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The Engineering Talent Market Revisited

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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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