Electronic Design

An Issue Devoted To Understanding Your World

the EE job market is growing, but there is an underlying uncertainty about the future.

Is this your "most important issue of the year"? Well, "staying current with new and emerging technologies" is your top concern and the main reason you read Electronic Design. But we do believe in the value of this annual special issue, as we step back from technology to look at the bigger picture of the profession and the career concerns of our readers. It's a chance to consider the non-technical factors that have a huge impact on the state of electronic design—your job satisfaction, compensation, and feelings about future career prospects. This issue reflects your perspective of today's engineering workplace, and I want to thank the thousands of you who participated in our annual survey. This year we introduce Ed the Engineer, a cartoon character who is to be the prototypical "everyman" when it comes to the EE world.

These are good times for Ed and for you. Demand for electronic engineers has picked up markedly, with only 8% of you now saying your companies are planning to scale back engineering staff, versus 42% who say your companies are looking to increase the number of engineering jobs. In fact, a headhunter or recruiter contacted nearly half of you in the last year. It's nice to be wanted!

Still, the overall North American job market continues to be impacted by new global competitors and the continued push to outsourcing and offshoring. The majority of outsourcing continues to go to other locations in the U.S. (59% of outsourcing), but there is a significant rise in the amount of design work being outsourced to India (32%). With the strong overall demand for EE skills in the U.S., only 5% of you are "very concerned" about losing your job to outsourcing.

In the long term, though, there is continued concern about whether we're pulling enough students into engineering programs in the U.S. and whether we'll soon face a domestic engineering shortage. Ron Schneiderman delves into these issues in "The Future of Engineering", while Don Tuite explores the factors contributing to the perceived shortage of analog engineers.

There's also controversy about whether foreign workers coming into the country on H-1B visas are taking jobs at lower wages and forcing out local engineers. IEEE-USA President Ralph Wyndrum has said proposals to raise H-1B visa caps should be scrapped until "significant workforce protections for U.S. employees are instituted."

The engineering workforce in the U.S. certainly looks very different than it did 20 years ago. Our survey shows that one-third of our readers are immigrants and that 26% aren't U.S. citizens, with 11% having H-1B visa status. Ed is becoming a multicultural sort of guy!

As to why companies hire H-1B visa workers, about one-third of both H-1B visa holders and U.S.-based engineers believe the hiring is to save money, while an equal percentage believes companies couldn't have otherwise found qualified workers in the U.S. About 23% of H-1B visa holders and 18% of U.S.-born workers say companies hire H-1B workers because they're "more qualified" than other engineers applying for the job.

Still, 91% of non-H-1B survey respondents say their jobs aren't threatened by H-1B visa holders, though 3.6% believe they lost a job to someone with that status. Concerned about the future, 57% of resident workers say the government should more tightly restrict the number of H-1B slots for engineering positions. Perhaps the government needs to reform the H-1B immigration programs to make it easier to apply for and receive permanent residency. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, most H-1B workers come to the U.S. hoping to stay permanently, but relatively few can obtain permanent residency.

For evidence of the value of immigrants to the U.S. engineering community, take a look at three of this year's EE Hall of Fame inductees— Edward Weston, a dynamo pioneer, Charles Steinmetz, the author of the Law of Hysteresis governing power losses, and Andrew Viterbi, inventor of the Viterbi Algorithm and CDMA technology. By continuing to attract the best and brightest from around the globe, we can also ensure the best and brightest future for the whole engineering community.

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