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Electrical Engineer Unemployment Soars; Software Developers' Rate Drops to 2.2% 419

dcblogs writes "The unemployment rate for people at the heart of many tech innovations — electrical engineers — soared in the first quarter of this year to 6.5%. That's nearly double the unemployment rate from last year. The reasons for the spike aren't clear, but the IEEE-USA says the increase is alarming. At the same time, U.S. Labor Dept. data showed that jobs for software developers are on the rise. The unemployment rate for software engineers was 2.2% in the first quarter, down from 2.8% last year. This professional group warns that unemployment rates for engineers could get worse if H-1B visas are increased. The increase in engineering unemployment comes at the same time demand for H-1B visas is up."
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Electrical Engineer Unemployment Soars; Software Developers' Rate Drops to 2.2%

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  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @12:40AM (#43409143) Journal
    Come to Australia for a few months optical splicing work.
    The locals need help with that.
    Depending on the election outcome years of corroded copper maintenance work could open up if your skilled.
    Cable slides out, cable slides in .... cable slides out, cable slides in... crushed duct.
  • Learn to code (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fragMasterFlash ( 989911 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @12:56AM (#43409191)
    If you have done the work to become an EE you should know how to code fairly well already and given the current need for skilled software developers you can probably get hired doing embedded systems work in any of the North American technology hubs quite easily. It may not be your preferred line of work but its a living wage until and work experience to tide you over until the wave of change sweeps across the industry.
  • Re:One cause (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @01:35AM (#43409359)
    It is actually the later. Universities have literrally been lowering their entry requirements as they have not gotten enough applicants, the result is a subpar crop of students, yes there is still some good ones, but the overall average quality has dropped significantly.
  • Re:One cause (Score:3, Interesting)

    by crispytwo ( 1144275 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @01:51AM (#43409427)

    The education level across the board seems to be in steady decline here as well (Canada). It was, at one time too, my opinion that the training was the problem, but every so often there has been amazing people come through it as well. Thinking back to when I was in University, there were plenty of 1/2 quality people then too. And to be fair, we had a lot less to work with back then.

    Now that I hire people, I'm looking for those 'gems', which tend to be rare. Then there are the 'experienced' people that don't have the current skills required to do the demanded work, and many have the attitude that they do not have things to learn, or are not going to bother. And they still expect top dollar. Then there are the young ones who don't have a clue and think they do. And expect 'roll-your-eyes' top dollar.

    This brings me to a different but effectively similar conclusion:
    1) The education system has always been mediocre, so when you are looking, it shows
    2) Society has shifted toward people feeling more entitled than ever... Maybe it skipped a generation. Yes, that's actually it.
    3) My perspective has changed, therefore scrutinizing others' abilities to a degree I've never done before. (This is major)

    Since there are more people now (physical numbers, not ratio) that can't/won't do anything worth while, it is both daunting and depressing.

    To touch on the idea that classes "lower the level of difficulty" is probably true in a way. I've heard that parents confront university and college professors regularly about their child's performance in classes and demand higher grades from them for their adult children. This is anecdotal evidence, but it would be interesting to find out if this is common-place. I can't imagine my parents becoming involved in my incompetence at that age... but, perhaps that's another story.

    I think that it would be a better education system where students are permitted to enter and continue based on merit, not money. It is increasingly the other way around, it seems.

  • by asm2750 ( 1124425 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @01:53AM (#43409433)
    If you look at most entry level jobs for EE's, and Computer Engineers they want applicants to have 3 to 5 years of actual experience on products like VxWorks, Synopsys, ActiveHDL, Cadence, etc. No company wants to take a fledgling American EE graduate and help give them the skills/training needed to do their job well and build loyalty. They expect their hires to be laying gold eggs from day one with no help, have 3 or 4 internships under their belt.

