The Engineering Talent Market Revisited

Susan Hall

In an article on TechCrunch, Vivek Wadhwa returns to the issue of whether there's a shortage of engineering talent in the United States. In short, he says there's no simple answer, though Google's 10 percent pay increases and huge retention bonuses suggest there is.


Employers are having to sweeten their salary offers. This preHub piece tells of one former software engineer from Digg who landed a job with a $150,000 base salary-just one of seven offers he received.


Wadhwa's credits list him as a visiting scholar at the University of California-Berkeley, senior research associate at Harvard Law School and director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University. Blogger Don Tennant also describes him as a lightning rod for the anti-H-1B crowd.


I've written before about his concern that the United States is losing highly educated, but foreign-born, tech pros.


In this new piece, he makes the point that employers often are looking for very specific skills-he mentions anecdotal reports from Silicon Valley of a shortage of Objective C developers, analog engineers who understand low-power design and good user-interface designers. And that radio-frequency engineers are in short supply in New York City and in Indiana. It's that mismatch between skills and available jobs. (Tennant would chime in here, too, about being willing to relocate.)


But Wadhwa sums up the engineering-talent conundrum this way:

  • Many engineering graduates instead become management consultants or take non-engineering jobs that pay more.
  • Startups don't hire fresh-from-college grads because they don't want to train them. (In the comments, Ambert Ho says startups are looking for all-around firefighters, people who learn super-fast and can deal with rapid change and uncertainty.)
  • Employers overall don't want to train workers. They want them to have the right skills coming in. (Commenters say poorly written job ads just throw out an alphabet soup of "required" skills that might have nothing to do with the job.)
  • Most foreign nationals earning those post-graduate and graduate engineering degrees return home.
  • With entrepreneurship booming in countries like India and China, the world's brightest aren't beating a path to the United States anymore.


The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on Tuesday will release a detailed report that analyzes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and worker shortages. Wadhwa says it will call for greater investment in education and skills for Americans and more immigration of skilled foreign-born workers.

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Dec 11, 2010 1:48 AM Isaac Mendelson Isaac Mendelson  says:

Almost as if I wrote it myself.

Is the Future of US Technology at Risk?

Too much emphasis has been placed on lawyers and stock brokers instead of cultivating engineers and scientists. What will the United States have to export in the coming years? Production is already gone while technology, science and research are also diminishing

In the past two decades this nation has been primarily focused on stock markets and lawyers. Finance and lawyers - disciplines that are intended to service the community / industry needs, have become the focus and goal of American society looking for a quick buck. This approach is taking over knowledge, science and engineering. Look back to realize that when US had a strong economy (yes, in the days that it was a world leader), its leadership was based on science and technology advancements.

We had this recession coming. What can the American economy achieve with the majority of its talent pushing stock or debating in courts? In the past two decades we've been losing significant portion of production jobs to under-developed countries, and now we are about to lose what used to be our technological leadership . and engineer jobs.

Lawyers and stock brokers don't build strong economies. Science and engineering does. Yet the engineers are out of work. Corporations get Federal aid while opening more production and R&D facilities in China and other parts of the world. They are actually handing over American technology and achievements to those offshoring destinations that we lose our jobs to.

What will the United States have to export in the coming years? Production is already gone while technology, science and research are also diminishing (yes, while lawyers prosper and bankers fail our economy). If this goes on, the US will become a consumer society only with no assets to offer in global markets. Where will the money come from? How will the US pay for its import? By exporting lawyers or legal services maybe?

The United States is not self sufficient anymore. Our daily lives depend on import of goods that used to be manufactured domestically. The US has nothing to offer in the global marketplace anymore. This is the plain truth: We don't export consumer products anymore, our universities don't yield as many scientists and engineers as before (many are out of work, anyway), Oil is becoming obsolete with new green technologies which are typically not American (yes, because of the American oil companies who killed over the years every attempt for alternative energy) and there are not many other assets or natural resources that can sustain future American economy.

Isaac Mendelson

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