Shortage of Engineers?

Posted on November 20, 2005  Comments (5)

Training Engineers – Continually by Ken Jarboe, quoting a Wall Street Journal article:

Many companies say they’re facing an increasingly severe shortage of engineers. It’s so bad, some executives say, that Congress must act to boost funding for engineering education.

Yet unemployed engineers say there’s actually a big surplus. “No one I know who has looked at the data with an open mind has been able to find any sign of a current shortage,” says demographer Michael Teitelbaum of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

2005 starting salaries I would like to see data to confirm on refute this claim (such as the unemployment rate for engineers over time and pay for engineers over time) but some evidence seems to indicate there is a demand to pay engineers well. That makes me think it is unlikely there is a huge oversupply of engineers (if there was a huge oversupply prices would fall). Granted skill mismatches could account for increasing salaries for engineers while other engineers are unable to find jobs.

Also the marketplace (for any employees, including engineers) is indeed inefficient. But that inefficiency is not complete (so while waste is in the system where employers are not most effectively employing available candidates the system does match the employers and employees). I think it is definitely true the inefficiency of the marketplace hurts companies, potential employees and the economy.

Making the marketplace more efficient would be great but we seem to be making little progress in that area. On a personal level I have long believed the employment marketplace is very inefficient. I think this is true for a variety of complex reasons. I also think companies that figure out how to do so more effectively will gain a competitive advantage. I don’t think their are easy solutions. I believe companies that chose to manage the employee recruitment process using management improvement concepts will gain an advantage over others.

Graphic from the CNN article (April 2005): Average starting salaries for class of ’05 higher — in some cases notably — than last year. 6 of the highest paid starting salaries by major are engineering majors (the other is computer science).

Aerospace and aeronautical engineering majors, for instance, are enjoying a 9 percent increase in starting salaries; marketing majors have seen a 6 percent increase in starting salaries; while economics and finance majors are getting paid 5.1 percent more than last year.

Meanwhile, chemical, mechanical and civil engineers are also seeing paychecks that are at least 4 percent higher.

While such data does not show the health of the entire engineering field it sure is a positive indication for those starting out.

Ken Jarboe:

Let’s put our attention on the total skill development of the S&T workforce – and everyone else, for that matter. That is how we will strengthen our competitive advantage and avoid the skills-person mismatch that seems to plague our S&T labor market

I agree with a focus on a more comprehensive look at education and skill development. A huge amount of education is now done in the workplace. But this transition away from academic learning to employment learning needs to be factored into public policy. We also need to figure out how to incorporate these changes in learning into the hiring process and the economy as a whole. We are making those changes now but in a fairly inefficient way, without much planning and thought. I don’t know what should be done but I do believe this is something in need of improvement.

5 Responses to “Shortage of Engineers?”

  1. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Blog Archive » Engineering in America
    December 5th, 2005 @ 9:39 pm

    […] Ok, the article makes some good points but I don’t think this is one of them. Salaries look pretty good. Public may not be great but it doesn’t explain much of the shortfall. Hard work, yes I believe that discourages many studnets. Difficult path, yes. Not enough effort to encourage science and engineering education, yes. But sorry I don’t believe salaries, public image and offshoring are the combination of factors resulting in turning high school students away from engineering.   [link] […]

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    February 15th, 2006 @ 12:39 pm

    […] Shortage of Engineers? […]

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    March 4th, 2006 @ 10:51 am

    […] Shortage of Engineers?   [link] […]

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    June 17th, 2006 @ 7:49 am

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    […] are receiving the highest starting salaries. Previous posts: Lucrative college degrees (2006) – starting salaries for engineers (2005) – High Pay for Engineering Graduates […]

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