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Reversing the Loss of Science and Engineering Careers 375

Posted by samzenpus
from the hiring-for-the-future dept.
walterbyrd writes "In response to the alleged shortages of qualified American engineers and technology professionals, numerous initiatives have been launched to boost interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers and to strengthen STEM education in the United States. Unfortunately, these programs have not proven successful, and many blame the laziness of modern students, the ineptitude of their teachers, poor parenting or, when there are no other excuses remaining, they may even jump to moral decay as a causative agent. However, the failure of STEM is because the very policies that created the shortages continue unabated. This is not a uniquely American problem. The best way to increase interest in STEM degrees is by making certain that STEM careers are actually viable."
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Reversing the Loss of Science and Engineering Careers

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  • by hambone142 (2551854) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:22PM (#39358957)
    I don't believe there is an engineering shortage in the U.S. If there were, engineer's wages would be increasing. They are not. I work for a very large computer company and wages have been pretty much stagnant for 10 years here. The real "problem" is there is a shortage of cheap engineers. Ones like those in India and China. US companies are hiring overseas like crazy and reducing employee count domestically.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:31PM (#39359059)

      this...

      The only way to get a raise these days is to company jump. Oh and watch out for the age barrier.

      If there were a real shortage wages would be increasing to make it more attractive and many older workers would not be passed over.

      Its not the late 90s anymore folks. You will have to make yourself stand out to be hired.

      • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:43PM (#39359179)

        Its not the late 90s anymore folks. You will have to make yourself stand out to be hired.

        Or, you can just do what today's smart kids are doing, and avoid the field altogether.

        It's actually a pretty good field if you're a people person, and really like schmoozing and sitting in meetings all day. You just have to struggle through all the hard engineering classes, get an MBA to go with it, then struggle your way through the first few years of work experience as an engineer while you develop your contacts and work your way into management, then work your way up the management ladder. The sky's the limit there; you can go all the way up to CEO if you're a really good schmoozer (though to be CEO of a really big company, you'll probably need a degree from a more prestigious university, but for the lesser companies this isn't necessary, any old MBA will do).

        But if you're a technical person, are not that great at chit-chatting and bullshitting with people while playing golf, don't like sitting in meetings all day, and actually like doing technical work, engineering's not a very good field.

        • by siphonophore (158996) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:45PM (#39359195)

          Geez, go work for a small company. I have about 1 hr of meetings per week and work with my hands (not just typing keys) daily.

          • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:27PM (#39359537)

            Way to miss the point. You're never going to get, working as an engineer at a small company, the kind of pay that you'd get as a middle manager at a large corporation. Plus, your career is over when you're 40; managers don't have to worry about that.

            Of course, the downside is that you do little of value and you sit in meetings all day when you're a manager, but so what? Bring your laptop/smartphone and play games and claim you're answering emails, and then enjoy the cash after work is over (while the engineers you supervise are still hard at work into the evening hours to meet the unrealistic deadlines you set).

            • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:06PM (#39359825) Homepage

              Plus, your career is over when you're 40

              I am on a team with 9 software engineers, not counting QE. 4 of the team members are definitely older than 40 (I believe one is now in his late 50s/early 60s even), and two others are in our mid-30s. No one is under 30.

              Then again, all the managers I've had here have been badasses who make huge contributions to getting good stuff out the door, too.

              • by reason (39714) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @04:39AM (#39362075)

                I think the parent comment's point in saying "your career is over when you're 40" is that at 40, you have reached the top of your career ladder unless you move into management (in a large corporation).

                I'm in science role, and at 38, have reached this point myself. I am in a large corporation, and have started the shift into management, though it isn't something I'm particularly good at or particularly enjoy. In the context of a large organisation, a 45 year old who has avoided management roles is likely to be perceived in some quarters as a failure, and may be first in line for redundancy when the next downturn hits.

            • by CodingHero (1545185) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:43PM (#39360739)
              Your posts of:

              Or, you can just do what today's smart kids are doing, and avoid the field altogether.

              and

              Way to miss the point. You're never going to get, working as an engineer at a small company, the kind of pay that you'd get as a middle manager at a large corporation. Plus, your career is over when you're 40; managers don't have to worry about that.

              Of course, the downside is that you do little of value and you sit in meetings all day when you're a manager, but so what? Bring your laptop/smartphone and play games and claim you're answering emails, and then enjoy the cash after work is over (while the engineers you supervise are still hard at work into the evening hours to meet the unrealistic deadlines you set).

              make me feel like you are an engineer who has somehow become embittered with the profession. I'm sure you have a reason you feel the way you do but I work as an engineer at a small company with around 20 other engineers and none of any age are nearly this cynical about it. As previous posts have mentioned, engineering classes are hard, there's no girls, and you probably will never get the respect you deserve from the rest of society, but we do it because we love it. To be successful as an engineer requires that you enjoy what you're doing. Once you stop enjoying it, then it's time to move on. Keep in mind here that "successful" does not necessarily equal "high pay" or "upper management" position; many would define it as having a job where they don't actually feel like they are going to work.

            • by thegarbz (1787294) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @03:20AM (#39361821)

              Way to miss the point. You're never going to get, working as an engineer at a small company, the kind of pay that you'd get as a middle manager at a large corporation. Plus, your career is over when you're 40

              Err what the? Actually all the engineers over 40 I know are private contractors, many have their own contracting firms with just one employee, themselves. Those guys are absolutely rolling in the cash. 25+ years experience in an industry, as long as your a chartered engineer or otherwise certified that's when you have literally limitless opportunities. You're a specialist? Even more so.

            • While I agree with your point about wage differences between management and engineers (or in my case, programmers) I think you're just being bitter here.

              Without proper management, most engineers would be inventing the wheel each and every day again. Or dreaming up solutions independantly that do not match up in the larger picture. Or would just be slacking off themselves because no one is applauding their work.

              Management does have a legitimate role, you know. Your failure to recognize this is probably your

    • by snotclot (836055) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:31PM (#39359061)
      Why study engineering?

      1) Hardest course loads through college (excepting perhaps hard sciences and premeds).

      2) No girls in classes (5-14%, falls as engineering major gets harder (ie electrical))

      3) No girls in companies you will end up working at

      4) Facebook friends list is 80% men, most of friends are men. Great if you are networking, crappy if you are trying to network to find the perfect gf/wife. Other majors make balanced set of friends naturally through classes. Their networking, as a result, is exponentially easier.

