Electrical Engineers Extinction

Interesting observation.

Engineers on the brink of extinction threaten entire tech ecosystems

While computer science course take-up had gone up by over 90 percent in the past 50 years, electrical engineering (EE) had declined by the same amount. The electronics graduate has become rarer than an Intel-based smartphone.

That part of the technology industry which makes actual things has always been divided between hardies and softies, soldering iron versus compiler, oscilloscope versus debugger. But the balance is lost. Something is very wrong at the heart of our technology creation supply chain. Where have all the hardies gone?

I have a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering but switched to software after about 10 years because there were more and better paying jobs in software at the time. So… in a sense they are talking about me.


8 thoughts on “Electrical Engineers Extinction

  1. I’ve read worrying stories like that in trade magazines like Microwave Journal and RF Design for years now. Still, new wireless technology keeps getting cranked out, and a whole lot of stuff is done in the USA, often by rather small companies. So I’m not sure the picture is quite as dire as the headline says.
    That said, I’m a computer software guy with a BS in Physics who dabbles in electronics, so I’m not the best judge of this.

  2. It’s not just in the hardware engineering side. I’ve got a friend who works the transmitter equipment for radio stations. He is the only person in several counties that knows how to work on most of the equipment. He doesn’t know what will happen to the stations he works for whenever he stops working.

  3. Another reason is that even when I started on an EE degree in the 80s, all the TAs helping the classes were Chinese. A priority was being made to recruit foreign full-tuition-paying foreign students. Developing domestic talent was not just not a priority, is was an anti-priority. With the influx of cheaper competing H1Bs, the downward pressure on wages meant that the smart, able guys went, quite logically, elsewhere. Now, with active discrimination against talent in engineering across the board that is systematic enough it should be considered an active military plot to destroy American infrastructure via subversion and replacement (see https://voxday.net/2023/07/11/why-nothing-works-anymore/ for just one example), why SHOULD any normal American student go into Engineering?

    First they distrespect them, then they lower their pay, then the replace them, then they outsource them, and then they wonder why things don’t work any more.

    It is much like the current situation where a large number of US military veterans are telling their kids to NOT join, because your dad’s army is no more; it’s gone woke, and TPTB consider a dead healthy, straight, white, Christian male a good thing, especially if he’s an American. A painful thing to tell my son, indeed, but necessary and true. OTOH, he’s planning on being EE-adjacent, as an electrician.

  4. Just finished an article about how vintage pinball is making a comeback as the technicians are aging out of maintaining the machines.

    Dabbled in electronics before getting a computer degree, fixing up these machines would be a fun post-retirement hobby.

  5. Not just this. It’s everything. In my area, there is an 8 month wait to see a dental hygienist.

  6. EE is not the only discipline that is experiencing this. I made a good living at a major aerospace firm because I could effectively explain to the mechanical design side of the house what they needed to change in their designs to make them buildable in the first place and then how to enable cost effective repair in the second place. What we are missing are smart people that have had their hands dirty, enjoyed it and leaned all the tricks but also have the where with all to be successful in learning the engineering disciplines. Those people are becoming more rare all the time and can usually name their price when the rocks and the hard places start to become one place for many companies.

  7. As a retired BSME (heat transfer/thermogoddamics) I often get asked by parents if their children should get an engineering degree. The answer is an emphatic, “NO!”

    I explain that engineering careers are no longer valued in most companies and that if you don’t follow a managerial path you’re considered to have no ambition. Simply being a damned good engineer has no technical path for promotion or pay increase. In addition, engineering and design functions are being offshored as fast as possible, even though this triples the amount of work since the offshore engineers and designers are utterly incompetent and the work needs to be taken apart and done over by people who know what they’re doing.

    If the kids are literate, numerate, and technically oriented I tell them to go into a 2-year trade school for something like HVAC repair. Work as an apprentice to build skills and experience, and then start their own companies. In twenty years they can retire, since competent people (plumbers, electricians, any of the skilled trades) can name their own price and work as many hours as they want.

    The main reason is that fixing a furnace or air conditioner (or plumbing, etc) can’t be outsourced to Mumbai or wherever is now the cheapest labor source. It requires a human being right then and there to fix whatever’s broken. Given today’s building standards and quality of appliances/fixtures there’s going to be a LOT that breaks in the next few decades.

    You can’t offshore a job that requires a physical presence to perform.

  8. Then again… if the problem is that the older skills are vanishing and the new skills are all being offshored, a logical conclusion would be to study the old skills.
    My youngest sister comes to mind as an example. After wandering around various jobs without much direction she took an evening course on “business programming”. That became her career, and quite a lucrative one. Even today, being good at COBOL is a reliable way to earn a living.

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