A “Shortage” of Engineers? I Doubt It

Warning: I’m on a rant. Yesterday’s Wall St. Journal had an article called “Behind ‘Shortage’ of Engineers: Employers Grow More Choosy” (if I could figure out the URL, I would paste it in here, but I can’t figure out how to do that. Sharon Begley is the author, and the WSJ requires registration. If you’re not a subscriber, it costs money.)

Sure enough, Begley describes multiple cases of hiring-manager shortsightedness:

  • Eliminating people without BSCS degrees (even though they had work experience in similar companies!)
  • Some were overqualified
  • Some weren’t familiar with a specific piece of software

Maybe it’s my head cold, but this seems completely nuts to me. They did all this reduce the number of phone screens from 200 resumes? Phooey on them.

Here’s one reason why, quoting from the article Companies often draw up extremely narrow job descriptions, recruiters and staffing managers say, causing searches to get drawn out. I supposed if you don’t analyze the job and write a real job description, you have to write a narrow job description and use filtering software to eliminate the multitude of candidates.

I don’t see why you can’t write a good job description, and if you want, put a test-like thing in place to screen candidates before you even review their resumes. Ah, but that would require real strategic and tactical help from the HR folks, which may not be possible in many organizations.When hiring becomes strategic, then people will invest some time in setting up a hiring process that works rather than one that dehumanizes candidates and increases the cost to the company.

6 Replies to “A “Shortage” of Engineers? I Doubt It”

  1. I have been self/unemployed for almost 4 years now. I have all of the following:
    – BSCS from the University of North Texas
    – Do well at interviews
    – Great portfolio: http://www.allbinary.com
    – 4 years of professional experience
    – Applied for thousands of jobs online, in person, and by fax
    – Good Resume: http://www.allbinary.com/resume.htm
    – Much much more…
    Even though I have all of that I can’t even get a job at a gas stataion. I have had interviews with dozens of companies. They all try to delay things forever. A gas station had me file online, call them, fill out the same application at the store, and then they ask me to come back two more times. I will find out Monday whether they wish to delay it further or decide to hire me or stop wasting my time.
    What in the hell is going on. I live on the street for the third time with a BSCS. Until 2002 I had not been unemployed for longer that a few months since 1988 when I was 14. So why is it impossible for me to get another crap job much less a good Software Developer position at a company without its head up its #$@%!.

  2. That article makes quite clear what we engineers have suspected (known) all along: There is no shortage of engineering talent in the US and there won’t be one any time soon.
    Companies like Microsoft and Intel complain about the so-called ‘shortage’ of engineers because they want a cheaper labor pool. They don’t want to be in the position of having to offer higher salaries to attract talent, so they call their buddies and Washington DC and convince them of the ‘shortage’.
    I can just hear the call now:
    “Oh, Mr. Senator, we’ve got a shortage of C#, C++, Java, Ruby .NET, open source programmers who have at least 5 years of experience with each as applied to microprocessor validation and analysis and with knowledge of chip design using BigChipDesigner 13.2 (no, 13.1 won’t do, it was so six months ago!) and expert level VHDL and Verilog simulation and synthesis experience… oh and they need to be Microsoft office experts who can answer phones so they can fill in when the secretary is out sick…”
    And I’m supposed to recommend engineering to all of the highschool students I know? More like run the other way kids, be smart be an auto mechanic or Dentist.

  3. Travis: Just took a look at your resume, etc. Here’s a tip: Learn Ruby on Rails. I know, I hate to tell you you need to learn something else, but it’s got a fairly low learning curve and the demand for it is rising pretty quickly now. I get at least an email every day or so from somene looking for a Rails contractor. It’s an opportunity to be on the leading edge.

  4. While programming is becoming a commodity, someone who knows how to program, knows how to interact with business personnel, knows how to make friends and knows how to sell his best characteristics wont be without a job long. There are thousands of jobs for someone with a BSCS, if you’ve had dozens of interviews and not gotten a job then its not that you’re not ‘qualified’ or they wouldn’t have gone that far. Re-evaluate how you present yourself and how you sell yourself.

  5. As an engineer and a recruiter, sometimes it’s hard to know where the truth ends and the BS begins. One benefit of working with a large company and staying in touch with people who still work there is that you get the truth indirectly. Companies don’t want to pay the premium in the U.S. for skilled talent – that’s the reason they want to increase the number of H1 visas. Companies very often advertise for positions they don’t want to fill. They already have their applicant and they’re moving them along in the citizenship process. That cost and the salaries are still lower than paying a U.S. engineer for the same work. One reason we have fewer U.S. graduates with advanced technical degrees is that we are keeping the average salaries down by employing foreign nationals.

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