      5) You end up working at a multinational company that pays you less (much less) than finance, law, BUSINESS. Argh. Note that business, finance, and law types went through the OPPOSITE of #1-#4, meaning they end up knowing way more girls, earning more, and having had a better life.

      6) Yet, you feel as if you contribute way more to society than money movers, patent leeching lawyers, and smoothtalking male/female bimbos/bimbettes.

      You tell ME how f*** up engineering is.

      You ask why I do it? Because I love analysis, creating, designing, and doing.
      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        You forgot the work is boring. Who wants to do a boring job? Good thing I can stream RT.com or radio or audiobooks to take my mind off the mind-numbingly dull work. I tell my family the more boring the job, the more you get paid, because few others want to do it.

        By the way my pay has gone up. It's about 2.3 times larger than in 2001, though it requires moving around the country (no settling-down and raising a family). I'm surprised to hear people say their pay has stagnated.

        >>>Facebook friends

        • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:34PM (#39359585)

          By the way my pay has gone up. It's about 2.3 times larger than in 2001, though it requires moving around the country (no settling-down and raising a family). I'm surprised to hear people say their pay has stagnated.

          It has stagnated. After about 10 years of experience, a typical engineer's pay is frozen. You managed to mitigate that to a certain extent by making certain sacrifices, namely probably being a contractor and moving around a lot. Companies, with their shitty management, are constantly becoming desperate to build headcount for some project or another, so they'll hire a bunch of contractors for 6-12 months to work on that project and then get rid of them. The pay can be very good, plus you don't have that problem where you're pushed to work unpaid overtime to meet unrealistic deadlines (or, if you do work overtime, you get 1.5x pay, so you can really make bank), but the downside is that you're a hired gun with no real roots anywhere and you can't have a family, as you said. The managers you work for don't have this problem; they get to go home at 5PM to their nice house (which you could afford with your pay, but you'd be stupid to buy because you probably won't be living in that city in 2 years) and their family, while you go back to your efficiency apartment or residence inn and play with yourself.

          Aside - Someone actually *criticized* me because most of my facebook friends are girls.

          There's freaks and mental cases anywhere you go. You have to learn to ignore them.

          • By the way my pay has gone up. It's about 2.3 times larger than in 2001, though it requires moving around the country (no settling-down and raising a family). I'm surprised to hear people say their pay has stagnated

            It has stagnated. After about 10 years of experience, a typical engineer's pay is frozen

            If your income has stagnated after 10 years of experience, the root cause is that you have stagnated your own career

            In Engineering, as well as in Computing (and most other fields of Science) every single day there are new developments, new things, new discoveries

            If one works in 2012 but still having the knowledge and skill-set of 2002, please tell us how you expect others to pay you salary increases?

        • by sconeu (64226) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:37PM (#39359613) Homepage Journal

          You went to Surf City Tech?

      • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:58PM (#39359291)

        3) No girls in companies you will end up working at

        This isn't true. It depends on the company of course, but in my experience, at the large companies (like Intel), there's tons of women.

        However, 1) all the women in engineering are married, and most of those in arranged marriages (i.e., if you're a white male, you're not even eligible to date them even if they were single; big culture barrier). 2) the rest of the women are in HR, marketing, finance, etc. So you'll see them occasionally in the hallway, or in the company cafeteria, but you won't see them much in your work areas or even your wing of the building. Heck, they might all be in a separate building.

        At the small companies, there might be a few women, but they'll be older and married, and working as the HR person or receptionist or the owner's wife (yes, this was a real position at my first company; I'm not sure what her official title was). That's if you're lucky, lots of small companies don't have any women at all.

        4) Facebook friends list is 80% men, most of friends are men. Great if you are networking, crappy if you are trying to network to find the perfect gf/wife.

        Exactly right. IME, if you're an engineering major, you better make some time in your busy college schedule to find a wife before you graduate. It's just like how people used to say women went to college to get their "MRS degree", except these days it's reversed as there's more girls in college these days than boys. Make sure you pick well and don't get stuck with a girlfriend you end up breaking up with after you've left college and entered the workforce, because suddenly your choices of available single women has dried up.

        6) Yet, you feel as if you contribute way more to society than money movers, patent leeching lawyers, and smoothtalking male/female bimbos/bimbettes.

        Totally disagree. This one completely depends on luck, and maybe a little on your own choices. If you go to a big multinational (since the pay is generally better), chances are very good that whatever project you're working on will be shitcanned because it was a crappy copy of a competitor's product, or it wasn't well planned, or they screwed up execution and "missed the market window", or there was a competing project within the company that got chosen instead, etc. Even if it does get out the door, how well it succeeds in the market is anyone's guess; it might be the next iPhone or Facebook, or it might be the next OS/2, or it might be the next Pontiac Aztek. If you end up working on some revolutionary product that becomes a giant hit and changes the world, count yourself lucky. It's quite likely you'll waste your entire career doing nothing of real note, and nothing you worked on will be remembered by anyone.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by siphonophore (158996)

        +1 Cathartic

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, but when your girlfriend is as much an engineer as you, LIFE ROCKS!

      • by loufoque (1400831)

        Some people value science and engineering more than girls.

        It's quite more fulfilling to engineer something than to have sex with a shallow woman.

      • Seems like most of those problems can be solved through engineering. A sexbot. For mankind.
      • by Corporate T00l (244210) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:25PM (#39359519) Journal

        Your #1-4 do certainly match my experience. Your point #5 though doesn't seem to be borne out by the facts.

        The notion that engineering majors make less than finance and business majors isn't borne out by the statistics. Law is an unfair comparison since that's an additional 3 years of expensive professional degree tuition, although their new-graduate employment numbers aren't doing that great.

        Let's compare stats. Here we have have an undergraduate business program, hyped as being in the top 20 undergraduate business programs (pay close attention to the mean base salary and % employment numbers):

        http://dyson.cornell.edu/undergrad/careers.php#placement [cornell.edu]

        Here we have an undergraduate engineering program, also hyped as being highly ranked, at the same university, for the same year:

        Computer Science: http://www.engineering.cornell.edu/resources/career_services/students/statistics/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=78827 [cornell.edu]

        Electrical Engineering: http://www.engineering.cornell.edu/resources/career_services/students/statistics/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=78828 [cornell.edu]

        Now, the business degree majors do have their data updated for 2011, the engineers are only at 2010, but take a look at the 8 year trend reports to satisfy yourself that the numbers are relatively stable:

        http://www.engineering.cornell.edu/resources/career_services/students/statistics/postgrad_reports.cfm [cornell.edu]

        Undergrad CS majors are making 28% more than the undergrad business majors. Electrical engineers are not doing as well as the CS majors, but still better than the business majors.

        The majority of business majors end up in just as boring and dead-end jobs as the majority of other majors. You can't look at the high-flying business and finance guys on Wall Street and think that those guys are "typical" for business majors any more than you can look at Bill Gates, Gordon Moore, or any of a whole range of tech company CEOs and execs, and think that they are typical engineers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by trout007 (975317)

        This is really a symptom of our monetary system. With the federal reserve and fiat fractional reserve banking system you can make more money in finance because you can literally create money. It's no wonder the people given the privilege of making money by flipping bits on a computer are rich. In a hard money 100% reserve system the miners and mints would create the money. These are engineers and techs.

        The system we have now is designed to steal wealth from productive people and transfer it to the privilege

        • by kikito (971480)

          "They will always be rich."

          Historically, this is not what happens. The differences between rich and poor increase over time. When the differences are big enough, the majority of poor rebels and kills the minority of rich (which have paid armies on their side, so it is usually a bloodbath).

          Then the few people that remain says "we'll do it better this time!" and they start the cycle again.

      • by rwa2 (4391) * on Thursday March 15, 2012 @03:52AM (#39361901) Homepage Journal

        Why study engineering?
        1) Hardest course loads through college (excepting perhaps hard sciences and premeds).

        Yep, I enjoyed the challenge. Actually took quite a few extra honors options that I didn't technically need to, and enrolled in a bunch of pretty difficult electives for the heck of it. Yes, I also failed / withdrew / incompleted some of them... over a few rough semesters I managed to collect one of every possible grade... but really, where else can you explore your limits? I didn't get into a hard school just to try to skirt by with the bare minimum easy classes and avoid all the challenging courses and professors. Besides, no one has ever asked for a transcript (maybe if I went the academic route grades would be important)

        2) No girls in classes (5-14%, falls as engineering major gets harder (ie electrical))

        Wish this would increase... but at least the girls that are there can be super nerdy++, which is a turn-on for some of us . Besides, this is a plus if you already have a gf from HS like I did. Can be tricky, since you can't really count on girls and relationships to mature until after college. I suppose I lucked out (esp. since my gf/wife ended up financing my last semester of college).

        But yeah, unless you get lucky with project teams, chances of finding love on the engineering quad are slim. However, a lot of our professional engineering societies were pretty much run almost exclusively by women... even the Society of Women Engineers wasn't sexist about letting guys join in if you get really desperate. Also, there are usually plenty of girls in classes / clubs like ballroom dancing who dig science / engineering types (particularly the foreign girls)... because face it, you don't really want to be talking to your gf about problem sets all the time.

        3) No girls in companies you will end up working at

        Given how much trouble people get into for shitting where they eat, this is probably a plus.

        4) Facebook friends list is 80% men, most of friends are men. Great if you are networking, crappy if you are trying to network to find the perfect gf/wife. Other majors make balanced set of friends naturally through classes. Their networking, as a result, is exponentially easier.

        Get a gf/wife in education, then their social sphere is the exact opposite, and you have achieved balance. Plus then your SO can have all her hot teacher friends over and you can impress them with your... whatever. (Teacher friends are easily impressed, or at least do a great job being super friendly about it even if they aren't.) Also you get to constantly play hookup master with all of your respective friends. (not recommended with friends you want to keep, but entertaining nonetheless)

        5) You end up working at a multinational company that pays you less (much less) than finance, law, BUSINESS. Argh. Note that business, finance, and law types went through the OPPOSITE of #1-#4, meaning they end up knowing way more girls, earning more, and having had a better life.

        Yeah, but those people are sleazy looking. Also you feel better when you find out they're all indirect overhead and the first on the chopping block when it's time to tighten belts.

        6) Yet, you feel as if you contribute way more to society than money movers, patent leeching lawyers, and smoothtalking male/female bimbos/bimbettes.

        Heh, yeah, people who make money out of money are in it just as long as other people buy into their bluff. But when it hits the fan, the resourceful ones with the ability will still be... working. Woo. At least it's something that will always have value, and not just evaporate.

        You tell ME how f*** up engineering is.
        You ask why I do it? Because I love analysis, creating, designing, and doing.

        And some people's life goal is to be able to go shopping on som

    • Mod parent up. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:35PM (#39359109)

      If there really was a shortage then wages would rise.
      Rising wages mean more people try to get into that field.
      We're still hearing about the "shortage" but wages aren't going up.

      Instead, there are a lot of companies lobbying Congress for changes in the H-1B visa program to get more cheap engineers from overseas.

      It's about profits. Not a shortage of engineers.

    • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:57PM (#39359279) Journal

      There's certainly a shortage of engineers that are US citizens. If your small company can't afford the lawyering for H1-B, greencard, etc, it can really suck to find anyone remotely qualified.

      And at least in software, once you have 5+ years of experience, the field does pay pretty nicely (as long as you keep your skills up to date!). But junior engineers are so much easier to hire abroad for next to nothing, so it sucks to be a US college grad unless you're in the top few % of talent such that the top few % of companies will hire you (Google et al have the budget to overpay for new college grads, and can keep them long enough to benefit from training them - not true of most companies.)

      Back in the days when people actually stayed at companies for a long time (and loyalty went both ways), it was an easy sell to management to take the loss in hiring a junior engineer and training them up, because both the company and the employee would be around long enough to recoup that loss. But now neither is true - unless you have a name like Google, a junior engineer will likely leave as soon as he's not junior, and even if he doesn't there's a good chance the company will go under or be acquired.

      I know it's fashionable to blame the evil corporations for everything, but realistically there's been a structural change in the industry that it hasn't adapted to yet - there's not a model to follow yet! It has always been the successful leading companies in the field that took the hit in training the majority of junior engineers, but today those leaders only do that for a very small slice of top talent, and no one has filled that gap.

      And the fair result may be that being a junior engineer just pays crap, because you're competing in a global market. I think a lot of engineers would be OK with that if US companies would actually make low-wage job offers to US citizens, instead of just blindly looking abroad. Heck, my first development job paid significantly less than a "fresher" in India makes, and I got by! But companies don't seem to do that.

      Even so, you're still much more likely to find employment with a degree with "engineer" in its name than a degree with "studies" in its name.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It's called labor arbitrage, seeking an absolute advantage in labor costs. There aren't that many incentives for a career in STEM fields. These observations are from the SF Bay Area. My friends engineering company started new engineers (EE) out at $40k. Landscapers, maids, postmen, garbage collectors and road crews all make more (get paid for overtime) and they aren't trying to pay off student loans.
      • by tjb (226873)

        Where in the bay area do they pay engineers $40k/yr? Where I work, we start our juniors at twice that and we aren't even considered a particularly well paying organization...

    • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:11PM (#39359405)

      Other than the richest 0.1% of the population who is seeing wage increases these days? It's called the wage productivity gap and basically, everyone who isn't running companies is getting screwed, it's not just engineers. The wealthiest 1%, 0.1% and 0.01% are getting wage increases sure (though more the top 0.1% than 1%, but anyway)

      http://currydemocrats.org/in_perspective/american_pie.html from 2007 and obviously slightly biased but it has a couple of good figures on it. Pay since about 1988 has been significantly decoupling from productivity, and where has it been going? Right, not to the people at the bottom.

      Therein lies the crux of all of the problem for people who aren't in the upper class in the US (and to a lesser extent everywhere else). If you worked more productively you would get more money, but not so much anymore, since someone else will work for less.

      Engineering, and CS are still good programmes (yes, english spelling) to be in, since you still get more money than other fields generally. The other sciences are sort of a crap shoot, if you can't get a PhD, or can't get a technician job they're really bad to have done, but otherwise they can work out ok. The problem is that a construction worker with no education past highschool will make as much as a degree in biology or physics will during say, a post doc, and the scientists will have needed 10 years to get to that point, where the construction worker starts out close to that.

    • of people with Masters in Engineering willing to work for $40k/yr. I guess that qualifies as a shortage. Still, doesn't matter. Engineers are primarily anti-union with libertarian leanings. You know, there's a reason the Lawyers have a Bar you know? Same for the doctor's Union, whoops, I mean AMA. The only way things will get better for US engineers is by banding together as single issue voters. No more giving a flying fsck if some welfare queen is getting by on tax dollars or having an abortion. You've got
    • by jank1887 (815982) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @11:52PM (#39361077)

      sure I'm gonna burn some karma here, but I'm always entertained by the fact that when articles mention science and engineering, the majority of the comments are about computers, software and IT. That is but a small subset of engineering (well, if you consider IT part of it at all). The majority of engineering deals in some way with the physical world. And they've generally fared much better in the economic downturn (I've seen numbers ranging from a third to a half of the general unemployment rate), mainly because of the 'shortage'. or, at least, lack of excess.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Benaiah (851593)

      You should check out the Hays salary guide for Australian engineers. An Senior Engineer commands a $200K salary over here, and as you can guess we have record numbers of engineers at university.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:26PM (#39358991) Homepage

    SEED is similarly not of interest to the average college student.

    Once we start programs promoting BUD, then we'll see some results.

  • Looking back... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anubis IV (1279820) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:29PM (#39359029)

    Don't the booms in STEM careers seem to come around times when the regular person finds more interest in them? Make them interesting again and people will flock to them. Glorify worthless endeavors and people will flock to those. How many children chose to go into engineering fields because of the space race? I'm betting a lot. How many today are instead following in the footsteps of modern celebrities and other people and groups that the media puts on a pedestal?

    Maybe STEM just needs to be cool to Regular Joe again.

    </mini soap box>

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by darenw (74015)

      I've always been fascinated by that time in the mid-20th Century known as the Space Age. The public was excited about "atomic power" as it was known then, breaking the sound barrier, the moon race, and all that. That, and certain strands of modern art combined to make architectural elements echoing the themes of space and atomic/nuclear physics - orbits, star shapes, etc. These memes escaped their birthnests and could be found all over - restaurants, gas stations, signage, furniture, etc. Regular Joes

  • by siphonophore (158996) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:31PM (#39359041)

    The problem with STEM jobs is that they involve actually doing things rather than directing them to be done: the lowest rung on the ladder. Nevermind that the skills required to perform these tasks are far more specialized and difficult to attain than those required by their managers. US students may have sensed that STEM careers are for suckers and are best outsourced; you need only compare the financial state of two equally intelligent 50-year-olds--a scientist and a businessman--to see why.

    Most STEM careers are not worth the effort in the US. The ones that are combine technical skills with entrepreneurship or pure luck.

    • by frisket (149522)

      The problem with STEM jobs is that they involve actually doing things rather than directing them to be done: the lowest rung on the ladder. Nevermind that the skills required to perform these tasks are far more specialized and difficult to attain than those required by their managers.

      Most management is actually an overhead, because they don't do anything productive. Some actually hinder the company from functioning properly. A few actually do the job productively, but not many, IMHO. If that was expressed in the company accounts, things would look very different.

  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:31PM (#39359043)

    who are truly passionate about it, whats your incentive? average pay? 40 18+ hour days with no days off? spending weeks at a time away from home and family while being anally examined by a customer?

    who doesn't want a part of that?

  • by decora (1710862) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:32PM (#39359065) Journal

    every article written about 'the decline of american labor x' needs to wake up and realize that 'american labor x' ceased to have meaning when corporations became globalized. NYSE is not the New York Stock Exchange. it is NYSE-Euronext, with its tentacles in pies all over the world. They can have their headquarters anywhere. Companies like IBM are not 'American Companies'. They are companies that happen to have a lot of managers in the United States, but they really don't need to.

    There is only one 'STEM labor supply', and it covers the face of the Earth, and that is where corporations and governments get their labor from. We are all in the same boat. The only way to 'save American labor X' is to save global labor x, and that means fighting against corrupt, repressive governments like China, where STEM people are thrown in prison if they criticize the system.

    • The NYSE is still the NYSE because the EU nixed the merger.

      • Not exactly. NYSE is today NYSE-Euronext, this merger has been closed in 2007. Euronext itself was the merger of the Amsterdam, Brussel and Paris stock exchanges by the way.

        What has recently been canned is the acquisition of NYSE-Euronext by Deutsche Borse. In certain markets in the EU the resulting group would have had a too dominant position, so the EU competition authorities didn't authorize the deal.
    • by Guppy06 (410832) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:19PM (#39359467)

      Focusing on hiring Americans is as close to organized labor as we're going to get in my lifetime.

