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FIGURE 1 First natural science degrees. Source: NSB, 2006.

Third, salary trends and other labor market information indicate that there is no shortage of engineers in the United States. This may be true today, but here I must raise a caveat. Everyone I know who has looked at current labor market conditions and predicted what they mean for the future, especially in engineering, has fallen on their sword. I claim no particular wisdom about the “right” number of engineers we should be graduating. But I do think we have to be very careful about basing decisions on today’s marketplace conditions. We really should focus on the future.

Finally, the fourth point is that our universities are better than those of China and India. I agree with that. I don’t know if that situation is fleeting or will last forever. But I believe we should aim at making it last forever. In fact we currently have major advantages over the rest of the world in the way most of our institutions educate most of our engineers.

No matter how you look at it, there are mixed messages out there. Earlier this month, on October 12, 2006, The New York Times carried a story with the headline “Profit Rises 53% at Infosys, a Top Indian Outsourcing Company” (Rai, 2006). A mere five days later, on October 17, there was another headline in the Times, “Skills Gap Hurts Technology

FIGURE 2 First engineering degrees. Source: NSB, 2006.

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