Engineering Shortages – A US and Japan Parallel

The expanse of Electrical Engineering has been rapidly growing in the last few years. I had an opportunity to attend a talk focusing on new disciplines such as alternative energy, collaboration between electrical engineering disciplines and biosciences, mechanical engineering etc. are emerging fast.

Two experts from academia (Professor Charles Tu, Associate Dean, Jacobs School of Engineering, University of San Diego and Professor R. Lal Tummala, EE Dept. Chair and Graduate Advisor, San Diego State University) and industry expert (Dr. Ron Khormaei, Director of Engineering, Hewlett Packard) discussed the future technology advancement, more rapid globalization, and interest in direct impact of technology, the innovation needs have clearly moved to areas that fall between the traditional discipline.

This talk explores what is on the horizons of engineering studiesgraduate studies in Electrical Engineering.  Key theme discussed was the declining rate of US student enrollment in graduate engineering studies, an all too familiar theme.  While the US has been relying on foreign students in the recent pass to make the shortfall even enrollment in this category have dropped.  Foreign students have been opting to stay home as engineering programs in the home countries have made significant advancements in recent years.


Trends in Engineering Innovation

According to Ron Khormaei, he foresees the following trends to drive engineering advancements:

  • Innovation drives differentiation
  • Move towards multi-disciplinary
  • Shift from individual departments to collaborate centers – funding sources are looking for more impactful research
  • true expertise is spread around the world, need for more organizational collaboration

Key Trends in US

In summary, technology advancements required academic research to focused multi-disciplinary innovation across the globe through collaborate research centers.  Delivery methods also need to be advanced given the distribution of “experts” and “users” around different geographies. Dynamics of global economy are also influencing enrollment trends for Electrical Engineering studies worldwide.

**This writing is a summary of a panel discussion on “New Trends in Electrical Engineering Graduate Students” held on May 28, sponsored by the IEEE San Diego Section, held a Qualcomm.

A Parallel in Japan – Shortage of Engineering Talent

For years, Japan was projecting a short-fall of engineering student enrollment for more lucrative careers in finances or other creative fields, rather then following their salaryman fathers.  The Japanese have been seeing the downward trend almost 20 years ago and is the shortage is catching up with the nation’s ability to produce engineers. (Read “Japan Faces Engineering Shortage.”)

The shortage is having an impact on Japan’s competitiveness japan engineers in its ability to make technological advancements.  Companies are feeling the impact unable to fill critical engineering vacancies.

Companies are expanding their research centers in other parts of the world where there is a surplus of engineers.  Recruiting practices are changing with more emphasis of hiring foreign talent.  At the same time, recruiters are adjusting the their approach to meet the changing demographics and social attitudes of the younger generation.


Lessons Learned

Academia and industry must be able to see the looming crisis and take action before it is too late.  Falling behind will takes years for the nation to build up a student pipeline and critically impair our ability to continue our technology leadership.

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