Is there really a shortage of engineers?

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Questioning the accepted wisdom that an engineer shortage exists.

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One of the things we keep hearing again and again is the refrain about the dire shortage of engineers. I think this so-called shortage is a myth. Where are the statistics to back it up? Is there a real hiring crisis or not? The real answer is probably yes and no.

Yes, there is a shortage of some critical engineering talent in some sectors. Analog/linear and RF/microwave design engineers are good examples. Programming talent is also in high demand. Yet companies create their own shortages by so narrowly defining job openings that there is little hope of ever finding just the right mix of education and specific experience.

However, the answer may be no for other engineering categories. Are there huge numbers of engineers out of work? Maybe some, but they may be engineers who are dated in their knowledge and skills. Do we really need all those H1B visas to attract foreign engineers and programmers?

This purported shortage is creating another crisis in education. The general opinion is that we are not educating enough science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students to fill all those open and future positions. As a result there is an enormous number of programs in high schools, community colleges, and universities to recruit students for STEM jobs. And the students are not responding. They generally hate the rigor and geekiness of engineering.  

But what if we do start magically producing more STEM graduates? Fat chance that will happen, but if it does, will we be graduating students into a marketplace with few available jobs? That may be happening now given the continuing high unemployment rate. Who really knows?

Robert Charette, inhis article “The STEM Crisis Is a Myth” in the September issue of IEEE Spectrum, says there is no looming shortfall of STEM workers. He backs it up with some facts and figures. If this topic interests you, by all means take a look. I agree with his assessment, and you may too after reading it.

By my own barometer, there are some shortages in unique specialties of engineering, but not an overall shortage crisis. I do see a real shortage of skilled technology workers like manufacturing techs, machinists, repairmen, and installers. There are indeed jobs going unfilled simply because the youth of today just are not interested in such blue collar jobs.

Our millennials (generation Y, ages roughly 15 to 29) are enamored of technology and are heavy users, but they have no interest in learning the math and science required to fill such jobs. Even the military rejects about 30% of applicants because of their poor math and science knowledge. How do we solve this problem?

Discuss this Blog Entry 29

on Sep 17, 2013

Lou, the real reason for H-1B visas is currently to control the salaries of the natives. In my years working, I believe engineers' salaries have declined by more than 50% in inflation-adjusted dollars. In order to attain a BSEE, MSEE, PhDEE, requires much greater investment of education dollars and effort by a student (significantly more credit hours generally required, and lots harder studying, with very high attrition rates) than most other majors. By continuing to bring in imports to hold down salaries in a field that graduation comes at higher cost, the best and brightest of the students will find other more rewarding majors and work paths. We live in a world of supply and demand.
Recognize that the payback comes when those H1-Bs are sent back home with the inside engineering knowledge of what makes their prior employer great, and if they are in position to do so when the former employee becomes a key player in the new competitor from a low-labor-cost country.
I believe the short-term-profits strangle-hold that is on most companies' upper management and board rooms is, in this arena as well, choking the future out of U.S. corporations.

on Sep 18, 2013

I strongly agree with RWatkins. I am nearing the end of a 30 year career and have watched salaries decline while demand for lower paid, foreign born individuals has increased dramatically in a number of engineering disciplines. An acquaintance of mine founded a small tech company in Oregon 25 years ago that did well. I remember a discussion with him in the late 90's where he said he could not compete with off-shore companies unless he started farming out some engineering and software coding tasks to qualified personnel from the former Soviet Union that were willing to work for far less than Americans. I don't believe this practice is choking the future out of U.S. corporations. The corporations and their senior management will do just fine. It is the American middle class STEM workers that have a limited future. I have a 15 year old daughter that is a very strong student but I will not encourage her to follow in my footsteps. This cyclic declaration that there is a shortage of engineers is just a corporate ploy to depress salaries and keep a fresh supply of lower paid college grads to keep the pump primed. Our corporate culture no longer rewards the majority of engineers for their contributions to company success. This is not good for the middle class and not good for the future of our country but there is no political or corporate will to stem the tide.

on Sep 18, 2013

I'm a recent engineering graduate and I see it differently. I don't hold any ill will towards H-1B candidates and I welcome the competition. I strongly feel that we cannot excuse ourselves if foreign competition are more skilled. It is our job to get better at what we do, not to kick them out.

Regarding a 'shortage' of engineers, I don't know if a labor shortage can ever truly be proven. But I can find entry-level openings in my field at every major corporation in the software business that I can think of. The openings are there.

on Sep 22, 2013

I like the concept of level playing field. H1B is way for a company via lobbyist to make the playing field unlevel. They almost always pay these people significantly less.

on Sep 18, 2013

In the Philippines, there is no shortage of electronics engineers or technical personnel even if we are a third world country (in my opinion). However, I'm afraid that the degree of global competence ECEs are compromised.

on Sep 18, 2013

There is no shortage of engineers, but there is a shortage of "cheap" engineers.

on Sep 18, 2013

When companies say there is a shortage of engineers, they mean "who will work for minimum wage."

on Sep 18, 2013

I've heard this baloney for 50 years. The companies spread the myth so they can lay off older engineers and replace them with young cheap engineers whom the companies can easily manipulate. Engineers over 30 are not wanted; we won't work lots of unpaid overtime, we won't take crap from ignorant managers, and we want to be paid commensurate with our experience and talents.

on Sep 18, 2013

"The industry" has created and massively funded a mechanism to lobby heavily for more H-1B visas, here's how at least part of it works:

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21583996-americas-tech-tycoons-ar...

The millennials have every right to be frustrated and upset at the scope and magnitude of such campaigns to "race to the bottom" and to promote disinformation designed to drive down salaries, and ought to be seeking to hold such leaders accountable. Even in contract employment I'm seeing new tactics from clients that I don't recall seeing before, for example I heard the other day on behalf of a major defense contractor seeking technical help that the contract shall be required to remain in place even if the work available does not amount to more than four hours in a given week! And we also know that a resume submitted for direct employment will never reach the desk of the hiring manager if the applicant is over the age of 50, even though technically "age discrimination is illegal" to mention yet another difficult employment issue. The "bright spot" is that the younger engineers who decide to enter the field do seem to possess the required amount of skepticism to survive, and it will ultimately be up to them to find (hopefully democratic) ways to restore a better sense of balance in the industry, after all in the long run the law of supply and demand will prevail but there will likely be a lot of pain before that happens.

on Sep 18, 2013

The goal of most U.S. companies complaining about engineer shortages do not really want U.S. based engineers but rather use the complaint to influence law makers to increase H1B quotas. STEM is just a by-product of all this complaining.

The problem is that engineers here in the U.S. want salaries competitive with other white collar professionals. On the other hand, the primary goal of H1B candidates is to get into the country, so they are willing to forgo a competitive salary and benefits just for the opportunity. The H1B system works in the employer's favor by severely restricting the options H1B workers have once they are in the country to basically "take it or go back home." Until they are able to obtain permanent residence status, which is generally 3 years, they are captive workers. Once they attain permanent residence and are free to move about, they are no longer as desirable. It is for this reason that U.S. companies need a continuous supply of new H1B workers each year to refresh the supply of low cost engineers that is lost when they start desiring competitive wages.

on Sep 18, 2013

Lou, you have sidestepped one HUGE issue with this so-called engineering shortage. It is an economic truism that a labor shortages must result in wage increases. However what we see is the opposite. Inflation-adjusted engineering salaries have been stagnant (and indeed declining in some locales) for well over a decade. Job descriptions are being narrowed rather than broadened, benefits have been cut, willingness to retrain and relocate is virtually non-existent, and age discrimination is rampant. ALL of these point to a surplus rather than a shortage. The H-1B program is all about cheap labor and wage-busting. AND, here is the kicker, the young men and women coming out of high school are shunning the profession, not because it is geeky, but because they can so clearly see that it will not profit them to enter a profession in which the government is actively working with industry to suppress their future wages.

