Archive for August 1st, 2010

Where Are The Best Engineers?

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

     Smart people say smart things, right?  Consider the following quote by Duke University adjunct professor Vivek Wadhwa, who testified before a House Committee:  “If a certain type of engineering job can be done more cost effectively in India or China, why should we invest in graduating more of those types of engineers?”

     Professor Wadhwa is said to have spoken before the House as a means of response to many engineering students’ fears of not finding a job upon graduation due to outsourcing, according to a somewhat dated, yet still applicable, article by Ed Burnette at  ( )

     As to the quality of engineers graduating from China and India, Professor Wadhwa states, “…the vast majority of Indian and Chinese graduates are not close to the standards of US graduates.”  And this sentiment is apparently shared by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the World Bank, who claim that 64 percent of Indian employers surveyed are:  “’somewhat,’ ‘not very,’, or ‘not at all’ satisfied with the quality of engineering graduates’ skills…”, this according to taatparya’s blog at  ( )

     Despite the poor review, one Indian writer, Swati, in poses this observation, “Then why are Indian software engineers in demand all over the world,” and continues to explain why:  Because “Indians are very hard working and they go through competition in every stage of life.  If you live in a Western country, you will never be able to co-relate what hard work means in Indian culture.  India has 1.1 billion people and a large middle class, therefore competition and hard work starts right from the early school level itself.  There is no concrete social programs and people know that they have no choice except to work hard, additionally there are social pressures to excel in life.”  Values, apparently, that Americans appear to lack.  (—Software-Engineer-vs–Professor/376 )

     Let’s return to our home shores for a moment.  No doubt you have read an article or two concerning the recently publicized outcome of this year’s round of state academic testing on our American children.  As in years past, they have not fared well.  In my hometown, which is said to be representative of the norm, only 46% of 3rd graders can read.  The results for math and science testing are, expectedly, even worse.

     So who or what is to blame for this poor showing? We know who the usual finger pointing is directed at.  And how is the problem to be solved?  Most of us are familiar with the proposed solutions as well.

     If you take the time to read the cited articles in their entirety, a picture emerges.  It’s a picture showing diverse people airing similar complaints.  Times are changing, of that we can all be certain.  We’ll take a closer look at some of the world’s engineering challenges in the weeks to follow.