Calilfornia’s governator, Arnold Schwarzennegger who, if anybody, ought to know a thing or two about engineering having played a cyborg in three Terminator movies, has declared a statewide engineer shortage and a plan to solve it.
“California needs more engineers to achieve the improvements to our roads, schools and other infrastructure that voters envisioned when they passed the Strategic Growth Plan bonds last year,” says the Terminator in a day after Christmas message.
How many is more? 20,000 in 10 years, according to the press release that reads, well, like even the government writers are on strike.
While the governor’s office churned up statistics projecting a shortage of 40,000 engineers by 2014, the number is a little shaky. A 2003 Rand Corporation suggested the U.S. was not lagging as far behind other countries in the production of PhD engineers as the hand-wringers might fear. Then last year, The Wall Street Journal’s CareerJournal.com carried this comment by Richard Tax, president of the American Engineering Association, “Companies are looking for a five-pound butterfly. Not finding them doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of butterflies.” The context was that companies are looking for engineers with so many credentials and so much experience and ignoring those without it that it makes it look like there’s a shortage.
Article Continues Below
Note that we are talking engineers generally. Mechanical, structural, civil and other engineering specialties, while hardly a dime a dozen, are no where near as in short a supply as are computer and electrical engineers.
California’s plan to increase the number of locally grown engineers won’t be fully outlined until after Schwarzenegger’s State of the State speech on January 8th. However, the press release offers a glimpse of the plan which includes establishing programs specifically for military veterans with engineering training at the state’s graduate and undergraduate schools; the creation of an engineering education council to generate more private funding for the public universities and colleges; and, enhancing the charter school program (a California experiment turning over public schools to private groups) to encourage the expansion of private High Tech High to build out engineering-focused charter schools throughout the state.