Wohlers Associates Inc., headed by Terry Wohlers, an expert in the additive fabrication market, publishes an annual report on new developments and trends in additive fabrication. The company also issues food for thought via “Wohlers Talk,” a blog that offers views, perspective, and commentary related to rapid product development and a wide range of other topics. A recent Wohlers Talk commentary addresses the question of whether the United States is not producing enough new engineers.
The blog post challenges published assertions that the United States suffers from a lack of engineering graduates, including articles suggesting that countries such as China are producing many more engineers than the USA. The crux of the matter is the definition of engineer. While the United States and some other countries would count only those with a four-year engineering degree as engineers, the Wohlers Talk piece says, China and other low-wage countries seem to have a tendency to call by that term the individuals in their manufacturing plants who are trained to run a CNC milling machine.
Leland Teschler, the editor of Machine Design magazine, is cited as saying in his December 13, 2007, issue that the United States has no shortage of scientists or engineers—that, in fact, there are many more scientists and engineers graduating in the USA than there are jobs available for them. In that article, he goes on to say, according to Wohlers Talk, that students graduating from US high schools do not lag far behind those in economically competitive countries in the subjects science and mathematics. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, RAND Corp., Harvard University, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and Stanford University have all come to the same conclusion, Teschler observes.
Clearly, there is interest in increasing the number of engineers in the Unites States, acknowledges Terry Wohlers, who says he fully supports engineering education and the generation of many good new US engineers. Yet, argues Wohlers, the best way to increase the supply of engineers is to boost the demand for them. The intensifying outsourcing of product development and engineering tasks to India and other countries makes growing that demand within US borders increasingly difficult. That is a trend Wohlers does not see disappearing anytime soon.
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