Where The Engineers Are looks at engineering in the United States, India and China under globalisation and the role economics, commerce and education have in the development of engineers. The paper discovered that the US and India were pumping out about the same number of Engineers while China was producing about four times as many. India’s education system has been bottom driven as the state-run education institutions are seen as inefficient and restrictive. While China has had a state-led policy of producing more engineers. However, what China calls an engineer is not analogous to what the US and India call an engineer so the number in the article is lower than commonly used figures in political speeches.
The paper also found that there is not an under-supply of engineers in the US or India. There are no bonuses given for taking an engineering job in the US and most positions are filled within four months. Most of the US positions are more highly technical than those that get outsourced. The main reasons for outsourcing were for competitive economic reasons and included:
The top reasons survey respondents cited for going offshore were salary and personnel savings, overhead cost savings, 24/7 continuous development cycles, access to new markets, and proximity to new markets.
It was expected from the interviews the authors of the paper conducted that trends to outsource engineering will continue with only 5% saying it will stabilise or contract.
In the area of post-graduate education the trends for the US and India has seen a drop off in those taking Masters and Phds. In the US nearly 60% of those awarded PhDs are immigrants. It is possible that the high cost of doing a PhD in the United States makes it uneconomic for most engineers in the workforce.
The paper notes that this trend is dire for India as they risk not having enough PhDs to staff their educational institutions. By the same token nearly 25% of technology startups in the US have an immigrant, and more commonly an Indian Phd, as a founding partner. Indians are the most active immigrant entrepreneurial group in US startups of software and high-tech.
The paper concludes;
Our research shows that companies are not moving abroad because of a deficiency in U.S. education or the quality of U.S. workers. Rather, they are doing what gives them economic and competitive advantage. It is cheaper for them to move certain engineering jobs overseas and to locate their R&D operations closer to growth markets. There are serious deficiencies in engineering graduates from Indian and Chinese schools. Yet the trend is building momentum despite these weaknesses.
This final paragraph suggests that American engineers are being over-educated for what the market desires. I believe that is the case in Australian Universities as well. Graduates leave with highly specialised degrees which are over-educated for the labor market. Most engineering degrees could be two years in length and the individual would be just as capable and productive as with a four year degree.