's the universities' own fault for pretending like these degrees will produce a job-ready, knowledgeable engineer.

Re:Depends what kind of engineer (2)

epyT-R (613989) | about 7 months ago | (#45983283)

So what? it takes another decade to get the 4 year EE, then another 4 in a 'job training' track? on top of highschool? The problem with modern western culture is that's creating more process without dealing with the flaws in existing process. Everyone has to be 'properly' 'educated' and 'licensed' before they can do anything..and they're expected to take out increasingly large loans on decreasing odds for success in the job market to do so.

Why bother?

Re:Depends what kind of engineer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983365)

So what? it takes another decade to get the 4 year EE, then another 4 in a 'job training' track?

Well, if it takes you a decade to get a 4 year degree then perhaps you should be looking for another line of work. Especially if you then need another 4 years on top of that for job training.

Re:Depends what kind of engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983451)

I've worked with degree'd EE types who seem to have gotten their degrees in protoboard tinkering and not much more.

These degrees (arguably, like all degrees from 4-year universities) are *not* meant to be job training. They are meant to be education, useful for one to then go get job training.

In other words, unless you're a fucking moron with poor reading comprehension skills, you'd learn a ton more on your own reading wikipedia and such than being "educated" and 'prepared to get on-the-job training', and not piss away 6-10 years of salary and 4 years of your life to do it.

People are assuming the jobs are going overseas, but I think many more EE's are realizing that they are slaves to corporations that add zero value to the process (in fact often extract most of it for the top guy's pocket). Larger corporations still have a place, being able to purchase 6-to-10-figure equipment, but on the smaller end of the spectrum, EE's are far better off starting their own business, and many of them are. (see also Maker movement). They are probably happily changing their profession on their taxes from EE to "self-employed". I know I giggled a little the first time...

Re: Depends what kind of engineer (2)

dexpetkovic (3431737) | about 7 months ago | (#45983265)

You can get such engineers in Serbia, Europe, on www.etf.rs or on www.ftn.rs, two of the best Serbian educational institutions that offer highly skilled knowledge after you finish studies. Now that I finished studies as electric engineer, and moved to the Netherlands, I am amazed how shallow the knowledge of others is compared to mine. On the other hand, when it comes to practical application of knowledge to work, there is no such difference - simply because most of positions today are not R&D and its quite hard to get one as such (excluding software engineering).

Re:Depends what kind of engineer (5, Interesting)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 7 months ago | (#45983161)

On the flip side in the real world I haven't used a single piece of advanced mathematics that I endured during my degree. We often joke about how everyone should brace themselves because one of the engineers is reaching for the square root button, but the reality is much of the maths has been replaced by advanced simulation software.

With simulation software able to calculate all things RF, analogue impedances, filters, interactions between different parts of a circuit due to inductive coupling etc. what is there left to do for an EE that actually requires the practical application of this maths? The only person I know who uses it works for a company which sells simulation software.

That said your complains are partially true except I think slightly misdirected. It's not core maths that many of the more useless EEs lack but it's a basic understanding and common sense approach to circuit design. They are the type which will pull out the typical application diagram from a datasheet and bolt it down to a circuit board and then complain that the parts have gone up in smoke because they don't understand concepts like stability, feedback, etc. Maths does not save them here. General EE understanding does.

I know of a perfect example of someone who went through university who got a got high distinction grades in every subject yet can't tell you the difference between a PNP or an NPN transistor. That said after I drew it for her she spat out the complete circuit equation and solved it in minutes. I blame her for my poor math skills :-)

Re:Depends what kind of engineer (5, Interesting)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 7 months ago | (#45983119)

There are still jobs out there for power engineers - I have a friend that works at a construction engineering firm and they have trouble finding qualified and experienced electrical engineers to fill some positions.

There are tons of EE jobs out there. Its just that the one everyone wants - the ones related to computers and digital logic, are really popular and many places are churning them out. But, like supply and demand, well, those jobs are also moving offshore because they're portable, and offshore education is getting really good as well.

