Reports from across the world over the last three years seem to indicate a lack of employees to fill important engineering jobs. A shortage of engineers could very well be a major problem for both developed and developing nations because they are needed to fuel innovation and design and complete national defense as well as complete specific projects for the private sector. Engineering jobs are not easy to fill due to high educational and experience requirements, so universities and governmental organizations have stepped up recruiting and admissions to help bring more engineers up to speed as quickly as possible.
For now, experienced engineers enjoy increased salaries and benefits due to fierce competition for available engineering jobs. This competition is widely viewed as a question of supply and demand. The demand for engineers is exceptionally high all over the world, and areas such as India, Germany, and the United Kingdom are reporting a shortage of skilled engineers. At least one recent high-profile fatal equipment malfunction has illustrated the problems that can arise from a lack of engineering resources.
The solution to the problem is fairly obvious for many universities that teach science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—or STEM—courses. The institutions are heavily promoting the engineering job outlook as a way to get new students interested and enrolled in their STEM programs. Some reports indicate that universities will need to graduate at least 100,000 engineers each year until the year 2020 to meet rising demand. Governmental agencies, including America's White House, are helping to provide additional resources for STEM students looking to take engineering jobs.
The engineering job outlook itself is questionable, however. Many, including specialists with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, do not believe the reports of a shortage. Unemployed engineers are reporting a glut in the market, not a shortage, and the problem may be attributed by the fact that many engineering jobs are now tied to specific projects instead of companies. This means there may be vast over-reporting of available engineering jobs due to the number of projects ongoing at any time instead of the number of openings available. Speculation on why the purported myth of a shortage continues includes a push by businesses worldwide to extract cheaper labor by hiring foreign workers or increasing the number of workers competing for engineering jobs at home. Another theory is that governments are attempting to promote innovation and shore up national defenses by creating a glut of workers.
Whether or not the shortage is a myth, it is clear that engineering is a very hot field at the current time. Those seeking engineering jobs are likely to find themselves in a position to negotiate higher salaries and benefits for the near future, and time will tell if the push to create more STEM students results in an overabundance of skilled engineers or simply enough to fill the open engineering jobs available in both the private and public sectors worldwide.
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