You want more engineers?! Pay them more! Problem solved.

on Sep 22, 2013

Couldn't agree more. You do not hear much about H1B for Doctors or Lawyers.

on Sep 18, 2013

While the above comments are true, I think they are far from the whole picture.

First, there is no job shortage for good engineers. There are a number of people with EE degrees (or not) that don't have current skills or don't think like an engineer or are primarily motivated by a paycheck (rather than the challenges). They are going to have a hard time finding work.

There is a shortage of good engineers. Ones that are self starters., Ones that understand the whole problem from fundamental principles through application to business model (value engineering, etc). They will always be in demand. I haven't had a day in 37 years where I didn't know what I was going to do that day, and most of it has been as a self-employed consultant.

Third, there are attitude issues with the gen Y. They have been raised on fast paced computer games and TV sound bytes and think a job should be non-stop excitement and challenge and that it is their right to spend at least 30 minutes of every hour on facebook (on the job). When the project gets to the debugging phase where it is boring grunt work and no excitement, the facebook time goes up or they just disappear.

Fourth, we are a greedy nation. All of us, but the higher up the food chain the greedier. I will never be convinced there is anyone on this planet who's abilities are worth $1,000,000 per year in compensation. That is an artifact of the dynamics our society has created, not the intrinsic value of the person's services. That mentality (on the part of top management and shareholders) drives the relentless push for low wages.

And finally, I said all of us. As long as there are people in the world who are hungry enough to do the job for less money, someone is getting paid too much. Why is it my birthright as an American to earn $xxxxx while it is the birthright of someone in, say, India, to earn 1/3 of that for doing the same work? Somewhere in between lies parody. Global communication and transportation are leveling that playing field some, but there are bumps along the way.

Unfortunately, it won't level the playing field for those at the top.

on Sep 18, 2013

There is truth in *everyone's* comments here. However I can offer an unbiased perspective because I WAS an H1-B when I came to the US, though I am now an American citizen.
There is NO QUESTION oldwhiteEE and the others are correct, the lobby to increase H1-B quotas is rooted in large corporations wanting cheap and malleable young engineers and excuses to dump older experienced engineers who are perceived as costing too much. We all know such companies are penny wise and pound foolish on this subject, we have all seen it. We have all seen young engineers flounder while in over their heads until an experienced colleague shows them how to solve it or outright bails them out.
H1-B quotas should NOT be increased. The program should be reserved for cases like mine where a job candidate has a unique background and combination of skills and experience not normally encountered. A (cheap) new graduate from India or China does not and wouldn't qualify under such restrictions if they were correctly enforced.
There is no shortage of engineers, only a manufactured shortage by these companies wanting cheap labour. Were there a real shortage the laws of supply and demand would rule, companies would be hiring any engineering talent they could find at premium salaries, and there would be little unemployment.
As for the comment by whelm, it IS the birthright of Americans to be paid more, BECAUSE THIS IS AMERICA. Competitive salary ranges in any country are determined by the nation's economic strength, size of economy, plus local factors. Paying a third world salary in the USA is disjoint. Need it be pointed out that engineering salaries in the world's most technologically advanced and innovative country should reflect that fact and be the highest.
It is the prime incentive for best and brightest from other parts of the world who can make significant contributions and technology advancements to come here.

on Sep 18, 2013

Recently there was an article in IEEE Spectrum that addresses many of the points of this article and commenters - see
http://spectrum.ieee.org/at-work/education/the-stem-crisis-is-a-myth

on Sep 18, 2013

Are there huge numbers of engineers out of work?
YES

Maybe some, but they may be engineers who are dated in their knowledge and skills.
Bull_Sh__t
Age discrimination is rampant in this industry. It has nothing to do with skills or knowledge. It all has to do with salary level and perception that having a younger engineering workforce is more hip and in tune with today's technology placing less value on experience. These companies will eventually pay the price for their shortsightedness.

on Sep 18, 2013

Ray, a couple of key points here.
1. The real dollar wage decline has been in progress for over thirty years.
2. Companies and managers want "head count" to show the investors, not quality and innovation, when it comes to engineering staff.

