Where the Engineers Are
To guide education policy and maintain its innovation leadership, the United States must acquire an accurate understanding of the quantity and quality of engineering graduates in India and China.
Although there is widespread concern in the United States about the growing technological capacity of India and China, the nation actually has little reliable information about the future engineering workforce in these countries. U.S. political leaders prescribe remedies such as increasing U.S. engineering graduation rates to match the self-proclaimed rates of emerging competitors. Many leaders attribute the increasing momentum in outsourcing by U.S. companies to shortages of skilled workers and to weaknesses in the nation’s education systems, without fully understanding why companies outsource. Many people within and beyond government also do not seem to look ahead and realize that what could be outsourced next is research and design, and the United States stands to lose its ability to “invent” the next big technologies.
At the Pratt School of Engineering of Duke University, we have been studying the impact of globalization on the engineering profession. Among our efforts, we have sought to assess the comparative engineering education of the United States and its major new competitors, India and China; identify the sources of current U.S. global advantages; explore the factors driving the U.S. trend towards outsourcing; and learn what the United States can do to keep its economic edge. We believe that the data we have obtained, through not exhaustive represent the best information available and can help U.S. policymakers, business leaders, and educators chart future actions.