    I got my MSEE last year, and all I am getting offers for are contract jobs that only last 3 to 18 months.
    Sure the pay is okay, but what happens when that pool dries up? Would you like moving from job to job always stressing out if you are going to get another contract when the current one ends?
    What if you get sick? You have to buy your own health insurance plan when you work under a contract. That might, or might not be expensive, and might not cover everything.
    How about additional training to make yourself marketable, and able to do the job faster/better? With how companies act today, don't count on it. Most contractors also expect you to be an expert in the area you will be working in.

    I would be happy to take a pay reduction for the first year or two just to get into an actual design job that has job security, and offers a constructive environment. R&D would be even better but, even I know the limits of my skills.

    Maybe it's time for engineers to start their own small side companies or, maybe it's time to encourage a tradesman program where experienced EE's show new EE's how things are done, and train the skills needed to do the job.
  • Re:One cause (Score:4, Interesting)

    by servognome ( 738846 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @02:18AM (#43409553)
    Don't forget many classes grade on a curve. So the more idiots there are in the class, the better a mediocre student will appear.

    I was an engineering major and there were a couple of people who most felt probably didn't belong, but we didn't care because the majority in class were very intelligent.
    Then one semester I took an introductory astronomy class just out of curiosity. The class average after the first test (multiple choice even), was 55% - and those students would get a "C" because they represented average. I received 115% on that test. After that I realized how low the bar was to get into college.
    So if you think your fellow engineering students are lacking in performance, just imagine how inept those sociology, anthropology, and other non-tech students are.
  • by Sentrion ( 964745 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @03:06AM (#43409775)

    You really can't compare CEO pay to the pay of workers and professionals. A key difference is that the CEO decides how resources are allocated. Say a startup company has a CEO and one employee. The company brings in $2mil in revenue its first year and the only expense is the employee salary. If the CEO offers the employee $100k per year and the employee agrees that this is a good salary to accept an offer and remain employed then the CEO can choose to do with the remaining $1.9mil whatever he sees fit. Now let's say that there is a minority shareholder who expects a return on his investment. Suppose he originally invested 40% of $200k in startup capital. And let's say that the CEO wants the stock price to remain stable and competitive with similar companies in his industry. If most similar companies are paying investors a 5% dividend each year as the stock price increases by 12% each year, then the CEO can do likewise, even though the young startup company has just earned a massive windfall in its first year. Such a windfall may (or may not based on various factors) drive up the price of the company stock. If the CEO wants to keep the price increase of the company stock at a stable level matching the growth of similar companies in his industry he can pay himself huge bonuses, increased salary, and enjoy a few tax write-offs such as a company car and a timeshare in a corporate jet. The end result is that the investor is paid the "market rate" in the form of dividends and capital gains while the employee is paid the "market rate" for his services, without any regard for the fact that the profits generated are far and above the market rates paid to either. The CEO in literally raking it all in simply because he's in the position to plunder the corporate funds however he chooses and his only risks are that the minority shareholders might grumble if they get less than the market rate for their investment, and similar concerns for employees who will only grumble if they earn less than their peers.

    Now, expand this system to hundreds of types of employees, managers, and classes of investors. The CEO can only borrow so much cash to maintain position as majority shareholder, so he teams up with his buddy who is a CEO at another firm. They decide to swap shares with each other, sit on each other's board of directors, convince retailer investors (aka their employees of their own and their buddy's firms) to put their savings into their companies, perpetuate the myth of independent corporate governance, perpetuate the myth of free markets and the effectiveness of anti-trust legislation, direct the funds of their corporations to pass laws that strengthen the position of their class in society, pay exponentially higher compensation to managers depending on level of authority to perpetuate the myth that executive pay is a product of the free market, and while sitting on each other's boards of directors vote each other exhorbitant pay increases, bonuses, and perks. Then when the system comes crashing down, call up the government that they bought and paid for to borrow excessively by selling bonds to China, print currency that reducses the value of the US dollar earned and held by the middle class, and give it to them to "bail" them out, then vote each other bonuses for accomplishing the goal. Go back to the government to reduce their taxes while making sure there is little or no tax cuts for the middle class, "reform" bankruptcy, manipulate the labor market by paying low wages while making sure that underpaid workers receive food stamps, social security and medicaid that is subsidized by the middle class. Remind corporate stooge politicians to keep taxes for social security and medicare only on the first $100k of income so this burden is placed mostly on the middle class. Hire astro-turfers to convince the working class voters that giving bailouts and tax breaks to the wealthy will make the rich richer and that this is a good thing since ONLY the mega-rich create jobs, but make sure not to mention that those jo