However, power engineers, a discipline who has seen the number of members drop steadily to the point where a graduating class may be counted on one hand (if at all! Sometimes there are years with zero graduates) can see good work. Their jobs generally aren't portable, and they deal with all matter of power - from generation, transmission, transformation, etc. Many electric utilities are paying handsomely for fresh graduates because they're hard to get (power engineering isn't very sexy).

Likewise, you have analog IC designers, a role that's also so short on people, fresh grads can demand 6 figure salaries. Analog IC design is not just stuff like opamps and all that, but mixed-signal ICs, and modern digital ICs often contain analog interfaces. Even "digital" communications often do a lot of analog design (the Ethernet PHY is a mixed-signal chip - the signal comes in as analog and you have to recover a digital signal from that). There's also CMOS sensors for cameras, and many others.

Then there's RF - which is in demand (think smartphones) - besides IC designs, there's antennas, communications, weak signal, etc.

Computer and software? Well, there are just too many of them and they're portable.

There's plenty of jobs out there. And because of shortage of supplies, damn the starting salaries can be double of a computer engineer.

If you're an analog IC designer with RF experience....

Re:Depends what kind of engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983191)

Not all schools are ignoring power Engineering. Last I checked, Washington State University was graduating more than 20 EEs with a focus on power per year. They are even expanding to include a online degree program [sfgate.com] .

Re:Depends what kind of engineer (1)

slew (2918) | about 7 months ago | (#45983433)

How times have changed...

When I went to university many moons ago, I studied Analog VLSI and power electronics. Upon graduation, I discovered that for most companies, they wanted someone to essentially apprentice for about 6 years before they would let you touch a circuit (they had senior engineers to do the "real" work). Taking a job on the computer engineering side of the fence was ticket to being able to do real work (and paid better too boot) and I was lured over to the "d" side...

Too bad I stopped looking at that stuff back in the D-class amplifier days. Now they have all sorts of fun G and H-class power amplifiers to design. Sigh ;^)

Re:Depends what kind of engineer (1)

El Puerco Loco (31491) | about 7 months ago | (#45983443)

I think most people go to college because they don't want to have to worry about things like arc flash and electrocution.

Re:Depends what kind of engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983765)

PHS is mixed, PHY is digital

Re:Depends what kind of engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983415)

it's because they need a licensed PE

Title Reclassification? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45982979)

I am guessing a lot of them just have different titles now.... I worked as an Electrical Engineer at a company for 2 years, though my education and expertise is in Computer Engineering. I suspect there's more to the story than these numbers are telling

Re:Title Reclassification? (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 7 months ago | (#45983007)

Depending on the program the difference between "Computer Engineering" and "Electrical Engineering" is often one of emphasis, not so much kind. (But maybe things have changed.)

Re:Title Reclassification? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983127)

Very true. The only difference in my degree and the Computer Engineering degree was one class. Sadly taking that class didn't mean you got both degrees.

ATMs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45982981)

Maybe someone could hire one of those guys to make an ATM without an OS in it? Seems like there is a job opening there.

I don't see why an ATM needs more than a simple UI+card reader deal that talks to the server and shows what ever is says, and a cash dispenser that obeys signed commands from said server. Needs sound output (for the blind), but thats not hard (we have that in joke greeting cards now even...). Freaking dumb terminal, not windows install. We need some EE guys to fix what the software IT morons are doing. With the job loss, I bet they are cheap too, and the resulting product is way cheaper and more secure as well.

Oh, same for voting machines. Did all the industries simply decide EE was dumb, because we really still need these guys, and we are missing them.

Re:ATMs (2)

Urkki (668283) | about 7 months ago | (#45983159)

The thing is, that touch screen is damn cheap. Replacing it with discrete components would be expensive. And a screen needs,a,computer to drive it.

And then,the whole thing about talking to server, it's,done over IP or similar complex network, and needs a computer. Cheapest and most scalable place to put that part in is right there in the ATM machine.

And software glitches have the nice property of staying fixed once fixed, and fixes being easy to distribute (at least if system is well designed). Once software works in a given environment, it will keep working, until there is a mechanical or electrical glitch... So it's natural to want to minimize mechanical and purely electrical parts.

