The Dearth Delusion About Engineering Jobs

Last week’s Oregon confab between the US Secretary of State for Energy, various Deans of Engineering from top US universities and Intel CEO Paul Otellini produced the predictable response that the US should graduate more home-grown engineers.

It seems that, equally predictably, nothing was said about making engineering careers more attractive to young people.

And equally predictably, the argument was deployed that, each year, India and China graduate ten times more engineers than the USA.


And predictably again, bollox arguments were used:


One was that now is a ‘Sputnik moment’ when the USA wakes up to the fact that it is being technologically overtaken by foreign countries.


Another was that there are 300,000 – 400,000 unfilled engineering jobs in the US because of lack of engineers.


These arguments are bollox because:


Everyone knows the USA is not technologically inferior to China.


Everyone in the industry knows out of work engineers who can’t get jobs.


China’s numbers on engineering graduates are said to include car mechanics, according to the Wall Street Journal, while the majority of Chinese engineering graduates become bureaucrats.


The real problem the US and UK face was summed up neatly by the Wall Street Journal: ‘Some of the best engineers are not doing engineering, and some of the best potential engineers are not even studying engineering.’


That’s exactly it. Big Business doesn’t want to nurture engineers, it wants to exploit them.


While that attitude persists, people won’t take up engineering.



  1. @Cheese – if measured by the quality of startups, Taiwan is already ‘chip capital’. Obviously it’s going to take 20 years before these guys overtake Qualcomm or Broadcom but it’s happening.

  2. David, not discounting the “bollox quotient” of the conference, but perhaps the guys deserve an occasional benefit of doubt…
    There are out-of-work engineers in USA (and in the west in general) and there are vacancies too…because square pegs don’t fit round holes. Or because you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Sorry if that was too direct, but a 25 year old in India or China will do what a 45 year old out-of-job engineer in USA will not succeed in doing even if he is paid 4 times as much. I know it is difficult to come to terms with this reality – but lets not conclude that every out-of-job engineer in the west is a genius.
    Secondly, about the sputnik moment – I agree USA need not be worried – because they have the valley – the perennial sunflower attracting the best of the honeybees from the rest of the world – especially India and China. But, these guys could consider reversing the brain drain – and take technology business back with them. How long before Taiwan becomes the chip capital of the world? If nothing else, the Asian lions could buy up the smart tech companies..
    And thirdly, the world is flat and getting small. Sooner than we expect, geographical boundaries becomes less relevant – and this can help people everywhere. Costs are on the rise in Asia even as the west will be forced to rethink their socio-economic structures. Competence (knowledge, ability, passion) rather than a passport will (or should) dictate how much one should earn….

  3. “USA wakes up to the fact that it is being technologically overtaken by foreign countries”
    Amassing country the USA, I went there once, they still have top loading washing machines! I mean I haven’t seen one of those since I was about 3 years old and staying at my grans house.
    And all those funny cars you only see in the movies, well half of them have leaf spring suspension!! and the fuel economy from them, Well!! Its no wonder you don’t see them outside of USA, no one else would buy them.
    We have one US supplier to us, there spec sheets have a Key Points section, under which they like to write “Made in the USA” ha ha ha, there so funny! Outside of the USA that’s not considered a good thing.
    We in Europe and in the USA are buggered. Because China is actually focusing on getting this stuff right. While we are living off the legacy of our past. We think we are ahead and in charge, truth is we were, we are not any more. We will get poorer. We have no infrastructure to generate wealth and no social desire. Hence the riots in London last month. We expect to get stuff without putting any work in. This attitude is true from the poorest young people right up to the riches bankers

  4. I gained my Physics degree in the age when Fees were paid for and I even received an adequate grant to live on. I went into engineering because it was what I was interested in. Today with the prospect of a huge debt and very little reward from engineering. I’d have probably had my personality extracted and gone into accountancy.

  5. This article was spot on! Up through the mid-eighties, companies would nurture new engineers and make them a valuable asset to the company’s future growth. Then about the the time recruiting departments switched from “Personnel” to “Human Resources”, engineers (and others) became just so much dead meat, and the long-term focus was discarded.
    Now, companies mostly hire (preferably new and thus cheaper) talent for specialized niches — nothing of real interest to an engineer and nothing worthy of investment in an engineering degree.

  6. You’ll probably find they never had any in the first place

  7. I expect the deans were carefully selected from those which are grateful for Intel largesse, greg.

  8. Its just nauseating to continue to see Deans of Engineering schools fall into line behind this crap. How removed they are from the practice of engineering. Otellini, being the CEO, should know better, bust since he is an economist you could at least understand that he is retarded. As far as Chu goes he was just one of Obama’s academic elitist appointments. It should be of little surprise when you see no real engineers in the mix that you get these types of outcomes. But I find the Dean positions unacceptable. I want to remove each and every one of their testicles personally.

  9. It sounds like there is a need for some engineers to create some engineering co-ops. I would be interested.

  10. My “Sputnick moment” occurred when I noticed that, except for a few managers, no one I met at Intel PTD was over the age of 40.

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