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Electrical Engineering Labor Pool Shrinking 401

dcblogs writes "The number of electrical engineers in the workforce has declined over the last decade. It's not a steady decline, and it moves up and down, but the overall trend is not positive. In 2002 the U.S. had 385,000 employed electrical engineers; in 2004, post dot.com bubble, it was at 343,000. It reached 382,000 in 2006, but has not risen above 350,000 since then, according to U.S. Labor Data. In 2012, there were 335,000 electrical engineers in the workforce. Of the situation, one unemployed electrical engineer said: 'I am getting interviews but, they have numerous candidates to choose from. The employers are very fussy. They are really only interested in a perfect match to their needs. They don't want the cost to develop talent internally. They are even trying to combine positions to save money. I came across one employer trying to combine a mechanical and electrical engineer.'"
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Electrical Engineering Labor Pool Shrinking

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  • Quite so! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 12, 2013 @08:11AM (#44259903)

    Employers don't want to develop talent in-house because that's expensive -- and will get more so as the employee becomes more attractive to the company's competitors. Employers also don't want to hire people to increase their talent pool; rather, they want to hire "super talent" in order to fire one or more lesser engineers.

    Those hundreds of positions you see advertised? They aren't a sign of growth, but of stagnation, and a nearly total absence of investment (even from the profits that a company is supposed to be making).

  • Re:Quite so! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SimonTheSoundMan ( 1012395 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @08:19AM (#44259937) Homepage

    Exactly. As an bachelors with honours engineering graduate I find it almost impossible to get work. Companies are not willing to train people in-house. I'd like to know how many engineering graduates have passed through university and are now doing a job they are qualified to do, looking at 15, 10, 5 years and present day.

    I can't get a job because I haven't got the experience. I can't get the experience because I can't get a job. Catch 22.

  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @08:32AM (#44259999)

    I have a BS in CompE. At my school depending on what optional courses you took you end up as the equivalent of either a EE minor and CS major or a CS minor and EE major. Since I went the first route, I've never considered myself an EE. Since my jobs, by choice, have all been in the CS realm I don't feel I have any knowledge in the EE realm anymore- I just have a deeper understanding of how hardware works and how to use it effectively than the average CS degree holder.

    I actually did want to go into processor design at one point, I liked designing digital circuits. Then my senior year I found out that all those things I had been told didn't matter in digital (capacitance, inductance) actually did when you were fast enough. That was enough to convince me to write software for a career.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @08:40AM (#44260033)

    and market interventions (right down to war) don't artificially reduce the price of oil

    How much do you really think that's going to change the price of oil? I think the last time I checked such things, even if we tossed the entire US military complex as a tax on gasoline, that would mean a few dollars per gallon tax. AGW costs in Europe are priced at a few dollars per ton of CO2 emitted (which is on the order of cents per gallon of gasoline).

    Of course, the opposite will happen: the West will race to the bottom on labour conditions and freedoms.

    You do realize that most attempts to preserve Western labor privilege have the unintended consequence of hastening that race to the bottom? Bottom line is that currently there's vastly more supply of labor available to the Western markets than there was decades ago - hence, the price of labor is going to decline no matter how much you complain. It's basic supply and demand.

    Rather than find ways to make your country's labor more competitive (merely reducing wages is one way, but not the only way), the developed world collectively seems to be about how to restrict Western labor markets and adding even more costs to Western labor to encourage even more business flight to the developing world.

  • by kruach aum ( 1934852 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @08:43AM (#44260061)
    Work prospects are equally dire in the humanities. Better advise your children to not go to college at all and become skilled craftspeople instead.
  • This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @08:43AM (#44260065)

    The employers are very fussy. They are really only interested in a perfect match to their needs. They don't want the cost to develop talent internally. They are even trying to combine positions to save money. I came across one employer trying to combine a mechanical and electrical engineer.

    Read between the lines: "We can replace all of them with immigrants, but only if we can prove there's nobody who can fill the position. I know! Let's draft the requirements so they're impossible to fill, then hire the same person we would have anyway at half the price because we had to 'settle'. Brilliant!"

  • by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <`ten.tsacmoc' `ta' `yburxyno'> on Friday July 12, 2013 @08:44AM (#44260071)

    The H1B war has succeeded and much champagne will be spilled. STEM majors are giving up as the field simply isn't worth going into in this country. Meanwhile I hear that McJobs are hiring and if you work really hard for a long time you might move from 30 hours a week to 40 hours a week where you get really, really bad benefits!

    I worked at a University for a few years and I saw bright US students routinely drop out of STEM and choose other fields because of outsourcing. Meanwhile the bright international students happily came over, took our STEM classes and are heading back to create the next great thing. We've engineered a future without ourselves, our founding fathers would be ashamed.

  • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @08:45AM (#44260083)

    Employers want to make as much money as possible without having to pay people.

