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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 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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  • "Of the situation" (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 12, 2013 @08:13AM (#44259915)

    No, it sounds like that unemployed EE was complaining about a lack of demand, not a dearth of supply. In theory the two are supposed to follow each other. In practice, demand for EEs is higher than ever - just not in America.

    Can't wait until Far East labour law matches Western conditions and market interventions (right down to war) don't artificially reduce the price of oil - then the real cost of buying everything from the other side of the world might come to light. Of course, the opposite will happen: the West will race to the bottom on labour conditions and freedoms.

  • by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @08:21AM (#44259949)

    More proof there is a STEM shortage! Uh, shortage of demand that is. Of course academia and the cheap labor lobby will spin this as a supply shortage, insist on more money and students to keep EE departments open, and even more importantly insist on more H-1B's.

    I am an EE, and like every other EE I know, I advise my children to stay the hell out of engineering.

  • by SailorSpork ( 1080153 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @08:44AM (#44260073) Homepage
    Mod parent up, there is so much truth to this. I am an EE in the US (CompE actually), but between the real-world experience and painful interviewing process, it became clear that supply outpaced demand and competition for even the least appealing EE jobs was high. And of course, over time talent supply flows to where the demand (and pay) is higher. Personally I left the field, got my MBA and joined the ranks of evil in the corporate world where there was more demand and money...
  • Bad pay. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nbritton ( 823086 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @08:46AM (#44260085)

    The pay isn't on parity with the level of schooling required, you would be better off becoming a doctor or even just a joe blow IT guy or something else. Unless you're putting all the patents in your name, It doesn't pay to be an engineer. Do it only if you enjoy it.

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

    by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:00AM (#44260215)

    I am not sure anyone could argue that point. Marx was one of the best critics of capitalism ever, but his guesses at the future completely ignore all of human history.

  • by some old guy ( 674482 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:01AM (#44260229)

    EE is such an incredibly broad field, you almost have to define yourself by the nature of the position you have/want.

    I'm a rather old basic power guy by education, but I grew up with industrial automation and digitalization as it happened, and stay current on technology.

    Thing is, I've been doing essentially the same thing for 35 years, and been classified as an Electrical Engineer, Controls Engineer, Automation Specialist, and Systems Integrator. Same work, different labels.

    Don't worry about the label when what you're after is the goodies in the package.

  • Re:Quite so! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:09AM (#44260287)

    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.

    My experience from going around recruiting college graduate engineers, and interviewing tons of people, is that most places do not want to actually mentor them and help them get their PE's. I worked with a ton of EEs once (where ton ~= 30) and half of them did not have their PE (the younger half) and they were not being mentored such that they could get it.

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

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:22AM (#44260409)

    I had an argu^Hdiscussion with someone just yesterday (at an interview) where he tried to convince me that his company 'invests' in its employees and trains them. I almost laughed in his face. this is a bay area company and I KNOW that they, as a general trend, have stopped investing in people and now only look for exact matches. he really believed his bullshit.

    I've been looking for work (taking contract jobs here and there as they are nearly the only ones you can find anymore; its 'great' to short change the employee and make him pay for national holidays and foot the bill for his own health insurance) and I have not seen a single instance where they would take you as a 'smart guy' and then give you the missing languages or frameworks that they want for the job. there just isn't the mentality for giving workers training anymore. thinking has shifted and not for the better, that's for sure!

    keep repeating this, people: "race to the bottom". learn that phrase. we are living it right now even if you don't realize it or see it yourself, directly. this is our new national motto.

    we are fucked. our children are in even worse state, once they graduate and try to find work. doesn't matter if you are old or young: if you are a US person with regular US bills and living expenses, you will be squeezed and forced to lower your living standard just to compete for a shit job that will be soul crushing, at best.

  • H1Bs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sociocapitalist ( 2471722 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:23AM (#44260423)

    The entire H1B program is bullshit.

    There is supply in the US. Companies prefer cheap imported labor - young, family-less, unlikely to complain labor instead of more expensive domestic labor.

