gregbo (gregbo) wrote,

engineer shortage, or competition?

OK, let's look at this issue of the lack of engineering talent from another direction. Here's an excerpt from the article fauxklore cited on the shortage of aerospace workers:

"Second, the industry must take a hard look inward. The aerospace giants have become supremely bureaucratic and have begun emulating their largest customer, the Defense Department. They have lost something in the process, and it is no surprise that young engineers are drawn to more dynamic and entrepreneurial industries."

I have made this observation in past posts – some engineering fields lose candidates to other engineering fields because of a perceived, if not actual value of those fields. For example, you have people (within and outside the US) constantly throwing resumes at Google just to work on arguably mature technology like spreadsheets or mobile phone applications, rather than having the opportunity to work on cutting-edge optics or communications technologies. Why would they do that? Well, let's look at what Google has to offer the young engineer:

  • 20% free time to work on their own project (that they can justify would enhance Google's business)
  • free meals
  • free transportation to/from work (in some areas)
  • the opportunity to work with ambitious, highly motivated geeks
  • potentially lucrative stock options
  • exposure to startup culture (for those thinking of eventually starting their own business)

Let's not forget that Google is expanding into other areas of engineering besides software: they have initiatives in green energy, the US electrical grid, even space exploration.

So for those of you working for the USG, or for government contractors, what is your pitch to the young engineers? What do you offer that Google does not? Why should someone work for you instead of for Google?

When I worked at SRI during the mid-to-late 1980s, I worked mostly on government contracts, as did my colleagues. Some of those projects were the forerunners of modern Internet technology. Seems exciting, right? Something engineers ought to want to do. However, most people I talked to who were looking for jobs did not want to work for SRI. Instead they wanted to go to Sun, SGI, Cisco ... the Googles of their day. In fact, several people I worked with left SRI to go work for the younger, more exciting tech companies of that time.

Should the US Congress perceive this as a shortage of engineers, or just people choosing a particular engineering subfield because they think it is more fun and lucrative?
Tags: career, internet history

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