    Its been said before [marxists.org]:

    The tendency of the rate of profit to fall is a theory put forward by Marx to the effect that the rate of profit enjoyed by capitalists will get smaller and smaller over time. This is because capitalists use more and more developed materials and machinery in their production as the labour process becomes more and more socialised over time, and use smaller and smaller amounts of wage-labour per unit output.

    personally I think Marx's criticism of capitalism is pretty accurate. Its only where he assumes that uprising and revolution will lead to some utopian ideal that he goes wrong.

  • by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @08:54AM (#44260145)

    Would a "computer engineer" be an electrical engineer?

    In my experience people (including me) don't distinguish between CE and EE, any more than they ever distinguished between electrical and electronic engineers. CE is a specialty in EE, but so are RF, antenna design, power systems, etc.

  • Re:This just in... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:06AM (#44260263)
    Marx's economics is just plain stupid. In particular, you don't need to own something to control it. (It is possible to drive a rented or stolen car.)
  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:14AM (#44260345)

    Its been over 10 years, but it looks like the course list of requirements hasn't changed much.

    I didn't take digital signal processing. I didn't take anything about power systems. I didn't take the advanced level courses of anything that had a I and a II. All of these were open to me as technical electives, but I chose not to take them.

    I did take analog signal processing. I did take physics of semiconductors (how transistors work on an atomic level, it was a required course to graduate). I did take a course on fields and waves. And I took a couple of courses on digital circuit design and processor design.

    From the CS course I missed the top level theory course on graphs that was required for a CS degree, but I took every other required course and more electives than most CS majors did. That was a personal choice though- I spent all of my electives in EE or CS.

    Looking at the requirements for their EE minor, I took all the classes required to get one, with a few extra. Of course they didn't allow CompEs to get a CS minor or an EE minor officially. I look to be 2 classes off of what was required to get an EE major, but wouldn't have had nearly enough EE electives. And I took far more CS stuff than the EEs (EEs were only required to take the intro to CS class, CompEs were required to take data structures, an entry level discrete math class (part of a series of 3 for CS students), and an assembly course). CS majors only needed to take 2 classes on hardware- a watered down version of digital logic gates and architecture, and a watered down version of assembly (the hard version was taught by the EE department and for some reason only counted towards their requirement if they were transfers).

    The big thing I didn't ever really understand in my EE coursework at the time is how to design an analog circuit to do something. That's partly my fault, partly lack of a high level follow on course, and partly my instructors fault- we never had a chance to design an analog circuit in our coursework, and they never really explained why we were doing what we did- it was just endless repetition of finding v and i at every point in a circuit using multiple methods.

  • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mc6809e ( 214243 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:29AM (#44260487)

    personally I think Marx's criticism of capitalism is pretty accurate. Its only where he assumes that uprising and revolution will lead to some utopian ideal that he goes wrong.

    That's not the only thing he gets wrong.

    He also thought that economic exchange occurred with things of equal value. Even economists of his time knew this wasn't true.

    Economic exchange occurs when things are valued unequally, otherwise, why bother exchanging at all? Transaction costs make an exchange a poor decision. If on the other hand I value what you have more than what I have, and you value what I have more then what you have, we trade. This could be a barter or money might be involved.

  • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ethanms ( 319039 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:30AM (#44260493)

    That is put perfectly, and matches my own experience.

    I'm out of school for 12-13 years and my salary is just barely 50-60% higher than starting, which was exceptional at the time. If you don't make the move to marketing, sales or management you will stagnate. The exception of course is for anyone who is above average and performing company critical functions (but then you need to constantly apply pressure to see increases).

    I'm not complaining, I like the work and I still get paid very well compared to the average person...

  • Re:This just in... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:41AM (#44260605) Homepage Journal

    Equal value doesn't mean identical. I have 5 dollars of bread, you've got 5 dollars of cucumbers, we each sell each other 2.5 dollars of material and have sandwiches.

  • Re:Quite so! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ethanms ( 319039 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:41AM (#44260607)

    You ought to be required to work for free before you can get a job? Sounds a bit like bullshit protectionism to me.

    He didn't say free, he said co-op and internship. In some majors an internship may be free, but in engineering it's often paid (unless you're working at a company where the payment is being able to say you worked for THAT company... i.e. making contacts and references).

    My school required two 3-month co-op jobs, with a third optional job. The lowest offer I received during my search was for 2X minimum wage. The job I went with paid about 2.5-3X minimum wage. I was ultimately hired by them when I graduated and was earning about 3.5X minimum wage, which may not sound like much but I was being paid more than the majority of people I knew, including many adults, when at that level.

  • by harrkev ( 623093 ) <[gro.ylimafnoslerrah] [ta] [dsmfk]> on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:57AM (#44260785) Homepage

    Isn't it sad that the engineers are the ones who actually do the work, while managers are just overhead, yet the managers are the ones who get the money?

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling