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Author Topic: Engineering
Richard Dey
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Microsoft, which is upset about the way our public schools are preparing our children for the workplace, note that our annual 'engineering' of engineers is in serious disarray.

Engineers graduated per annum in three countries:

China: 1,000,000
India: 350,000
US: 75,000

At the rate that China is producing engineers, we should be producing 300,000, not 75,000.

Should we just junk public education altogether -- just to keep up? If not, what should we do?

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MattP
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By "engineer", are they referring to people with four-year computer science degrees?
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Wayward Son
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I like technology, but I have to wonder, do we really need 1.4 million new engineers each year?
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MattP
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quote:
Originally posted by Wayward Son:
I like technology, but I have to wonder, do we really need 1.4 million new engineers each year?

The pool has to be that large to get, say, 10,000 with passable personalities. [Big Grin]
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velcro
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The number for China is more like 200,000.

National Academy of Engineerin Speech 2004

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MattP
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quote:
Originally posted by velcro:
The number for China is more like 200,000.

National Academy of Engineerin Speech 2004

That's why I asked about the definition of "engineer" here. Software engineers technically aren't engineers even though that's what we like to call ourselves.
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Richard Dey
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One had to presume that this head of Microsoft in New England didn't get his name, but he was on Greater Boston, a PBS show, is referring to all but Civil Engineers -- since that is an oxymoron [Wink] .

Notwithstanding, Wulf says it's down to 65,000 in the US. That's still way out of wack for the leading industrialized nation of the world.

I had to include 'software engineers', though I doubt Wulf would, since his organization doesn't attract software engineers but mechanical engineers, because the source is Microsoft.

So, we just say it's a statistical game -- and do nothing?

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Funean
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I would suggest that some of these other nations are graduating too many engineers. There are other, necessary roles to fulfill in an economy, to say nothing of a society.

How many of these new graduates are working in their fields? How competetive are the programs from which they are graduated? How much of this is a reaction to changing economies and an as yet unproven belief that such a degree willl Guarantee (gold seal) a Job? That is to say, how akin is this to the glut of lawyers produced by US schools in, say, the 1980s, a large number of which essentially never did and certainly do not now work as lawyers?

This is not to say that I'm not concerned about the ability of our secondary education system to prepare kids in mathematics and the sciences, but I'm not convinced that comparing the number of (unspecified) engineers provides a useful yardstick.

edited to fix mysterious conjunction in place of verb

[ January 17, 2007, 10:27 PM: Message edited by: Funean ]

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Jesse
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How many major mechanical and structural engineering jobs are there to do in developing nations, compared to ours?

Seems to me their need would be a lot greater, we aren't daming up a lot rivers or creating a whole lot of railroads.

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DonaldD
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sanitation engineers
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Dave at Work
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quote:
How many major mechanical and structural engineering jobs are there to do in developing nations, compared to ours?

Seems to me their need would be a lot greater, we aren't daming up a lot rivers or creating a whole lot of railroads.

Engineers are not the only necessary resource for such projects. If they have more engineers then they have engineering jobs for which the other necessary resources for the job, those extra engineers will have to find other employment.

I originally went to school to become an Aerospace Engineer but never finished. Later when I joined the Marines as an aircraft mechanic, I found that many of the civilians doing contract work on our aircraft were Aerospace Engineers who were unable to find work in their field because there were many more of them than available jobs. The work they were doing did not require a degree in Engineering, in fact if the military hadn't contracted this work out, I would likely have been doing much of it myself along with other Marines.

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moodi
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China and India are two different economies than ours. The education "culture" they have is also very different. I wish the study was done among industrialized nations rather than the U.S, India, and China.

In developing countries (such as India and China) students tend to focus on two categories when it comes to choosing a major:

1- The social worthiness of their degree.
2- The prospect of finding a job in the field.

In the first category above, it is important to know that education is considered an honor to the student and his family. What is more honorable is to get a degree in fields such as engineering or medicine. Other fields are OK, but nothing measures up to those two fields. It is funny/sad to note that a semi private agency specialized at offering loans to college students in Lebanon is solving its budget cuts problems by limiting its grants and loans to students who are in engineering and medicine!

This type of culture would surely inflate the number of engineers out there in the streets. Some sciences such as political science, psychology, business, etc... are considered for losers.

The job prospect is also important. India and China might have more engineers than us, but how many marine biologists do they have? The nature of their economies (mostly built on jobs we export from our own economy) dictates the employment rates. So what we lack or what is too expensive in our economy might be an incentive for China and India to focus on.

Having said all of that, I think our education system is in serious trouble. "No Child Left Behind" is not fixing it.

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Dave at Work
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quote:
The job prospect is also important. India and China might have more engineers than us, but how many marine biologists do they have? The nature of their economies (mostly built on jobs we export from our own economy) dictates the employment rates. So what we lack or what is too expensive in our economy might be an incentive for China and India to focus on.
Are they educating more engineers and such because we are exporting jobs to them, or are we exporting jobs to them because they have an excess of properly educated and qualified people willing to work for considerably lower wages than we have here? I think that latter condition existed first and is driving the former condition in these economies.

quote:
Having said all of that, I think our education system is in serious trouble. "No Child Left Behind" is not fixing it.
I agree 100% with you here.
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Funean
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"No Child Left Behind" is, in fact, inimical to fixing it. But that's another thread...

(I did laugh at the "No Child Left A Dime!" bumper sticker I saw the other day, though)

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Richard Dey
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Fun:

The jobs and the titles get fuzzy. We have:

Architectural Engineers (cf Construction Engineers)
Chemical Engineers
Construction Engineers (a huge mob in China these days)
Electrical Engineers
Industrial Engineers
Manufacturing Engineers
Planners
Transportation Engineers
et al. Oh, and we mustn't ignore the invisible ones, those uncanny
Overseas Engineers
who keep creeping up in Persia, Venezuela, and the Sudan, and other romantic places


I'll leave out the Social Engineers since they come in only two stripes in China: local gossips and party bosses.

Frankly, I don't doubt these Chinese engineers have things to do; any anything is better than hauling bricks on one's back and wearing giant bread baskets for hats [Wink] .

There are even a few of these engineers doing original research (!) who are not industrial spies on 128 and in Silicon Valley.

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Richard Dey
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How many hydraulic engineers, e.g., involved in that giant dam they're building alone ...? They've got 3 shifts going day and night.
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Richard Dey
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Well, more evidence:

the new chancellor of the University of Massachusetts (a physicist from Rensselaer, not, finally, a pol), claims that China is graduating 3x per capita more engineers than the US.

Somebody else notes that Beijing has 100 hotels under construction as we speak; and that 90% of all scientists in the world will be "Asian" by 2010.


I'll find the sources if necessary. The last one was on Book-TV.

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LoneSnark
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^ So what? If they are any good at their jobs then we should be pleased: more engineers means faster technological advancement for the human race as a whole, regardless of where they live.

So, as a human being that needs engineers to make life livable, be happy there are so many of us.

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The Drake
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A paper from Duke University talks about this.

quote:
Varying, inconsistent reporting of
problematic engineering graduation data has
been used to fuel fears that America is losing its
technological edge. Typical articles have stated
that in 2004 the United States graduated roughly
70,000 undergraduate engineers, while China
graduated 600,000 and India 350,000. Our study
has determined that these are inappropriate
comparisons. These massive numbers of Indian
and Chinese engineering graduates include not
only four-year degrees, but also three-year
training programs and diploma holders. These
numbers have been compared against the annual
production of accredited four-year engineering
degrees in the United States. In addition to the
lack of nuanced analysis around the type of
graduates (transactional or dynamic) and quality
of degrees being awarded, these articles also
tend not to ground the numbers in the larger
demographics of each country. A comparison of
like-to-like data suggests that the U.S. produces
a highly significant number of engineers,
computer scientists and information technology
specialists, and remains competitive in global
markets.

quote:
McKinsey concluded that only 10% of
Chinese engineers and 25% of Indian engineers can compete in the global outsourcing
arena.4 McKinsey attributed these figures to limited language proficiency, educational
quality, cultural issues, job accessibility and the attractiveness of domestic nonoutsourced
jobs.
So, the real threat to the United States’ science and technology economy exists in a
subset of the engineering populations produced by China and India. Foreign dynamic
engineers trained by accredited universities with high language proficiencies and close
proximity to their country’s industrial and commercial centers are the most likely to
compete with U.S.-based engineers for offshore engineering jobs, and they also will be
central to innovation drives in their domestic economies.