  • Supply and demand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jpobst (262199) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:32PM (#39359069)

    It's simple supply and demand.

    Anyone who is smart enough to do STEM is also smart enough to get an MBA for a lot less work, and have 10x the earnings potential.

    When CEO's making tens of millions say they can't find engineers, they really mean they can't find engineers for what they want to pay them. If you start paying engineers like executives, management, or sales, you'll have plenty of people stepping up.

    • by nomadic (141991)
      MBAs are a losing proposition except from the most elite schools. Executives/management get money only if they work their way up, and sales tends to pay lousy unless you are actually bringing in a lot of business.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:32PM (#39359071)

    I have a 4 year physics degree, with 3 years experience working in a III-V semiconductor research lab, and I've been trying to find a job in science and engineering for the past 3 months. The problem here is that there is a shortage of entry-mid level jobs. Everyone is looking for 5-10 years experience.

    • by c_jonescc (528041)
      I have a physics PhD with two postdocs (5 years total) at prestigious universities and am trying to find the right industry job, and it seems to me that a lot of companies are only hiring 22 year olds that they can pay less than $35k/year to.

      That's only half true to be honest. I have geographic limitations, and if those vanished there are plenty of interesting jobs. Are you sure there aren't for you also?
      • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:51PM (#39359717)

        Out of curiosity, what are your geographic limitations? For a lot of careers, you have to go where the jobs are, to a certain extent. Certain industries tend to congregate in certain geographic areas (not necessarily just one, many times there'll be several). So, for instance, if you want to be a petroleum engineer, there's certain places where there's a lot of those jobs available: Texas, Louisiana, Alaska, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, etc. So if you're dead-set on living in Maine because your family is there, you're simply not going to find a job, and you were stupid to choose that major. (I'm assuming there's no oil in Maine.)

        Similarly, many engineering professions only have a good supply of jobs in major metro areas. So if you're dead-set on living in Bumpkinville, Wyoming, because all your family is there, again, you're stupid to choose that major or to even go into college for a professional degree. You should have just skipped college and gone to work at the local feed-n-seed store or Piggly Wiggly.

        If you're dead-set on living in one specific place, you need to choose your profession around this limitation, and the industries available there. If that means working at the feed-n-seed because that's the only thing in that small town better than McDonald's, then you need to pursue that. But if you're really interested in working in a certain industry, you need to go where that industry is located, and give up on geographic limitations. Of course, there's middle ground; if the industry is only located in one place, then you either need to go there or find a different profession/major. But if the industry has many locations (like how electronics and software are big in Silicon Valley, RTP, Austin, Seattle, plus a bunch of other large metro areas), then even if you hate one of those places, you still have others to choose from and can afford to limit yourself to a certain extent.

    • by slew (2918) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:15PM (#39359439)

      In my experience, the problem you are observing with STEM career track is a systematic problem.

      Often the folks that are coming into industry from graduate or post-graduate university are looking for a job where they can apply their newly minted skills (let's call that a mid-entry job for argument's sake). Most managers in industry are looking for people that can help them work out problems and are willing to hire smart people and throw them on the job to learn (let's call that an entry-level job for argument's sake), or folks that can help them that are already skilled in the industry who already have lots of experience (let's call that a job for an highly experienced person). Which is basically what you have observed.

      Of course there are some jobs for folks that work on advanced projects that require more than entry level experience, but perhaps less than highly experience level. Maybe that is some type of "entry-mid" level job you might be interested in?

      Here's the dillema. If you were a hiring manager, would you promote someone that you've seen working on an entry-level basis for a few years to that new advanced project, or hire what we like to call a new-college-grad++ for that position? Well, I can tell you that NCG++ had better knock my socks off before I'd take the risk to hire that person over promoting someone that I know is a smart and a hard worker. That's because hiring new folks is really a crap shoot (sometimes you win, sometimes you lose). Also, if I hire the NCG++ from outside, an inside person that I might have promoted might decide to take off to another company and we'd lose the institutional knowledge that came with that person as they walk out the door to a competitor. As a result, some of these positions just aren't open to outside folks.

      Basically, it sounds like you are trying to "retrack" a STEM career from academia to industry. That's is one of the problems built into the system. Mid-career track in academia generally involves lots of publishing and research (which tends to be in one narrow area if you are only doing something for 3 years) where industry tends to value generalized knowledge or dotting "i's" and crossing "t's" on problems on its mid-career folks.

      The only advice I have is that if you want to re-track your career at mid-track, you need to get data points on your resume where it shows you can dot i's and cross t's and have lots of general field knowledge (not 2-years of papers in a very narrow area). If you don't you probably have to wait it out until you get 5-10 years of experience at something specific where you can qualify for a highly experienced job in that more narrow area on its own merit, or you can take an entry level job and hope to wow someone. Sometimes that works too. In most successful companies, it doesn't often matter at what level you are hired in, as long as the company lets the good people bubble-up (and most successful companies have this attribute in common). Good luck.

    • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:49PM (#39359691) Journal

      There's a lot of dishonesty in the job market. Qualified job seekers are rejected all the time.

      When an employer asks for 10 years of experience in 20 different languages, systems, applications, and platforms, that could say they don't want to hire anyone. They actually want to hire a cheap foreigner, or the boss's nephew, and are just going through the motions to satisfy the letter of EEOA requirements. They've already found their man, and just copied his resume to the job posting. If the position goes unfilled, then they can complain that there aren't enough qualified applicants no matter the real reason it wasn't filled. In a bigger company, there could be internal politicking going on, with one department using the hordes of hapless job applicants to send a message to other departments. It could also say they have to ask for that much so they aren't buried under resumes. Which of course happens because contrary to what they claim, there is in fact no shortage of qualified job seekers.

      To add to the fun, there are the head hunters throwing out bait, to harvest resumes.

      And job seekers are pressured to spin and exaggerate to the max without quite lying (wink, wink). Quite common for a good programmer to pick up a programming language quick, then apply for a job that asks for 10 years experience in it, and if hired, pull it off because as we all know, programming ability is not language specific.

      Another factor that shows there is no shortage of qualified people is that employers can demand that new hires "hit the ground running". In other words, applicants are expected to bone up on whatever specific technologies are wanted on their own time and dime, rather than spend a month training. Employers don't train people anymore. They've externalized that cost, and gotten away with it, demanding that schools and applicants do that. They complain bitterly that schools don't educate people right, which too often means they were educated instead of trained for a specific position. And they're quick to moan about the waste in spending money to train someone who is just going to leave them. Whether or not it's fair or appropriate, the job applicant is expected to come in already knowing many of the arcane specifics of whatever oddball setup they use.