  • Re:One cause (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @04:04AM (#43409997)

    I disagree. I'm living proof you can graduate electrical engineering with honours using copious amounts of Wikipedia. I came out of University knowing nothing and it has been an uphill battle getting where I am now. Most of my colleagues are the same. University is no longer about learning and it's all about getting a piece of paper, then we rely on learning on the job.

    This works well in some cases but I look back at some of the people I studied with and they are unable to get registered professional engineering status as they lack the skills required even several years out of uni.

    That is not the sort of mediocrity our universities should be churning out.

  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @04:07AM (#43410007) Homepage Journal

    People are envious, jealous and the ruling class (politicians) are capitalising on class war-fare-mongering (that word is likely not in a dictionary).

    There is a legitimate problem with some people getting artificial advantage from the money that is created out of thin air by the Fed, money which shouldn't exist and it's given to the banks that shouldn't exist anymore. That money props up the Treasury (which doesn't exist, there is no treasure, only debt).

    All of this allows the banks to give themselves a pat on the back, to give the politicians themselves a pat on the back and everybody gets paid with that fake money.

    That's a problem, because it is inflation and it causes drop in real value of the money for EVERYBODY else who is not involved in this giant counterfeiting and laundering machine.

    This free money for decades has been flowing into the system destroying it.

    This story is on Electrical Engineers unemployment and simultaneously there are complains that there is no talent among EEs. It's obvious to me that the inflation and all the taxes and regulations have crushed investment opportunities in USA (at the least since 1971) and that's why manufacturing was and is leaving, because investment was leaving, running away from the anti-business, anti-saver, anti-investor climate.

    The fall of the manufacturing sector eventually causes the fall of the employment among EEs and other professionals needed for manufacturing and eventually this causes reduction in quality of the available professionals.

    At the same time the inflation, taxes (income and especially death tax) and regulations make it impossible for the companies that are still in USA to think long term. They are forced to find ways to beat inflation and to make 5-6% return on the investment and that's hard, try to make a return of 11-21% a year, you are going to fail, so MOST companies will fail in this environment.

    Those who will not fail immediately will be the biggest entities and there because of death taxes the companies no longer have real owners, the kids of the original founders are not there, the companies were sold to liquidate to pay the taxes, the companies turn public.

    A public company is like a public property, nobody owns it really, so whoever succeeds in becoming the management just works for their own benefit and it's short term benefit because of high inflation and taxes.

    So this entire system is set to destroy private business, private property while doing it with spectacular amounts of fake money and in that climate average people are getting poorer and easier to manipulate by the politicians who in fact created this problem in the first place (well, the mob let them, the mob cheered for them while they turned the Republic into this quasi-socialist-fascist state).

    So the inflation and lack of owners due to taxes and lack of competition due to regulations and taxes create all of these problems and part of it is that some people manage to get huge compensation where in a free market they couldn't, competitive forces would take care of inefficiencies like that.

    Again, it's stupidity, envy, jealousy, class warfare and those are symptoms of a dying economy.

  • Re:One cause (Score:4, Interesting)

    by solidraven ( 1633185 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @05:43AM (#43410303)
    As a fairly recent graduate I can say the following about this. Many of my class mates were idiots. Very very big idiots.
    So why do they make it to the last year? Well quite simple, else they're going to shut down the program due to it not having a sufficient quantity of students. There were 8 students planning to finish their EE degree. Another problem is that governments demand a certain quantity of girls. Frankly a lot of girls that started in the first year weren't fit for it but got through anyway simply to avoid punishment due to gender equality laws. Combined with complaints from industry that they don't have enough engineers some schools lower standards sometimes. Luckily I know a couple of professors were (and hopefully still are) fighting that trend. Every time a subject was made easier they made a mandatory subject harder in an attempt to filter out idiots. It worked pretty well, I've seen people get caught on the same subject for years.