Re:ATMs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983239)

Its not hard to get TCP and touchscreens working in an embedded system. The parts to do so cost less than a windows licence. A microcomputer without an OS is still a computer too. And scalable, WTF? An ATM does not need to scale.

Look, here is a web server (thats HTTP on top of TCP!) on a cheap tiny microprocessor with no OS: http://hackaday.com/2012/07/17/lightweight-web-server-using-the-msp430/

And for a touch screen: http://www.ti.com/mcu/docs/litabsmultiplefilelist.tsp?sectionId=96&tabId=1502&literatureNumber=slaa384a&docCategoryId=1&familyId=342

Its not impossible, or even impractical to run an ATM on a microprocessor than cost less than 5$ in quantity, and will work fine with no updates until the hardware wears out. You don't need any external DRAM, or even Flash, or hard drive or any of that crap. Your power supply is trivial too. Look at the RasberryPi, that can run entire freaking web browsers, its totally overkill here: cheap microprocessors can do far more than you credit them with. The needs here are on par with a 70s era dumb terminal processing wise, a bit more (like a 1$ modern chip) if you want the crypto.

And if you really need it to be updatable, running the whole thing as a dumb terminal means nearly all updates you could want can be done server side, and the entire electronics board would be cheaper to replace than the cost of sending a guy to do it, so I don't see how thats even an issue.

OSes arn't magic. Stuff can be done without them just fine. Hell and OS does tons of stuff, and it doesn't need an OS to run on...

Re:ATMs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983479)

A simple system with no OS is much less hardware (no hard drive, no external ram, no fan, no PCIe crap, no platform controller chip, no USB, no bios flash and much less of a powersupply. (Look at a RaspberryPi, and think about 1/4 of that, and compare that to a Windoes box). Also, you get ~5000 lines of code total, which compared to windows+custom drivers+the actual application+its runtime is basically nothing.

Software bloat does not reduce hardware requirements, it increases them. Having trivial software that reboots to a clean state in a millisecond, with no external memory buses or storage has got to be more reliable than a windows install. Its not like you are moving features from software to hardware, its just removing bloat. Theres no added hardware when you remove 99.9% of the software.

I get the feeling you haven't written code for something without an OS. Its a bit sad that we have coders who haven't actually programmed hardware, they are really missing a lot of the understanding here. Designing a CPU is a good thing to do too (at least it gave me some perspective), but I can't get too hopeful.

Eh, no one listens to me (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983009)

when I say EE is dead. Are you listening now? You have to be completely oblivious and in denial to think there's much of a future in EE. The thing is though, the young people I've met (less than 25 years old) at the hacker space are adamant I'm wrong and that their complete dedication to 3D printing/hardware hacking/robots/recycling will get them a steady job for life.

EE is a clinic of a field that created its own destruction by being able to relentlessly eliminate circuitry and therefore jobs. Everything can now be done at the atomic level in an IC and done with countless layers of software.

The exceptions as I see them are power, both AC power distribution and the stuff that drives electric motors from toys to giant machinery. The other field I see is what's called "mechatronics" (which I find an awful word), but probably is more like PLCs and industrial controls.

Another problem with EE is the fact that I've never seen professional EE associations like they have for accountants or actuaries or lawyers, economists, notaries, etc. Most of what *those* people do is something that could be as easily outsourced as EE work. Notarize a deed? Really? A photocopy and a signature? That's more important than a design?

And let's face facts, most of what passes as an electrical "engineering" job is just glorified clerical work.

The writing has been on the wall for a long time, and the wall itself has been built by outsourced labor from second-tier plastic bricks.

America's future careers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983073)

A. Fast Food.
B. Walmart
C. Prison Guard

That is all.

Re:Eh, no one listens to me (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983101)

Another problem with EE is the fact that I've never seen professional EE associations like they have for accountants or actuaries or lawyers, economists, notaries, etc. Most of what *those* people do is something that could be as easily outsourced as EE work. Notarize a deed? Really? A photocopy and a signature? That's more important than a design?

Never heard of the IEEE? Really? Begone, troll.

Go on disability (1)

TempleOS (3394245) | about 7 months ago | (#45983087)

The CIA did it. You are entitled to disability. God says... Angel ohh_thank_you boink incredibly my_bad Tomorrow endeavor Ramsay I_had_a_crazy_dream depressing that's_all_folks

Hypothetical questions (5, Interesting)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 7 months ago | (#45983107)

Here's some data points, and a question for the economists:

1) Productivity has been rising for decades. US productivity per capita is about $51,000 [google.com] this year. That's $50,000 per person, including kids and non-working spouses.

2) Human needs follow a "priority queue" [wikipedia.org] ; meaning, that once a level of need is satisfied there is no further demand. Population needs will plateau and become steady - there is no "infinite demand" for more goods. If you have all the food you need, you don't consume more even if it's free &c.

2a) And population is stabilizing [google.com] in all industrialized nations. Birth rate less than 2.0 per woman in the US, our population only grows due to immigration. Similar in other industrialized nations.

Given this data, here's a hypothetical question: Suppose efficiency grows so that the infrastructure could produce all the needs of the population using only 90% of the current workforce.

Q: What happens to the unneeded 10% workforce?

For a follow-on, consider Google's self-driving car. There are currently around 3.5 million [truck-driver-salary.org] professional truck drivers in the US, which is about 2% of the total work force. This doesn't count delivery vehicles such as FedEx, UPS, or USPS. Very soon this ~3% of the workforce will no longer be needed.

Q2: Are we already in this "10% is unneeded" situation?

Re:Hypothetical questions (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 7 months ago | (#45983195)

A: Reskilling. You see this constantly over the years. People's skill set becomes obsolete and they move on. If their skill set was brainless control (truck driving, digging with a backhoe, pushing buttons on a big machine, moving boxes around, then their reskilling is easy, they typically move to a different production line, or a different machine.

When they are a skilled trade which has gone then things are more difficult and they may elect to stay in the trade but using a different skill, e.g. the underwater maintenance crews I know have switched from being expert underwater welders to being expert ROV pilots.

Re:Hypothetical questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983507)

A: Reskilling. You see this constantly over the years. People's skill set becomes obsolete and they move on

That's only an answer if there are other jobs that need to be done. People "move on" to new careers because there are new careers to move into.

At some point, that ceases to be true, and the workforce exceeds the useful work to be done. When that happens, you can't tell the electrical engineer to learn civil engineering, because there's no need for more civil engineers. The underwater welders could learn to be ROV pilots, but there would be no point, because all of the world's needs for ROV pilots are already met.

There will come a time when there are more children born on earth than there are jobs that need humans doing them. There will always be things people can do, but not necessarily things that anyone will pay them to do. Additional economic needs can't just be willed into existence. There's a defined supply of money and a defined level of income needed to support a human life. You can tell all of those unemployed masses to work on inventing a new economic need, but who's going to pay for it and how are they going to feed themselves while doing it?

Do we then enforce strict population controls so we don't have to deal with it? Force employers to create unneeded jobs, reducing efficiency but eliminating involuntary unemployment? Commit as a society to guaranteeing everyone basic living expenses so that employment is voluntary? Or simply let people die homeless and starving in the streets because society has no use for them?

It's a question we're going to face, and it's already started. The number of unfilled jobs is already smaller than the number of people looking for jobs. Improving the efficiency of the job search or retraining people to fit the needs to fill those slots is only going to hasten that day, not slow it.

Re:Hypothetical questions (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 7 months ago | (#45983203)

Needs are not fixed. I have access to all sorts of things that I didn't even know I wanted when I was growing up. (like the internet). So it is possible to keep everyone employed as productivity increases. (Until I have my own planet terraformed the way I want, I can make use of more total productivity - and by then I may think of more things I want).

That said, I think there is a different problem. If automation can do a job more cheaply than a worker, it is likely to replace that worker. As automation improves it may gradually eliminate jobs. This might seem great - a life of universal leisure, but at least with our current economic system the automation will be OWNED by someone and will work for them, not for the great masses of unemployed.

Re:Hypothetical questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983273)

So far the economic deathspiral predicted by Karl Marx has been avoided several times as whole new industries have risen from the ashes of the previous stage. That has created the illusion of inevitability of business cycles: after the economy bottoms out, a period of growth will follow.

Nobody can tell if the current industry implosion will be followed by yet another explosion keeping the population in the workforce. Too early to throw in the towel, but at the same time, the politicians had better hone their economic theories and get prepared for systemic changes to the sink-of-swim capitalism.

Unfortunately, the politicians have neither the education (they are lawyers) nor the inclination (they were made rich by the status quo) to occupy their minds with anything of the kind. So there's a significant risk of the U.S. ending up like Syria down the road.

Re:Hypothetical questions - In the military too (2)

OnTheEdge (136784) | about 7 months ago | (#45983287)

Great question.

I heard in one of the presidential speeches that the need for foot solders is waning and more highly trained technical personnel is waxing.

So, to take your hypothetical question even further . . . what happens when 20% or even 50% of the workforce is no longer needed to produce what we all need to survive or even thrive? How do the economics work out then?

Re:Hypothetical questions (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 months ago | (#45983467)

What happens to the unneeded 10% workforce?

Soylent Green

Re:Hypothetical questions (1)

Solandri (704621) | about 7 months ago | (#45983499)

Given this data, here's a hypothetical question: Suppose efficiency grows so that the infrastructure could produce all the needs of the population using only 90% of the current workforce.

Q: What happens to the unneeded 10% workforce?

We passed that point long ago. Once a country's productivity advances past the point where it can fulfill everyone's needs, it starts fulfilling people's wants. That's why a huge chunk of our economy is devoted to TV shows, movies, music, fiction books, games, sports, fashion, tourism, recreational and leisure activities. None of those are necessary, but you can make a pretty good (in some cases damn good) living working in or in support of those industries.

The only way there can be insufficient jobs is if you don't pay workers enough to self-sustain the economy (i.e. people can't afford to pay what it costs to make), or you raise wages to the point where it's not cost-effective to produce those things (i.e. people aren't willing to pay what it costs to make). That's right, both conservatives and liberals are wrong. The best economic state happens when people are paid slightly less than the value of what they produce.

Re:Hypothetical questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983609)

The only way there can be insufficient jobs is if you don't pay workers enough to self-sustain the economy

We passed this point when Occupiers protested their empty wallets.

Re:Hypothetical questions (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983603)

The problem is that a large chunk of the increased productivity is gobbled up by wall street banks.
If that wasn't the case, there would be a basic salary for all for just being a citizen.

Re:Hypothetical questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983617)

This has happened before and will happen again. It were ever thus.

What happens to the unneeded 10% workforce? Historically, This is what happens:
Unemployment from Gilded Age -> Millions are killed in World War I, thus ending the labor surplus.
Unemployment from Great Depression -> Millions are killed in World War II, thus ending the labor surplus.

You see the pattern here? The unneeded 10% all die. Then the survivors move on. But nothing ever gets better for the non-survivors.

Re:Hypothetical questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983657)

Nations don't engage in Total War anymore. What do you propose, kill civilians with drones until economic recovery happens?

Labor laws need to be changed (3, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 7 months ago | (#45983111)

Corporate America is making a very clear statement. They will not hire Americans under these rules and we can't make them.

We need to really do a gut check on a lot of our labor policies, taxes, and regulations that effect labor prices in the US and... then ask ourselves if we'd rather keep the laws as they are and accept high levels of permanent structural unemployment... or if we're willing to compromise to get people into careers.

The whole issue is very politically charged. A gaggle of people might well respond to this post calling me names for suggesting compromise here. But the thing is labor policies are irrelevant to you if you don't have a job and can't get one.

So the labor policies are doing NOTHING for those people. Consider changing the laws so it actually helps them get and keep a job... and we'll actually be moving in a more positive direction.

Re:Labor laws need to be changed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983205)

You need to do a gut check on your education. What you said is true too but I don't think you realize how FUCKING DUMB the average American is. I tutored a kid once who couldn't graph y = x + 1. True story. He didn't get it. In high school. That kid ain't good for JACK SHIT under ANY labor laws. Corporate America hired me just fine. I wasn't even smart. I mostly drank in college. But I was a helluva lot smarter than this kid. Make a six fig job that only makes me work ten hours a day which like yea, "Corporations demand all of our time" but you just counter that by checking Facebook at work so it's all good. Learn basic math. Logic for that matter. Like, you know, common sense. And you will be fine for the next 30 years. When the robot uprising happens, I dunno. But your main problem is not automation. It's watching youtube for 6 hours a day and turning your brain to mush.

Re:Labor laws need to be changed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983375)

It's watching youtube for 6 hours a day and turning your brain to mush.

There are plenty of educational videos on YouTube. [youtube.com]

Re:Labor laws need to be changed (2)

guevera (2796207) | about 7 months ago | (#45983309)

Which labor laws are you talking about? Minimum wage/overtime? OSHA and worker's comp? SSI/SSDI/Medicare taxes? Sexual harrasment liability? I mean we've got something like 6% private sector union penetration. Unless you admit to firing someone because of their sex, race, religion, or in some states sexual orientation.... You sure seem pissed about something, but damn if I can figure out waht it is.

Questionable Numbers? (5, Informative)

artor3 (1344997) | about 7 months ago | (#45983113)

According to the BLS report from 2012 [bls.gov] , there were 295k electrical & electronic engineers, and an additional 80k computer hardware engineers, who aren't counted in the total for whatever reason.

According to the BLS report from 2002 [bls.gov] , there were 272k EEs and an additional 67k computer hardware engineers.

So that's a total of 375k in 2012 and 339k in 2002. If my math is right, that's a growth rate of 1% per year. The US population growth rate averaged over the last ten years is around 0.9%.

So what am I missing? Where is TFA getting their startling decline from?

Re:Questionable Numbers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983345)

Based on their talking about electrical engineers and consumer electronics, their arsehole.

Re:Questionable Numbers? (4, Informative)

Macman408 (1308925) | about 7 months ago | (#45983431)

Yeah, there's more too: Last year, there were 335k employed EEs with 3.4% unemployment, so about 347k EEs total. This year, there are 300k employed EEs with 4.8% unemployment, so about 315k EEs total. So by their numbers, sure, jobs declined by 10%, but the people looking for said work declined by 9% as well.

It's also worth noting that in their linked article from the year before, job numbers were up 25k; so the net from 2011 is a loss of 10k. Also, this variability makes me wonder if their method of counting is subject to a lot of noise, and we should be looking more at long-term average trends rather than year-to-year variability.

Why do you not move? (3, Interesting)

pablo_max (626328) | about 7 months ago | (#45983237)

Seriously, if there is hard to find work in your field, why not move? I don't mean move to Texas or Oregon, but move to Germany or the UK.
There are loads of engineering openings here in Germany and not enough Germans to fill them. If you are coming from the US to a German company, it is really easy to get a VISA.
Yes, I know not everyone can do so because of this or that reason, but a lot of people can.

Do not follow cheap manufacturing. Instead look to countries who spend loads of money on educating their young. Like Germany. It seems like such a basic concept that American politicians and much of the public do not understand; If you do not properly educate your population then eventually the country will collapse. No purely consumer based society is sustainable.

Re:Why do you not move? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983321)

Don't want to get raped by the TSA or jailed by the FBI, that's why. Homeland Security has been putting people of above-average-intelligence on No-Fly lists for years now. Anybody smart enough to leave the USA is smart enough to realize they're are at risk of being denied permission to travel.

Re:Why do you not move? (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 7 months ago | (#45983355)

Because those countries aren't exactly friendly towards americans (probably justified), even if their governments are. Plus most technology people simply cannot learn a whole new language at levels required for technical work. As it is,retraining for the jobs themselves is now getting close to a decade of expensive school, and now employers want bi and tri lingual abilities on top of that? Fuck that. People simply don't have enough time on this planet to 'educate' themselves enough to meet such crazy standards. Besides, why would anyone want to move to a country that educates their young to nth degrees when they'd just offer stiffer competition?

Set the barrier of entry high enough, and you'll have a tiny class of elites corralling a mob. I fail to see how that's beneficial for anyone.

Re:Why do you not move? (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 7 months ago | (#45983401)

I agree language is an issue, especially to learn it to a professional level (much harder than learning enough German to order in a restaurant). But in some countries you can get a job in English no problem. The UK, as you might guess, is such a country. Most engineering firms in Scandinavia are also happy to hire English-speakers.

Re:Why do you not move? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983419)

If Scandinavia is so wonderful, why did Linus Torvalds move to Oregon?

Re:Why do you not move? (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 7 months ago | (#45983423)

Finland isn't part of Scandinavia...

Re:Why do you not move? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983477)

Torvalds is a Swedish-speaking Finn.

Re:Why do you not move? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983575)

It partially is.

Linus is not an electrical engineer. He is a business man, software architect and leader of a world renowned software project. It makes sense for him to go to the US, where most of the decisions affecting his trade are being made.

This is the very definition of the hollowing out effect: highly specialized individuals and business leaders are being paid more, like the 3 million dollar Google engineer; meanwhile, the bulk of the workforce is paid less and driven to mcjobs - if any. I'll let you guess where Linus is positioned on this scale and and where you are.

Re:Why do you not move? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983709)

and and where you are.

Living in gnu/poverty?

Manufacturing Myth (1)

OnTheEdge (136784) | about 7 months ago | (#45983243)

" . . . just like America's manufacturing has been hollowed out by offshoring and globalization . . ." America's manufacturing "jobs" have been hollowed out more by our automation efforts than off-shoring and globalization. America's manufacturing output is up over the last couple of decades, but for every 100+ factory floor workers you now have a single highly trained technician watching over and tweaking the equipment.

Nothing of value was lost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983261)

Think of it this way: there are 35 thousand fewer people sending real work to China.

100% Unemployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983271)

is Change We Need. Yes We Can!

Re:100% Unemployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983551)

Let's community organize a total strike of the entire workforce! You there! Stop working!

different fields of engineering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983295)

Electrical engieneering is not the same as electronics engieneering, one works with cables and powerlines, other works with IC-s and PCB-s. These two fields are worlds apart. Why would anyone lump them together buggles my mind.

Not as much to do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983377)

Whether we're talking analog or digital, there are so many great PLD and system-on-chip solutions out there in the electronics realm that there really isn't that much electrical engineering that needs to be done these days.

Even for the discrete circuits, present theory and software are so robust that what used to be expert work has become technician work. Many of these things have reached the "bicycle stage," like most of Tesla's designs.

I think the only thing to reverse this trend would be a new ground-breaking discovery in physics... something with a practical application that would require new theories, new skills, new materials, and new software.

EE long in decline (4, Interesting)

Wansu (846) | about 7 months ago | (#45983411)

Thirty five years ago, there were at least 50,000 workers employed in electronics manufacturing in the RTP area of NC. I was one of them. I started as an assembler, then as a technician and later as a design engineer. During the 90s, most of these jobs quickly disappeared. Today, there a few small niche players left employing perhaps a few hundred workers. That's it.

I retrained as a software developer and successfully changed careers. It was difficult.

I'm not surprised to see reality check stories like this, particularly after being treated to incessant propaganda about shortages of STEM students over the past couple years. This shortage talk has been going on for decades. Yet, no actual shortages of engineers have materialized.

I blame arduino (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45983437)

People buy arduinos, and a shield, and all of a sudden they think they're EE's. Any moron can plug a few PCB's together and not know anything about how they work.

Try building something with a Z80 or 68000 and we'll talk.

Rejoice! (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about 7 months ago | (#45983639)

Shouldn't we be celebrating this as a triumph of capitalism. A 10% culling of the Electrical Engineering workforce will mean that the price of that labour can be driven down to near poverty levels for a skilled profession. Prices will fall and everyone will be happy.

Except the E.E's - but as long as we're ok, everything is good - but hey it can never happen to us, right?

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