      • by MattW (97290)

        Quite common for a good programmer to pick up a programming language quick, then apply for a job that asks for 10 years experience in it

        This is especially true when the language has only been out for 6. I'm sure everyone who has been around long enough remembers jobs that required 10 years of Java in 2001.

  • by Phantom Gremlin (161961) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:33PM (#39359087)

    The decline of engineering as a career in this country is primarily because of two groups: a) top management and b) government policies. MBAs control top management, lawyers control government. Nothing will change until and unless those two groups understand that things need to change.

    I'm not optimistic.

    • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:12PM (#39359417) Homepage
      The decline of engineering is primarily because of a structural problem; you need a finite number of them, and after a certain point more don't really do much (not criticizing engineering at all, that's how EVERY field works).
    • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:25PM (#39359969) Homepage

      I have to respectfully disagree. People hire people because of market opportunities. Market opportunities exist because you can make a profit. The more capable engineers are of building more useful things in less time, the more demand there will be for your services.

      I am seeing market opportunities for something new/better all the time; things I could even build on my own if I wasn't entirely too busy with work. Moreover, most times I've needed to hire someone in a situation where I was the hiring manager or if I was an engineer on a team in need, I can say that it has always been hard to find qualified people. I can only think of one time, ever, where there was a position and we passed on someone because of salary. (And I probably could have swung it to a hire, and I later regretted passing. I'd read too many articles like this and was convinced someone equally/nearly equally qualified would come along. Nope. Open position for 6+ months.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:34PM (#39359093)

    Simple answer. Almost all "hard science" is completely outsourced to other countries who can do code for pennies on the dollar compared to US hired. Need something done domestically? H-1Bs are easy to get with "secret requirements".

    For people heading to college, there is really only one lucrative major if one doesn't want to be in a tent at some Occupy convention with some sign asking where one's job is, waiting for the next Pike to give them a faceful of pepper spray. That would be law. If you can do programming or IT, you can sit through the classes, get your JD, pass the bar, and have yourself an actual profession, not a job. Law isn't going to be outsourced anytime soon.

    There are two ways to make money in the world: Make a bigger pie, or take a piece from someone else. The pie isn't getting any bigger in the US with zero technology advances, the fact that China kills any US industry that seems promising (solar? Hack the US companies, slurp up the trade secrets, then dump the panels for cheaper than they can be made. A PRC victory achieved), and the fact that the US politicians are more interested in "terrorists" and political infighting than actually doing anything to advance the countrey. So, might as well take your pie from others and make a living somehow, because we are in a phase of history of "everything has been invented", and this isn't going to change much for the next 20-30 years.

    I know this isn't something /. people want to hear, but you have to go where the money is, and both government and industry have their back turned any US-based engineering. So, you have to change and go with what makes the cash, and that's law.

    • by tempest69 (572798)

      There are two ways to make money in the world: Make a bigger pie, or take a piece from someone else. The pie isn't getting any bigger in the US with zero technology advances, the fact that China kills any US industry that seems promising (solar? Hack the US companies, slurp up the trade secrets, then dump the panels for cheaper than they can be made. A PRC victory achieved), and the fact that the US politicians are more interested in "terrorists" and political infighting than actually doing anything to adva

    • by orgenegro (1847962) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @09:25AM (#39363659) Journal
      This is far far from true. I am a lawyer, please look up the statistics for unemployment in law, particularly young lawyers, and the number of people that are finding that the job that they can find doesn't pay their loan debt. There is even outsourcing (on large document review projects). Most people who went into law are finding that the law school lied to them about their future career prospects. A very large percentage of people who went to law school end up regretting it. The career you want to be in is anything health related with the boomers aging. There are people with AA degrees that make more than I do.
  • by Tragek (772040) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:34PM (#39359105) Journal

    Being only a few hundred kilometres from major oil deposits, I see tonnes of people graduating from my institution with Petroleum engineering degrees. Do the majority of these people have a undying passion for the subject? Nope. The jobs are available, and they pay excellently, without having to risk fingers as a rig-pig. It's a smart choice.

    I would be curious though to see the employment rates across the US for degrees. Are there engineering degrees for which there is demand, and how does that break out of the overall statistics presented in the article.

  • Supply and demand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MetricT (128876) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:37PM (#39359141) Homepage

    I can't find someone who'll sell me a Corvette for $10. That must mean there's a Corvette shortage...

    The MBA's, pols, and lobbyists that run our society can't seem to understand that supply and demand applies to other people as well. If the reward for several years of grad school were equal to the risk and cost, you'd see more people in STEM. That's why they went into finance, because that's where the money was.

    When the scientists and engineers make more money than the MBA's running the company, I'll imaging you won't have any problem finding them. (And I have both a MBA from a top 25 school and 12 years in high-performance computer. Guess who makes more around here...)

    When you say something is unimportant, and yet treat it as unimportant, people are smart enough to see through that.

    • The MBA's, pols, and lobbyists that run our society can't seem to understand that supply and demand applies to other people as well.

      What makes you think they don't get it? They have all the incentive in the world to create a glut of engineers on the labor market, and who are personally on the hook for the costs of their training. (And there's even something for the bankers: student loans can't be discharged through bankruptcy in the U.S.)

  • by stanjo74 (922718) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:40PM (#39359157)
    Most jobs in a service economy are protected in some way by the government, with the exception of engineering jobs. Anything in medical, law, finance, accounting, etc. is protected from fierce international competition by local and federal rules and regulations.

    So, unless one's heart is really into it, why would anyone consider a career in engineering and science?

  • by ad454 (325846) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:56PM (#39359275)

    I work for a major semi-conductor company in Silicon Valley (California USA), and we have been desperately looking for talented micro-controller firmware software developers and/or hardware engineers that are proficient with wired data-link protocols (UART, SPI, I2C, 1-wire, ISO7816-3, etc.) for nearly a year, and offering a 6 figure salary.

    All of the applicants I came across, are either desktop/server developers that have no clue how to develop for a MCU with only a few kB of RAM and EEPROM, or an old school hardware engineer that is not familiar with the above mentioned wired data-link protocols.

    If anyone is interested, please send me a PM.