    "In 2010, there were nearly half a million workers on H1B visas in the United States, 18 percent higher than in 2001." []

    Shitcan the H1B program and not only will the engineers we already have be able to find work but we'll have more engineers in the future to fill the need that will exist.

    Assuming engineering work isn't all outsourced overseas, of course.

  • by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:26AM (#44260453)

    Seriously, can we all drop the xenophobia

    Seriously, can we all drop the assumption that xenophobia is why people hate the H-1B program? Can we all stop assuming that opposition to the US government's H-1B program is the same as having anything against the people who are H-1B visa holders?

    I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt that it's a knee jerk assumption. In the case of serious H-1B cheerleaders it's a cheap tactic to suggest that anyone who opposes it must be a bigot. Can we also stop calling H-1B visa holders immigrants? It's a guest worker visa. The word "immigration" is used in conjunction w/ the H-1B as a propaganda tactic. "Immigration" is a word intimately intertwined with US history and mythology, so saying you oppose something that's associated (however inaccurately) with immigration is like saying you're opposed to motherhood and apple pie. Another disingenuous tactic.

    I certainly didn't say it was the only reason for high unemployment, but it is something that's unnecessary, gratuitous, and completely under the control of the US government. There are limits to what we can do about foreign competition, but the H-1B program is something that's completely under the control of the US government. While we're at it, 65,000 people per year (soon to rise to 180,000) is more than a "few".

  • Re: Quite so! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ethanms ( 319039 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @09:46AM (#44260667)

    the amount of useful knowledge and skills gained in such positions is pretty negligible

    Don't underestimate the value of learning how to work in a professional environment, labs, etc... There is a difference between a grocery job and a professional job... there is a difference between a school lab and a professional lab. I think a 3-4 month job is an excellent length of time to help absorb both.

    I also learned quite a lot about using different equipment as my school was using only HP equipment, at my first job I was using Tektronics and a few other brands... yes it doesn't take much to figure it out, but it does take time to get comfortable.

    Necessity is also the mother of invention, I found that solving real world problems was more satisfying than solving artificial problems presented by a professor.

  • Re:This just in... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @11:25AM (#44261651) Journal

    Indeed - but you have to remember that he was a victim of his time, when most folks figured that human culture (and ability to discharge their vices/failings/etc) would progress at the same pace as science was moving at the time. It was, to put to charitably, an overly-optimistic era. It also spawned a lot of other naive-but-useless things ranging from harmless (phrenology) to damnably dangerous (eugenics).


    As for TFA? I pulled the D-ring on the EE field back in the early 1990's. Funny thing is, back then the cheaper employers tried to combine the EE and ME fields as well (I designed, built, and ran industrial control systems for a large poultry company - I lost track of the amount of instances they tried to get me to design equipment mods right along with new controls for them). Fortunately, they needed a sysadmin in a hurry (the last one flunked his drug test), so I got pressed into that, fell in love with it, and stuck with it ever since. Haven't so much as drawn a circuit or touched a soldering iron even semi-professionally in at least a decade.

    I guess the biggest reason for leaving the field was that I didn't see all that much of a future in it. It only came in handy when I did a stint at a certain large semiconductor firm, where I got semi-shoved into a liaison role between the EEs and developers (it's what I got for settling a fight between the two groups during my first week there).

  • by genericmk ( 2767843 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @12:11PM (#44262089)
    I graduated in the recession of 2002. I struggled finding that first job. As mentioned above, absolute catch 22. Very few want to hire a recent graduate, everyone wants an EE with 2-4 years of experience. I got my lucky break and started with a decent salary; nothing mind blowing, but decent. It's now 11 years later, I carry a Senior EE title and make a little more than double my initial pay and am pretty topped out salary wise as far as I can see. Management is unfortunately the only way up. I've worked at large companies who simply do not even consider hiring an EE (or software developer for that matter) over 50. We were building a team for a new product within an organization and weren't able to consider older candidates. 50 is the end of the rope for anyone with a tech title and without management anything. Jobs can probably be found but pay is not going to be high. I'm forcing myself to highlight my management experience (be it project, personnel, etc.) as I look for my next position as this is the best way I see to stay relevant and continue the career progressing upward. Good luck to all EEs out there!

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.