Chinese and Indian engineers
I believe the information you presented in your commentary (“The Myth of Chinese and Indian Engineers”) accurately reflects what is going on in the U.S., as well as other countries, in terms of engineers and engineering education.
I am so tired of the political spin on data and jobs. It seems nearly impossible to get “real” information these days unless, like you say in your article, one personally does the legwork and makes hours of phone calls. I have been an engineer for 30 years and I am an engineering manager these days. I have never had a problem finding good engineers as long as we pay them well.
I also agree that China and India, as well as most other countries, have thousands more technical, environmental, political and social issues to resolve than we do here in the USA. Indeed, lots of engineering work needs to be done in those places.
I am also disenchanted in the watering down of the title of engineer. It was mentioned in the commentary and I see it daily here in the States. Many folks claim to have the title of engineer but have had no formal training in engineering, problem solving, mathematics, materials science, or electronics and physics, for example. It is a disgrace to the profession that so many folks call themselves engineers without the formal training or certifications.
In my experience, H1B visa programs give the U.S. better engineers, on average, than most of our homegrown graduate engineers. Do these immigrants/ visitors work harder and for lower salaries? Of course, that has been the trend for first-generation Americans since the 17th century. Do they affect the salaries that you and I earn? You bet they do. They also increase the country’s productivity, make us more competitive internationally, and decrease the likelihood that our own jobs will be outsourced. My advice is to be challenged by your H1B visa coworkers. Learn from their work ethic and cultural diversity and move on.
There’s more than meets the eye here. The push to outsource engineering talent in exchange for lower costs is the bottom line. At my company, there is an edict that 30%+ of the engineering budget (many millions of dollars) must be performed offshore. The excuses range from “there’s a shortage of engineers in the U.S.” (a lie) to “we must give technical work to other countries (China, India, and Russia) or risk being cut off from bidding on projects in those countries” (another lie).
At the company I work at, we have seen that the engineers in the offshore countries we do business with can’t do the work as accurately or efficiently as we can, and this happens over and over again. In addition to what we pay them, we spend 50% more than if we did it in-house here in the States. When we complain about what is happening, we’re told to do whatever it takes to make the overseas engineers successful, even if it means handing over proprietary designs. Disgraceful.
Let me get this straight. Foreign countries have the best workers and the best engineers, but America has the best managers. Yeah, right. My question: When do we outsource management?
I travel internationally and although there are some good engineers in other countries, most overseas engineers are little more than paper tigers. Everyone seems to get a Master’s and a Ph.D., but those degrees don’t mean much. When one attempts to work with those engineers, it quickly becomes obvious that a degreed engineer in the U.S. and a degreed engineer from another country are rarely the same thing.
Finding a few good engineers
I agree with your editorial (“A Better Way to Find Stand-out Engineers”) that resilience is an important factor when hiring engineers. I’ve always felt that earning an engineering degree in four years rather than five or more, and getting decent grades on top of that, demonstrates the resiliency needed to become a good engineer.
A bigger problem with hiring engineers these days is that many large companies only accept resumes submitted electronically to an HR department. Then the HR person just tries to match key words in the job description to those in the resume. Sure, some candidates end up getting an interview, but how many stand-out candidates get overlooked because the resume and job description didn’t use the same wording?
There is a shortage of engineers in this country and the reasons are obvious: low wages, long working hours, and poor working conditions. To suggest that simply “encouraging” those to go into a given profession as a solution is laughable (“An Educated Workforce is Key to Reshoring”). There has to be an incentive for a person to pursue a particular career path, and a big part of that is earnings. It’s nearly impossible to “love your work” if you choose a career path in engineering in the U.S., irrespective of one’s salary. Corporate America already views this profession as overpaid. Just look at the amount of money spent lobbying to expand H1B programs. Wall Street and the MBAs have destroyed this country, there is not much that can be done to restore it. The only exception I can see to this would be to employ more engineers in managerial positions. I doubt this will ever happen. Just look at the CEO of Intel. He doesn’t have an engineering degree.
I am generally disgusted with the whole alternative-fuel debate, primarily because it is driven entirely by politics of various flavors, rarely by real science. A huge subset of the discussion relates to transportation fuels, primarily because that is the biggest issue that people see and feel directly, and that’s what a recent article addressed (“Should the U.S. Switch to Natural Gas for Transportation?”).
But the article ignored the politics behind the motor-fuel debate. For example, we burn about one-third of our corn crop after fermenting it into ethanol. The benefits and costs of doing this might be dubious and debatable to some, but not to the millions of South Americans that go to bed hungry every night because their main food source has doubled in price.
There’s a company with a process that converts natural gas into ethanol for $1.50/gallon. Unfortunately, EPA micromanagement prohibits the use of ethanol in fuels that are not derived from fermentation. This mandate obviously has nothing to do with the environment, nothing to do with reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and everything to do with the farm lobby and their newfound friends who own ethanol plants.
This summer’s drought will depress crop yields, driving prices up unless there’s a reduction in demand. We can be sure the EPA will not relax their foolish mandate, even under these almost dire circumstances. It is too bad we can’t try free-market capitalism for a change. Instead we are stuck with a micromanaging dictatorship from Washington.
Kevin C. Baxter