Consider carefully that for many companies, the signature of an engineer on a drawing, or his approval of a design, can easily mean $5M plus or minus. His unwillingness or powerlessness in addressing a not-ready-for-release system may easily cost the company $5M as well (in my case for a prior employer, the engineers were left out of the release of a system that in less than a year had over $5M/year warranty costs). Is empowering engineers to be engineers, and paying an engineer to be fast and accurate, as well as thorough, really that expensive? My experience has shown time and again that the worst nightmares are always created when quality engineers are shunned or ignored by management, especially when a senior engineer finds the treatment so repugnant as to leave the company. I have seen this situation many times in my years since school, and it almost always costs the company lots of money.

on Sep 18, 2013

Regarding math and students having no interests in learning math, it goes back to basic math skill set. If students didn't have good grasp on math fundamental, they lose interests quickly in studying engineering topics. As an adjunct teaching electronics, math, and IT at various colleges in the past 5 years, I noticed students understand math well usually excel in STEM subjects. It's not so much about knowing how to do advanced calculus or not. It's has to do with increase in analytical skills by understanding math theories well.

on Sep 18, 2013

whelm raises very good points. He speaks of engineers ". . . that understand the whole problem from fundamental principles through application to business model (value engineering, etc). . . . "

I was once approached by a very senior, white haired Electromagnetic Compatibility engineer on behalf of a California aviation firm , despite lacking a degree and a current security clearance. It didn't matter; the people they were finding who matched the (someone here said narrow) criteria of job descriptions *could not do the work.* I didn't respond, because I couldn't afford to live in Silicon valley. That may have been a mistake

I did end up a few years along sending his client equipment made by my (new) employer, though, and got a call one day from a product engineer at the California company claiming I'd verified operational (I had) a circuit that produced inverted and distorted timing pulses (it didn't). He just didn't know how to use an oscilloscope.

I believe our problem is not higher education, but that our educational system produces adults who often have no good mental foundation for learning. *I* built a “rail gun” (of sorts) in my bedroom when I was 12 and never took engineering courses nor earn a degree. Four years of college may be quicker and cheaper than forty years of experience, but whoever wants to learn, will learn where he can.

Teach STEM? Sure, but start in Grade School. Why? Ask people what happens when they drop a tennis ball onto a hard floor. Ask them what makes it fall. Then ask them what makes it come back up.

A lot of ten-year-olds know that, or can figure it out. A lot of adults don't, and can't.

I started working in EMC engineering [not the EMC Corporation kind] on retiring from the Army as an NCO, in 1983. I started at 25 percent more than I was asking for after I showed I could already do the work and almost doubled that in three years or so. The purchasing power of my wages has not increased since. LEAN Six Sigma, right? And full-time-engineer equivalents used wherever accountant-managers want to plug them in. That is another thread.

on Sep 18, 2013

For the record, here's a column I wrote in 2006: http://electronicdesign.com/analog/there-shortage-analog-engineers

on Sep 18, 2013

Cortland had a very good point -- PRACTICAL knowledge. My mantra on that is "Technical Hobbies are the new apprenticeships." I was an electronic experimenter and ham radio operator before college. Most of the guys I hung with in college were hams, and to some extent, still today. College has gotten even more theoretical today than when I was in school in the 1960s. I am currently taking technician updating courses at my wife's community college--she is a librarian there--employee discount. Two-year technology grads often get a job easier than a four-year engineering grads.

on Sep 18, 2013

Ham radio used to be a gateway to a technical career, but the human resources people who screen resumes today have no understanding and place no value on it. They simply scan resumes for keywords from the job requisition, with no inherent understanding of what the keywords even mean.

