Are engineers in America too young? Or too old? - Embedded.com

Are engineers in America too young? Or too old?

In Breaking the $300B Barrier: State of Semiconductor Industry, I discussed the state of the semiconductor industry in general. Today, I'd like like to start a discussion on the apparent aging of the engineerings in the US market. This is far from scientific research, so I am taking some leniency on the subject.

Three different events occurred recently that brought this subject to the forefront for me. First, I noticed a trend when trying to hire replacement engineers for several positions. Prior to the 2009 crash, we at EAG hired a group of engineers for application development. This is basically a hardware/software engineer who designs and develops hardware, software and applications, so they need a good mix of skills. The applicants were many and there was a large pool of qualified candidates with different levels of experience in the industry.

We retained most of the talent during the downturn in 2009, then started a slow hiring program in 2010 to 2012. We tried to target an experience level of five to 10 years for some senior positions. We asked for some specific experience on one of the large semiconductor test platforms. We were surprised by the applicants. Instead of getting resumes with the level of experience we were looking for, we received either foreign students looking for a sponsor or senior level engineers with over 20 years of experience. We polled a number of our customers to see if they had any candidates and the response was basically the same.

This experience has repeated several times, leaving me to wonder where the good, young engineers were to replace the present workforce. When our company changed focus and looked for an embedded development engineer, we did get a better pick from the experience pool, partly because it seemed like a growing field, with less maturity. Still, the experience level was strongly biased towards the two ends — either no experience or over 20 years of experience.

The final piece of evidence came at the GSA event held recently in Silicon Valley. The median age appeared to be in the late 50s, and youngsters were those in their 40s. Now it should be noted that this tends to be an event with more senior management types, but it is a bit concerning. I worry about what is left behind and who is going to take over the innovation and drive the industry forward.

It could just be that we have heard for so long that everything is moving to Asia, that it has discouraged many of our young people from studying engineering. This leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. CEOs complain about lack of talent, and at the same time state that they are going to Asia. Where is the incentive for the younger generation? While this seems to affect the test and application development field more than some of the newer fields, there does appear to be a general aging trend. This leads to the question, who will be there to pick up the slack once us grey hairs leave? My hope is the new STEM push will help infuse some much needed new blood into the US engineering stream. Please let me know your thoughts and ideas.

To read more and leave a comment, go to “Engineers in America: Too Young, Too Old” on EETimes.

11 thoughts on “Are engineers in America too young? Or too old?

  1. It always surprises me when so many seem to be caught off guard when dealing with the current 'local' supply of engineers. Many young engineers in the late 90's and early 00's were laid off and had a VERY hard time finding jobs, which led them to change th

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  2. Where have you been doing an ostrich imitation? This has been going on for years, since well before the last time I got laid off (nothing wrong with 1/2 of the company, they just didn't need us here in this state anymore). My son certainly had no inclina

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  3. Not sure I have seen the same issues. Our best engineers were hired as interns and converted to full-time once they graduated.
    Our young ( less than 30 yrs old) embedded/application/system engineers are smart and very capable.

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  4. Well Lance,

    As a 59 yr old firmware/hardware engineer I can say I'm glad about that for my own butt. At a major semi mfr I worked at in the late 90's/early 2k's I was displaced by a younger bunch when a new mgr appeared on the scene. But his strategy back

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  5. At least you can say the kids today are not fools, why waste your time learning a difficult comlex art like engneering only to get your pay udercut and your job outsourced?

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  6. First off, how did this article make it past an editor? Even the first paragraph has errors: “aging of the engineerings”; “taking some leniency on the subject”. The author is perhaps taking some latitude. Both he and the editor are apparently expecting the

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  7. I've seen numerous instances where only experienced engineers are sought, but not too much experience because they cost more. When, collectively, we don't hire the inexperienced ones and train them there won't be any experienced engineers 5-10 years later

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  8. It is really easy to see why the engineering river dried up….

    The 1950s and 1960s were the engineering boom years. Coming out of WW2, westerners wanted to put the past behind them and look to the future. There were breakthroughs in almost all fields of

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  9. So what do you suggest makes a good career choice for someone good at problem solving?

    If you are the type of engineer that gets your pay undercut and your job outsourced then you are probably not much good.

    I certainly don't see any really good engineer

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  10. I used to be one of those young engineers and I enjoyed the role. At my late fifties age I don't need the “growth path”. What I want is enjoyable work. What I bring is lots of experience. Don't filter out my resume.

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  11. I'm a professor here in the USA. From my observations, students these days are very work obverse. It becomes very difficult to explain global trends and competition to those who have a very local view. There is hope, I hope.

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