    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:09PM (#39359383)

      In my youth companies would hire a talented engineer out of school and have him work with an experienced designer in the field to develop skills in a technical specialty such as this, and hang on to him for dear life once the skills were developed. Now the idea is that these specialists are just spring up to meet need and can be let go the instance such needs are fulfilled.

      Well what happens is the skills don't get developed that way, and nobody is interested in going $100,000 in debt to get what amounts to be a temporary job.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ace37 (2302468)

        Rather than holding on for dear life, they could try giving the guy an unsolicited big raise when he's worth more money. Then he wouldn't be inclined to jump ship.

    • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:22PM (#39359495) Homepage
      Well heaven forbid you actually train someone to do it. That's why you can't find anybody, every company wants instant gratification with no work.
    • by russotto (537200) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:51PM (#39359721) Journal

      I work for a major semi-conductor company in Silicon Valley (California USA), and we have been desperately looking for talented micro-controller firmware software developers and/or hardware engineers that are proficient with wired data-link protocols (UART, SPI, I2C, 1-wire, ISO7816-3, etc.) for nearly a year, and offering a 6 figure salary.

      So find someone with a clue and maybe some experience in related areas (e.g. kernel or device driver development), and hire them. I've done microcontroller firmware and had to bit-bang both SPI and I2C, and neither one is rocket science; I learned on the job from the data sheets. Stop looking for the purple squirrel -- the candidate who has exactly the experience you need on the tools you use -- and start hiring people who have the basic skills. This is still difficult, but it's a lot less difficult than looking for the niche candidate who probably already has a job with your competition.

      (I'm on the wrong coast and am currently employed doing something else, sorry)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Stop looking for the purple squirrel -- the candidate who has exactly the experience you need on the tools you use

        THIS. I am capable of writing just about any type of software or firmware you can put in front of me - any of assembler, C/C++, Java, Scala/Clojure, Haskell, Python, etc., and steer my way around oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, JTAG units, ICEs, and so forth. Not only that, within 2-3 weeks of starting at a company I can be completely productive - writing code, documentation, code reviews, etc

    • by leftover (210560) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:53PM (#39359741) Homepage

      ad454 I believe you but think you are missing something. You, as the technical person, are not seeing any candidates because the generation who cut that technology with their own teeth are too old to get past HR.

      My experience spans the development of those protocols; there is a veritable museum's worth of 7816 prototypes in my basement; there are ARM, PIC and MSP430 projects-in-process in front of me right now and I would very much like a job as you describe. You would never even see my resume because I am sixty-something. Anyone who is not sixty-something would not have my experience. Anyone trained in 'software' now would have started with GUI toolkits and unlimited memory. Hardware people are using UML design leading to implementation in astonishingly capable programmable logic devices.

      Many of the posts above hit the nail on the head: the MBA managers deliberately under-value the contribution of engineering to their own wealth. They pretend that they somehow create wealth by having meetings. The same people use some of that money to buy politicians at all levels. They also write business textbooks to further solidify their dogma.

      Meh. I'll get off your lawn now.

      • by michael_cain (66650) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:38PM (#39360719) Journal

        You would never even see my resume because I am sixty-something.

        Very true, at least in part. There are currently good reasons for HR to quietly dispose of the resumes from people over about the age of 55. One is that they are part of a protected group -- so in the event of a sizable layoff, there would be a bunch of extra hoops to jump through to demonstrate that there was no discrimination against older workers. Note that the case law on this is generally that there doesn't have to be intent to discriminate, you're guilty even if it just worked out that way. Second is if your firm has health insurance benefits. Through no fault of their own, 55 is about the dividing line where degenerative diseases -- heart disease, cancer, strokes -- quit being unusual. Particularly at small firms, group premiums will increase sharply as you add older workers.

        For the second item, 33 of 34 OECD countries have figured out the answer -- single-payer health financing, or heavy regulation of the insurance companies so that the system functions as a virtual single-payer system. In that situation, hiring an older worker has the same effect on the firm's payments into the health care system as hiring a young worker. As a side effect -- US governments at all levels spend a bigger share of GDP on health care than almost all of the other OECD countries; but in the US that only pays for the elderly, the poor, and government employees (including the military and their dependents), while in the other 33 they manage to provide for the entire population.

    • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:02PM (#39359797)

      WTF? I2C and the like have been around for decades; I did I2C bit-banging on an MCU in college back in '95. The others aren't much different. The old-school HW engineers could easily figure that stuff out, these protocols are not complicated.

      Maybe your problem is you're too cheap. 6 figures in Silicon Valley is peanut pay. If you were in Nebraska or Tennessee or wherever, that'd be a very good salary, but that's nothing in SV. Any employee making that will have to commute 1-2 hours each way to find an affordable place to live.

  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:01PM (#39359305) Homepage
    The problem with STEM is the same problem with all white collar jobs: Our country and our planet just do not need nearly as many college-educated professionals as it produces. A lot of the entry-level (but previously somewhat lucrative grunt work) can now be done with computers, and ubiquitous communications networks quicken the work that does have to be done.

    STEM grads don't have it nearly as bad as architects or lawyers these days but I'm sure they'll get there.
  • by TheSync (5291) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:16PM (#39359441) Journal

    Top US college majors are 1) Business 2) Social sciences and history 3) Health professions and related clinical sciences 4) Education 5) Psychology 6) Visual and performing arts.

    How can one say that health fields are not a form of applied science? Business has a reasonable amount of math in terms of finance and there is plenty of statistics in business process management such as six-sigma. [wikipedia.org] Social sciences are of course a form of science, and even educators need to learn about the science of childhood development and scientific results about what works in the classroom.

    The truth is that there is a large demand for professional businesspeople, health professionals, and educators in the US.

    On the other hand, I think most people would not be studying social sciences, history, psychology, or art if these majors did not receive significant subsidy either directly from tax dollars in state schools or indirectly in government loans (that end up not getting paid off). If students had to pay the full way on these majors up front, they would pretty much vanish!

  • Passion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ocratato (2501012) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:22PM (#39359489)

    Most of these solutions seem to be getting the cart before the horse.

    Back in the early '70s, in Australia at least, you could get a university education almost for free. The result was that students studied what they had a passion for without worrying too much about what career they would end up with. The lucky ones got the careers they wanted, others with a real passion started businesses, and the rest ended up as teachers where they taught with that same passion.