And a great many engineering schools have driven the ham radio clubs out of their buildings, since they place no value on it either.

on Sep 18, 2013

Ham radio used to be a gateway to a technical career, but the human resources people who screen resumes today have no understanding and place no value on it. They simply scan resumes for keywords from the job requisition, with no inherent understanding of what the keywords even mean.

And a great many engineering schools have driven the ham radio clubs out of their buildings, since they place no value on it either.

on Sep 19, 2013

I don't think there is any shortage of engineers. In fact there is no shortage of any kind of workers. But there is a huge discrepancy between US wages and third world wages. In some cases the ratio is 30:1. An assembly worker may make 0.2$ in a third world country vs $7 to $15 in USA. Engineers in India used to get paid less than $100 a month many years ago when typical salaries in USA were $1000 a month though lately the IT guys get about 40% of US wages but other types get perhaps 15% to 20%.
The difference in wages is not generally due to any superiority or better efficiency of US workers but it is mainly due to geography and sometimes because the US worker has better tools and high level of automation. A carpenter in India may use handsaw to cut lumber where as a US worker may use circular saw to cut 50 times as much but the Indian worker can produce similar output given the tools. The US cannot integrate itself into the global trade system without causing severe dislocations in its economy and employment until the wage discrepancies are greatly reduced. Part of the problem is greed. We like to get American wages but we will buy Chinese clothes and shoes because American clothes and shoes would cost 5 to 10 times or more. Our CEO's love to make millions and sometimes billion of dollars but they prefer third world workers and engineers. One bad thing about about this global trade is it does not hit everyone evenly, only those whose work can be outsourced or in the case of engineers, they can be replaced with imported engineers. Plumbers, lawyers, doctors, Auto repair mechanics haven't been affected.

on Sep 19, 2013

I agree with turboeclipse and oldwhiteEE. There is a lot of ageism that is going on here. I am not that old but actually I am in my forties. I do see a lot of that happened to many of colleagues and friends once they hit "the special age" of 55.
Forced early retirement! These idiot corporations only hire a lot of people out of military because of gov't tax savings and eliminate people who really have the expertise; thinking people of the military can be molded or they are good order followers. Or they hire the very young to save on salary.
These corporations need to think with their brains rather than their pockets. A successful and dynamic engineering team is a team that has both young, middle, and I like to say well seasoned and guru type engineers in them. The gurus (Old timers) are the informational base on real expertise; the middle
are the supervisors of young, and the young are the actual implementers; learning from the gurus. This is a well balanced team that will be successful. By eliminating gurus you are destroying the how to knowledge base that does not exist in books. By eliminating the middle you are destroying the supervisor and facilitating role to keep the unit together and cohesive; you negatively impact the cultural dynamic of the group. And by eliminating the young you eliminate the potential of innovation using the knowledge base of gurus and facilitator middles. Why do you think Apple is going down? Because all the Steve Jobs look a likes are just a shell of look a likes. With their black shirts and black jeans; thinking that if they wear clothes like Steve Jobs; some of Steve's vision would rub off on them and they can save Apple. B_ll Sh_T using turboeclipses own comments here. How shall I put it; We had a Steve Jobs in the arena of Computing and Consumer electronics; now he is gone. We do not need a look a like we need a person that is him or herself that is just as talented and visionary; but first he or she needs to have his own style and personality established. Get it!
Also, why just consumer electronics and computing; right now the US and for that matter the world should be looking for Steve Jobs type visionaries in every aspect of every industry sector and make them known at forefront. I don't hear any of this. All I hear in silicon valley is Smart phones industry: Samsung/Google vs. Apple. And everyone falling over themselves and bopping for positions as though they are the only game left for life. Again: B_ll Sh_t! Thanks Turbo. No one or no corprorative or gov'tal entity is even looking at innovations at this scale in other industrial sectors. Because Dumberer is leading the Dumber and they both think we are all dumbies. Bopping for position like bunch of hungry fish for low margins now that is not a sign of true innovation. Steve Jobs with all his talent was a solid revolutionary. But here is the question: where did the Evolutionary Talent went? Oh that's right the evolutionary talent is a result of team(s) not just the One. Teams of Steves or even betterthansteves; and the corporations are killing it. We as the human race may actually face our greatest challenge and never reach the next phases of progress but because of this will face extinction similar many other inhabitants of this planet. Darwin said evolution is inevitable; but he never disagreed that an evolutionary branch will never become extinct due to its limitations(whether environmental or synthetic in its nature).

