Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Demand For Engineers Rising Fast In U.S.

Yep, this is an actual headline. Why do I sound surprised? Oh, maybe because so many IT people are either unemployed or underemployed these days. I guess my point is, what could possibly be the point of this article? Its text is as confusing as its headline. Some of these pseudo-industry/trade/lobby/gubment-type groups are so shady. Somewhere in the mix of this article's mixed messages is a theme that the U.S. must train high tech workers here, at home, in the U.S., and then keep them here, to work, to make stuff, and something or other. Here is one theme-type passage:

If the U.S. is to maintain its global leadership, it must ramp up its science, mathematics and engineering training, these groups say.

OK - global leadership sounds good to me, I guess. Here's another:

"Having a well-trained and well-equipped science and engineering work force is the basis for our economic well-being," he [Joseph Miller, CTO at Corning, Inc.] said.

Ummm....ok. I don't know - it's a rehash of everything we know about the high tech industry in the U.S. for the past several years. It's everything and nothing at the same time - and the title of the article? Demand For Engineers Rising Fast In U.S. OK, since the overall message of the article is FUBAR, let's just start with the one assertion made by this dubious title. Where is the evidence of 'demand rising'?

Also, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says demand for science and engineering workers will increase three times faster than all job categories this decade. Eighty-six percent of those jobs - 2.2 million - will be in the computer field.

OK - now we're getting somewhere. Let's just say we take this statistical fact at face value and move on. But, as soon as we're ready to give the benefit of the doubt to the author of this awful piece, we read this:

Yet unemployment in engineering occupations rose in the third quarter of 2003, say BLS data. The unemployment rate was 6.7%, up from 6.4% in the second quarter and five times higher than it was in 2000.

Hmmmmmm. Well, what's one data point? Besides, there must be a reason for this obviously-faulty data point:

For starters, the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) was wrong the last time it projected job demand for engineers. The BLS updates its job forecast every two years. The last time it made projections, "it was way off," said [George] McClure. "Their crystal ball isn't much better than the rest of ours."

Hmmmmmm. Way off. Crystal ball. Well, ok, whatever. Let's move on. We're not making much progress here. We don't know why the mis-prediction was mis-predicted, or how it was supposedly not mis-predicted this time. Nor do we know how other confusing tidbits of information strewn throughout the article - like the increasing fluidity of the high tech labor markets - might affect future mis-predictions. But, let's move on. I feel we're building a case for something here. Soon. I swear.

To be sure, these are still tough times in tech. Despite the recent increase in U.S. employment overall, the tech industry is still losing jobs - down 3.9% in November.

Doh! I'm trying to find a data point to support my article's title, damn it! All in all, a perfectly horrific article from the Investor's Business Daily. I'm fairly used to seeing the IT industry trade rags printing all sorts of rosy job forecast data to pimp the H1-B high tech worker/visa program, so this type of article is not surprising in its duplicity, but it is surprising in its inabilility to must a clear message. Is there an audience for this article? Who? Maybe it'll show up in someone's research report? Someone who used Lexis-Nexis to search all the titles of news articles in the past year for keywords 'demand, rising, engineers' so it can be thrown into some bogus research report for an IT lobby group? I don't know - sounds like a lot of effort to me.

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