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TomDavidson
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But as someone who prefers to live in a country with a superior standard of living, I'd rather see the USA on the top of that heap.

--------

quote:
McKinsey concluded that only 10% of
Chinese engineers and 25% of Indian engineers can compete in the global outsourcing
arena.4 McKinsey attributed these figures to limited language proficiency, educational
quality, cultural issues, job accessibility and the attractiveness of domestic nonoutsourced
jobs.
So, the real threat to the United States’ science and technology economy exists in a
subset of the engineering populations produced by China and India.

Outsourcing isn't the long-term danger, Drake. It's a short-term symptom of what will soon be a far bigger threat. Sooner or later, China and India will discover that their own populations are significant markets. Once that happens, as has already happened in Japan (and is starting to happen in China), the flow of engineers (outsourced and immigrant) will stop; China and India will begin employing their own engineers at higher relative standards of living, at which point we're pretty much doomed. Language is only a barrier when you're selling to a country that doesn't speak your language.

By this standard, in fact, American engineers are substantially more crippled than Chinese or Indian ones; I'd wager that far more Chinese engineers speak and read English than American engineers speak or read any of the Chinese dialects.

[ January 21, 2007, 11:59 AM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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The Drake
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I'm not sure I understand why you would think that the increase in Chinese and Indian standards of living, and domestic opportunity, would be a problem for Americans.
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TomDavidson
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For one thing, it's because I don't think the pie is going to get much bigger. I think we're bumping up against the resource limits for industrialized countries, so unless there's a really big jump to another sort of economic model in the next ten years, somebody's going to get the short end of the stick.
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hobsen
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Reading the paragraph which begins this thread, I may comment that Microsoft would benefit from having a glut of qualified professionals educated largely at public expense, because that would allow them to hire good people for low salaries. For this reason Microsoft is hardly an unbiased commentator on the supply of engineers.

As as been pointed out, such occupations have high status so the number of graduates almost always exceeds the demand. If there is a temporary imbalance, the demand may quickly attract former graduates who had given up looking for work in their field. To make up any remaining shortage, foreign engineers can usually be persuaded to come to this country. And at worst a shortage will lead to a lot more students choosing engineering.

This complaint that the United States lags in engineering and science is one I have been hearing for more than fifty years, and I never found it plausible. It began with people noting with alarm that the Soviet Union was producing ten times as many engineers as the United States; has anyone studied the Russian economy lately? What is true is that China and India will probably become self-sufficient in products the United States now sells to them, which will hurt U.S. foreign trade. But this nation has never depended on foreign trade for the bulk of its livelihood, so I suspect it will survive.

The canaries in the coal mind, so to speak, will be some of the countries in Europe. These have ten times our population density, few natural resources, and often no capacity to grow the food to feed their populations. If I lived there, I might really worry.

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LoneSnark
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quote:
For one thing, it's because I don't think the pie is going to get much bigger. I think we're bumping up against the resource limits for industrialized countries, so unless there's a really big jump to another sort of economic model in the next ten years, somebody's going to get the short end of the stick.
Why? Even if you are talking about absolute resources restraints, IE, there is no more iron ore or lumber upon which to build our civilization, it does not follow that their standard of living will exceed ours. If anything, they could never catch us because we are land rich and they are land poor. At best, they could match our standard of living.

But it does not matter to Americans whether the iPod was invented in Beijing or Seattle because it costs the same in the store. If the Chinese design all the neat stuff then Americans will find something else to do with our day. That's what everyone else has been doing all along. Think about Sweden, Australia, Canada, or Great Britain, all in all they develop very little technology compared to the big old United States. Does that mean they have got "the short end of the stick"?

Of course not, they buy the technology from us in exchange for other stuff.

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