Last comment: Everyone will remember Steve Jobs; no one will remember a Bill Gates.

Think about it. If you get this you are really thinking with your brain; if you don't get it well you have my sympathy already as you have already joined extinction.

on Sep 19, 2013

I agree with turboeclipse and oldwhiteEE. There is a lot of ageism that is going on here. I am not that old but actually I am in my forties. I do see a lot of that happened to many of colleagues and friends once they hit "the special age" of 55.
Forced early retirement! These idiot corporations only hire a lot of people out of military because of gov't tax savings and eliminate people who really have the expertise; thinking people of the military can be molded or they are good order followers. Or they hire the very young to save on salary.
These corporations need to think with their brains rather than their pockets. A successful and dynamic engineering team is a team that has both young, middle, and I like to say well seasoned and guru type engineers in them. The gurus (Old timers) are the informational base on real expertise; the middle
are the supervisors of young, and the young are the actual implementers; learning from the gurus. This is a well balanced team that will be successful. By eliminating gurus you are destroying the how to knowledge base that does not exist in books. By eliminating the middle you are destroying the supervisor and facilitating role to keep the unit together and cohesive; you negatively impact the cultural dynamic of the group. And by eliminating the young you eliminate the potential of innovation using the knowledge base of gurus and facilitator middles. Why do you think Apple is going down? Because all the Steve Jobs look a likes are just a shell of look a likes. With their black shirts and black jeans; thinking that if they wear clothes like Steve Jobs; some of Steve's vision would rub off on them and they can save Apple. B_ll Sh_T using turboeclipses own comments here. How shall I put it; We had a Steve Jobs in the arena of Computing and Consumer electronics; now he is gone. We do not need a look a like we need a person that is him or herself that is just as talented and visionary; but first he or she needs to have his own style and personality established. Get it!
Also, why just consumer electronics and computing; right now the US and for that matter the world should be looking for Steve Jobs type visionaries in every aspect of every industry sector and make them known at forefront. I don't hear any of this. All I hear in silicon valley is Smart phones industry: Samsung/Google vs. Apple. And everyone falling over themselves and bopping for positions as though they are the only game left for life. Again: B_ll Sh_t! Thanks Turbo. No one or no corprorative or gov'tal entity is even looking at innovations at this scale in other industrial sectors. Because Dumberer is leading the Dumber and they both think we are all dumbies. Bopping for position like bunch of hungry fish for low margins now that is not a sign of true innovation. Steve Jobs with all his talent was a solid revolutionary. But here is the question: where did the Evolutionary Talent went? Oh that's right the evolutionary talent is a result of team(s) not just the One. Teams of Steves or even betterthansteves; and the corporations are killing it. We as the human race may actually face our greatest challenge and never reach the next phases of progress but because of this will face extinction similar many other inhabitants of this planet. Darwin said evolution is inevitable; but he never disagreed that an evolutionary branch will never become extinct due to its limitations(whether environmental or synthetic in its nature).

Last comment: Everyone will remember Steve Jobs; no one will remember a Bill Gates.

