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Out of Our Minds
Thursday, February 09, 2006 11:53 AM
Welcome Techies of the World
Kevin Salwen on Passionate Work

Forbes.com has an eye-opening piece this morning in which a cluster of CEOs lament the state of American science and math education. From Accenture to Pfizer to Office Depot, the CEOs contend that the education system is failing to produce enough engineers and other technologists who can help drive the American manufacturing process. Foreign-born tech graduates are returning home to places like China and India, science degrees are not as sexy as MBAs, there's no quick fix, you've heard many of these things.

But just as I was about to stop reading, the last paragraph jumped out at me: 'And that gets to the heart of their motive: get out in front of public furor over outsourcing. After all, if the American workforce doesn't shape up, outsourcing is only bound to grow as more talented foreign engineers go back home after getting a U.S. education. (Hank) McKinnell of Pfizer put it bluntly: 'If this continues, we're going to have to follow them.' ' Read it folks: Here in America, we need to get smarter fast or U.S.-based companies will take jobs to other places.

Oh wait, aren't they already doing that? Manufacturing electronics in China. Coding software in India. Making clothing in Vietnam. I'm not saying it's wrong. Companies should get the best talent at the best price and if the American workforce isn't right, it shouldn't be hired. But the political ducking and covering by these CEOs is disingenuous at best.


Jennifer Warwick - 2/10/2006 11:16:27 AM
I'm curious to see pop culture's impact on this in a few years - when the generation that grew up on CSI, NUMB3RS, Bones, NCIS and other shows where science, math and computers are cool/sexy are ready to declare their college majors.
Grant Henninger - 2/9/2006 2:21:52 PM
Kevin, I must disagree with you. To me what these CEOs are saying is that the US is loosing its edge in a skilled workforce. For the most part, the high-paying, critical thinking intensive jobs have stayed in the US and more manual labor jobs have been outsourced. What this says, and I think it's true, is that other countries are starting to be able to compete with the US for these jobs, and oftentimes they can do the same job for less money.

In the past the US has been able to provide a better worker, which commanded the higher price. That is no longer the case, and either the US needs start producing workers that are that much better, or it needs to reduce its standard of living greatly (meaning a huge decrease in the average household's income.)


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