    Now a universtiy education is so expensive that it must be carefully tailored to where the good paying jobs already are. The passion has been lost, and along with it the good teachers and the innovative engineers - like those that started Sun, HP, etc.

    Society has to put the investment back into education if it wants to get the rewards. Give the kids that education and they will go out and dream up new businesses that we cannot even begin to imagine.

  • by paleo2002 (1079697) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:37PM (#39359619)
    The government complains about a lack of scientists and engineers as it continues to cut funding to education across the board at the state and federal levels.

    K-12 schools can't afford to give their teachers cost-of-living raises or even hire new, competent teachers in some cases. Colleges are raising tuition year after year despite overcrowding because attendance is up but funding is down. Schools in general have trouble keeping their labs and equipment up to date due to budget cuts as well. Less money for science and math teachers leads to fewer students pursing science and math in college. This leads to fewer science/math professionals, including fewer good teachers. And so on . . .

    When a government begins attacking education - banning printing presses, burning books, defunding schools, demonizing teachers' unions - its because they want a stupid, docile populace. If you're raising sheep, don't expect to get anything more than wool out of them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JackPepper (1603563)

      Tax money spent on government education has more than doubled on a per pupil basis in the last 30 years.

      In K-12 education, no results have been seen since the customer, guardians, have no involvement in the pricing, i.e. tuition, pay. This leads to a lack of quality, since the customer is told to take the product, education, as is or pay an exorbitant amount of money, private schooling.

      Colleges are a mess due to the ridiculous subsidizing that occurs with their customer. The more customers the college gets

      • by strack (1051390)
        "Tax money spent on government education has more than doubled on a per pupil basis in the last 30 years." is that adjusted for inflation?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Teacher unions? Give me a break!

      Let me rant In the 1960's when my father got a big promotion and then could afford to take me out of the public school system and send me to a private elementary school, I experience first hand how much I was missing and how far behind I was in math and science courses. Thank God, for my sixth grade teacher, Ms. Barbara Lewis - who I hated at the time, but now I love - made me work every math problem until I got it correct – even if I had to miss recess. Now I am a Mech

  • by geohump (782273) <geohump.gmail@com> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:30PM (#39359995) Journal

    To revive STEM graduates here in the USA, Tell American Businesses to stop fucking around and re-hire all the 35 to 55 year old engineers they have been laying off.

    How about we take the CEO of each company that is complaining about not having enough engineering talent, stake them out spread eagled on the ground, and for every engineering position they have open, or for every engineering position they filled with an H1-B hire, we have an un-employed USA engineer who could have filled that position get a pair of steel toed boots and one free shot at that CEO's nuts?

    I realize that the unemployed engineers are getting the bad end of this deal, but it's the best I could do.

    You see, at the end of this the CEO may be terribly injured, but he's still rich. All the unemployed engineers will have is - still nothing. You want people to take the STEM path in college here in the USA? Show them that they will have a career path longer than 13 years!

  • by hrvatska (790627) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:58PM (#39360167)
    In years gone by, manufacturing plants employed a large proportion of STEM graduates in what was essentially manufacturing engineering. I used to know all sorts of engineers who worked in manufacturing plants that no longer exist in the US. And not just working in the plant, but also for the companies that manufactured the equipment that the manufacturers used to make their products. Most of those jobs went away in the '80s and '90s as manufacturing was off shored. I decided to go into a STEM field because of a low level technician job I as a young person. I went to work in the quality assurance lab of a local chemical manufacturer. In this job I got to work with chemical engineers. These guys were always willing to explain why different testing procedures were done and why we looked for various results. I was also encouraged to go to college and pursue a technical degree. I did. Across the US many communities had manufacturing plants and associated facilities that provided opportunities for young people to become exposed to people in STEM occupations. Not just exposure, but often the companies would pay tuition for technicians who were pursuing BS degrees part time. My first year at university pursuing a chemistry degree was paid for by a small chemical manufacturer. Did they have a job waiting for me? No, but they could write off my tuition because it was in a field related to their business. What kind of jobs are young people get exposed to today? Retail and service. Maybe construction. Manufacturing much less so. Who do they get as career role models? Everything but engineers. They're much more likely to run into some low level manager with a degree in business administration with a concentration in retail sales who is hoping to get their MBA and move up the company ladder. So that's what they do. When the US off shored its manufacturing, it exported more than just low skill jobs. It also exported the path by which many young people entered engineering.
  • by Wansu (846) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:27PM (#39360321)

    This is yet another attempt to talk up engineering careers. There ain't many young people buying it because they see what it takes and what they will make. They've been watching large companies laying off engineers by the tens of thousands in mid-career. They know wages have been stagnant for the past 2 decades. They're doing a cost benefit analysis and concluding that there is too much stick and not enough carrot.

  • Simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @12:32AM (#39361271)

    Instead of giving 700 billion to keep bank and finance types from going bankrupt and losing their jobs ( and creating a huge incentive to enter those fields), let them go belly up.

    Then those careers will not attract the smart people.

    For bonus points, have pure engineering and science programs to the tune of 100 billion per year.

  • Lack of motivation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by andyteleco (1090569) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @03:33AM (#39361861)
    I studied Telecommunication Engineering in Spain. It's one of the toughest degrees in the country, with an average time of just under 8 years to complete the courses (officially it's 5 years + 1 year for the Diploma Thesis).

    When I started my studies, the entry requirements were pretty high. You needed to bring very good grades from high school to get accepted, and lots of students applied lured by good job perspectives. Of course, a great number of the ones who got accepted fell out in the first years because they couldn't cope or simply because they realized they didn't like what they were doing, but the ones who finished did get pretty good jobs for local standards.

    However, in the last 15 years everything has turned upside down. Nowadays, an engineer barely makes more than a policeman or a regular public servant for example, funding for R&D (the thing which people are willing to do without thinking so much about the money) is being cut by every government that comes and young people simply don't see any benefit in spending so many years at University, specially when it's becoming more and more expensive to study and people have less and less money.

    In the last course, an old colleague who now works as an associate professor told me that only 25% of the places offered in our course were filled, so now virtually anyone who applies gets accepted. And a great number of the engineers who study in Spanish universities emigrate to other countries (now especially to Germany) desperate to get a decent job.

    I don't know it this has anything to do with what is happening in the US but I do know in other European countries the situation is similar. Right now, there are still a few good havens for engineers in Northern Europe (Germany, Holland, Scandinavian countries), but who knows what will happen in another 15 years.

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake

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