Think about it. If you get this you are really thinking with your brain; if you don't get it well you have my sympathy already as you have already joined extinction.

on Sep 19, 2013

Give me a break. I can point to dozens of engineers that have excellent credentials who are now unemployed or marginally employed. There hasn't been a real shortage of engineers ever since they started laying off personnel to make the bottom line look better. Anytime you can contract back to the same company that laid you off while you are collecting severance should give you a clue. It's all about the money. If you REALLY want to solve the engineering so called crisis, then ante up.. You get what you pay for. As for me, If I had a project where I needed to deliver a solid product with near zero defects in a shortened engineering cycle, I'd rather have a small group of talented individuals near retirement, than attempt the same project with a whole flock of newbies. Next time this topic surfaces, what should be done is to analyze how many engineers are out of work but are fully capable of doing that work - just not at the entry level for new engineers.

on Sep 23, 2013

We've been hearing this so-called "engineer shortage" whine from company managers since the 1980s. It has been around for so long that now the media and politicians assume that the problem is real, without doing much homework (of course). Universities have jumped onto the bandwagon since they have a stake in it too - they're trying to sell engineering degrees.

In truth, there IS a shortage of engineers. A short look at the world’s needs and wants shows that engineers are needed to invent solutions to many problems. But it’s a contrived shortage brought about by corporate greed. In their efforts to pad their own pockets these businessmen out-sourced their engineering talent, driving down wages and quality and the engineering job market while allowing U.S. leadership in many disciplines to evaporate. These businessmen do not understand or care to understand the nuances of engineering. They view engineers as merely commodities, and make short-sighted plans that sacrifice company efficiency and reputation just to save a buck today. It’s odd that these businessmen view non-productive managers who wallow in pointless meetings and pie-in-the-sky flowcharts and financial spreadsheets as more important than engineers who create and produce their saleable products, but those businessmen control the money so they have the power.

It is no wonder that engineering program enrollment and graduation has been declining for years. People who are smart enough to go into engineering are also smart enough to see the shrunken job market and salaries, see how poorly engineers are perceived by society, and see their friends and parents struggle to find and keep employment. Couple that with the fantasy world that TV portrays about today’s opportunities elsewhere, and they have little incentive to pursue engineering.

There are plenty of unemployed and under-employed engineers available. But despite crying “shortage” companies make little attempt to interview, let alone hire, them. Non-technical managers and human resources personnel create unrealistic lists of “required” qualifications, practice age discrimination, and assume that any engineer who has been out of an engineering job for a few months is hopelessly obsolete. Few candidates can clear all of these hurdles, allowing these companies to manipulate their self-fulfilling prophecies.

The market is ripe for new companies to emerge from the sea of cast-off but well experienced engineers. But most engineers are focused upon technical issues instead of entrepreneurship. With no meaningful help from investment banks or the government our situation is unlikely to change. Wish I could offer constructive help, but thirty years of beating my head against this wall has only left me with a concussion.

on Sep 23, 2013

It's not just greed, it's also plain old-fashioned narcissism. The manager is given absolute authority and he of course delegates work to be performed to the technical people he believes are qualified to perform it. However this frequently results in the situation where the manager is not only not capable of assessing whether the completed work is done to adequate standards of quality, or even of determining that the work has BEEN completed, but even to tell with a degree of certainty that the work currently being performed is on behalf of the project assigned! Now no one would question that it would be appropriate for an individual to be at least taken aside and reprimanded if the work being performed were NOT on the behalf of the outfit paying his salary, but I've encountered MANY instances when he individual assigned to perform day-to-day supervision of the project was not in fact capable of making the aforementioned determination - and in some cases these folks had engineering degrees THEMSELVES, they'd just been away from it for too long. In an attempt to counteract this condition the management industry has created their own certificates (PMP etc.) so when this happens they're able to counter with "well look at all the certificates on my wall, I'm fully qualified AND empowered to make these decisions even if I AM wrong once in a great while!" Combine this with the multidisciplinary nature of technical projects nowadays (controls, circuits and software, frequently being merged with zero or inadequate project performance specifications) and it's really a bloody miracle projects ever get completed successfully at all - but just remember as an engineer you can never tell management anything they don't want to hear AND keep your job, that's "just the way it is". Small wonder these managers prefer dealing with immigrant engineers with tiny salaries and even smaller egos, whether or not they can get the job done!

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