    So what have I observed amongst my brethren? Many of them didn't grasp basic analog design at all, they were useless at HDL, and lets not even get started on DSP. Many subjects were scrapped due to lack of funding or interest. It's now automatically assumed by the schools that nobody will ever have to do any integrated analog design. They assume hitting the synthesize button in a random Cadence program will do it all for you. I got really annoyed by that one and after some minor campaigning it did sort of get considered for the next few years. So yeah, things we didn't get include: integrated design (though I followed a few seminars on that subject), SCADA systems, (de)modulator design (was discussed in a theoretical fashion in the assumption that they were smart enough to translate it into a circuit themselves), etc. Of people that graduated in my year it's safe to safe to say that only 2 of us deserved the legal title of engineer. This is also why the other 6 ended up as glorified sales people. That's also the main category where you'll find these guys/girls. It's mainly these people who can't find jobs. There's not much point in hiring an EE, having to pay him/her an EE's paycheck (which I must admit isn't small), and then concluding that they don't know a thing about electronics.

    PS: I know one of my class mates in a masters program had trouble hooking up LEDs to a power supply.
  • Re:One cause (Score:5, Interesting)

    by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @08:00AM (#43410849)

    I graduated with an ME 20 years ago. Every time there is a new problem I have to relearn the material. Where the education helps is I at least know how to attack the problem even if I have to look up and relearn how to do the analysis.

  • Re:One cause (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2013 @09:44AM (#43411551)

    People might *say* taxes and labor are huge factors, but if you look at the real world, things like environmental laws, lawsuit-risk, and legal compliance costs are bigger issues.

    If your factory is in Texas and a federal court in the US determines that your product infringes upon somebody's patent, they'll get an injunction shutting down your production line and ordering you to surrender or destroy the goods. If your factory is in China and a federal court in the US determines that your product infringes upon somebody's patent, you can still probably save the day by shipping them to some other country that doesn't automatically follow the decisions of American patent lawsuits.

    If your factory is in California or the EU, and your design depends upon some older component that isn't available/reliable/affordable in RoHS-compliant form, you won't just be prohibited from selling it there... they won't even allow you to MANUFACTURE it there for export to other states/countries.

    Put another way, if you do your assembly work in the US, your risk is higher because there are more things that can disrupt your ability to manufacture, sell, or export your products... and more things that can go wrong to disrupt your supply chain.

    That's not to say that China doesn't have its own problems (especially in the "sustained quality" department), and that's why countries with significantly higher labor costs and taxes than China, but looser regulatory climates (like Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia) have their manufacturing growing by leaps and bounds. It's why India has lots of call centers and software companies, but struggles to grow its manufacturing -- it has almost as much bureaucracy and legal risk as the US.

    The most successful industry in India -- pharmaceuticals -- flourishes mainly because India has appropriate regulations to monitor safety and quality, but nevertheless doesn't blindly buy into American IP laws, so you can make drugs there that Americans would feel safe buying, but lawyers wouldn't allow you to manufacture in the US due to patents. India doesn't recognize "use" patents, only manufacturing-process patents; if somebody in the US gets a new use patent for some old drug in a new dosage, India says, 'that's nice, we'll be selling it next week because it's the same drug.' Ditto, for drugs that are still under patent, but somebody can find a significantly different way to manufacture. In America, you can patent the existence of a molecule. India only allows you to patent the steps that get you from some raw material TO that molecule.

    In theory, Florida is a low tax state that should be the land of golden American opportunity for American manufacturing. In reality, our state infrastructure is shit, and the closest thing we have to an industry not related to tourism is limestone and phosphate mining. That's because industry requires infrastructure, and when a state or country doesn't have enough of the right kind of infrastructure to attract factories, the best it can hope for is a low-paying service economy whose only manufacturing comes from low-tech mining and export of the raw materials to somewhere else.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell