Short on Fact?

Shortage or not, the engineering profession in the United States seems at a crossroads

A common perception about the engineering profession in the United States is that it’s in trouble because there is a shortage of engineers. It has been reportedly widely that China and India are producing 12 times as many engineers as the United States.1

"Just looking at basic labor supply numbers, there’s clearly a shortage of engineers," said Brendan Wallace, the CEO of Identified.com, a company that operates a professional job-search engine. "There’s clearly a voracious demand."2

This chronic dearth of engineering students "threatens America’s role as the world’s leading innovator and continues to impede our nation’s fragile economic recovery," wrote Paul Otellini, a member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and the president and chief executive of Intel Corp.3

So it only makes sense that educators and businesses do everything they can to promote the profession, generate more interest and ultimately graduate more students who supposedly can easily find engineering jobs in the United States. Right?

Why else would the National Engineers Week Foundation annually organize special events and promotions during February—this year Feb. 19-25—to promote and celebrate engineering? Why do many organizations, including ASQ, rally around efforts to encourage students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the classroom? Why would the President’s Council commit to doubling the number of engineering internships at private companies in the United States this year?4

But is the dilemma as serious as the numbers show? Is this shortage of engineers in the United States threatening the country’s future ability to innovate and advance?

A 2005 Duke University study, which resurfaced recently after the presidential taskforce unveiled its findings, takes issue with the suggestion of an engineering shortage in the United States. It says there may be some shortages in specific engineering fields and regions of the country but that there isn’t an overall engineering shortage.

The study questioned the commonly used graduation statistics used to document the problem: China graduates 600,000 engineers per year; India, 350,000; and the United States, 70,000. "What we learned was that no one was comparing apples to apples," the authors wrote.5

Definitions of engineering and the skills the countries use to classify students as engineers are inconsistent with those the United States uses, the authors said.

More accurate comparisons show the United States graduated more engineers (about 140,000) than India (about 120,000). China’s 350,000 tally is suspect because of China’s definition of engineers. For instance, auto mechanics or technicians in China are classified as engineers.6

Putting aside the graduation rates and discussions on shortages, all sides agree the profession in the United States is at a crossroads, and something must be done to get the education system, businesses and government aligned to produce the right engineers who will boost innovation and entrepreneurship.

"Some of [the United States’] best engineers are not doing engineering, and some of its best potential engineers are not even studying engineering, leaving us short-changed in solving the important problems of the day," said Vivek Wadhwa, one of authors of the study. "Most American children just aren’t interested in studying engineering."7

The United States must do a better job of graduating more of the right types of engineers—and paying engineers higher salaries to keep them in the profession in the United States, Wadhwa said.

Salaries in most engineering professions in the United States have not increased more than the inflation rate in 20 years, and they’re not competitive with those of other highly trained professionals.8

"It makes more financial sense for a top engineering student to become an investment banker than an engineer," according to the study.9

In addition, universities, the private sector and government need to rally engineers and scientists around challenges in renewable energy, sustainability or medicine, for instance. This can help create "momentum in making engineering a valued and even ‘cool’ area of study for our best and brightest students," Otellini said.10


  1. Deb Perelman, "Study: There Is No Shortage of U.S. Engineers," IT Management and Project Management News, April 4, 2007, www.eweek.com/c/a/IT-Management/Study-There-Is-No-Shortage-of-US-Engineers.
  2. Tomio Geron, "Just How Much Are Engineers in Demand? Very Much So," Forbes, Dec. 21, 2011, www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2011/12/21/just-how-much-are-engineers-in-demand-very-much-so.
  3. Paul Otellini, "How the Private Sector Can Help Curb Our Engineering Shortage," Washington Post, Aug. 4, 2011, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-the-private-sector-can-help-curb-our-engineering-shortage/2011/08/03/gIQAvPq5uI_story.html.
  4. U.S. Department of Energy, "President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness Announces Industry Leaders’ Commitment to Double Engineering Internships in 2012," Aug. 31, 2011, http://energy.gov/articles/president-s-council-jobs-and-competitiveness-announces-industry-leaders-commitment-double.
  5. Vivek Wadhwa, Gary Gereffi, Ben Rissing and Ryan Ong, "Where the Engineers Are," Issues in Science and Technology, Spring 2007, www.issues.org/23.3/wadhwa.html.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Vivek Wadhwa, "Mr. President, There is No Engineer Shortage," Washington Post, Sept. 1, 2011, www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-innovations/president-obama-there-is-no-engineer-shortage/2011/09/01/gIQADpmpuJ_story.html.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Wadhwa, "Where the Engineers Are," see reference 5.
  10. Otellini, "How the Private Sector Can Help Curb Our Engineering Shortage," see reference 3.


Former ASQ Board Member Whelan Dies

Daniel S. Whelan Jr., a former member of the ASQ Board of Directors and a past chairman of ASQ’s Biomedical Division, passed away Dec. 11, 2011. He was 57.

Whelan, an ASQ member since 1984, served on the board in 2005-2006. He also was active in many ASQ divisions including service quality, healthcare, audit, quality management, and food, drug and cosmetics. In addition, Whelan served on ASQ’s Professional Ethics Qualifications Committee.

Whelan was president of Quality Assessment Services, a quality management consulting firm in Plymouth, MA. He is survived by his wife, four children and six grandchildren. For a complete obituary, visit www.legacy.com/obituaries/southofboston-ledger/obituary.aspx?n=daniel-s-whelan&pid=155021208.


Core Quality Measures on Medicaid Released

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last month finalized its initial core set of health quality measures for states to voluntarily use to assess the quality of healthcare provided to adults eligible for Medicaid.

The measures also can be used by health insurers and managed care organizations that contract with Medicaid to provide coverage for low-income individuals and families.

"Identification of the initial core set of measures for Medicaid-eligible adults is an important first step in the overall strategy to encourage and enhance quality improvement," according to the announcement made by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last month.

For more information, visit www.fierceemr.com/story/medicaid-quality-measures-pull-heavily-meaningful-use/2012-01-04#ixzz1ibd4dttr.


Quick Poll Results

Each month at www.qualityprogress.com, visitors can take an informal survey, and we post the results.

Here are the numbers from a recent Quick Poll:

"What government area could most benefit from a dose of quality this year?"

  • Budget and deficit. 54%
  • Food safety. 20.6%
  • Healthcare. 20.6%
  • Military. 4.7%

Visit www.qualityprogress.com for the most recent poll question:

"What type of customer survey do you find most annoying?"

  • Email.
  • In person.
  • Phone.
  • Snail mail.
  • Website pop-up.

Positive Reinforcement

Listen to this month’s Author Audio featuring Frank C. Johnston and Duane P. Beck, co-authors of "The Power of Positive," discussing more on applying positive psychology in a lean Six Sigma environment.

Who’s Who in Q

NAME: Steven Walfish.

RESIDENCE: New Berlin, WI.

EDUCATION: Master’s degree in statistics from Rutgers University in Newark, N.J., and an executive MBA from Boston University.

CURRENT JOB: Quality, regulatory and medical statistician at General Electric Healthcare in Waukesha, WI.

INTRODUCTION TO QUALITY: In 1988, Walfish worked as a Department of Defense contractor and implemented a total quality management process that integrated W. Edwards Deming’s philosophy with statistical process control and other quality tools.

PREVIOUS QUALITY EXPERIENCE: Walfish worked for five years as an independent statistical consultant in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries.

ASQ ACTIVITIES: Chair of ASQ’s Biomedical Division in 2006-2007 and current chair of the Division Affairs Council deputy group facilitator.

OTHER ACTIVITIES: Secretary/treasurer of Technical Advisory Group 69, which develops the U.S. positions on international standardization activities of International Organization for Standardization/technical committee 69 on applications of statistical methods. Member of the editorial board of Biopharm International magazine.

PUBLISHED WORKS: Walfish has written several articles that have appeared in Biopharm International, Pharmaceutical Technology and the Auditor. He also authored a chapter on statistical outliers that will be included in an upcoming Informa book series.

RECENT HONORS: Walfish received ASQ Biomedical Division’s Marvin Rosenbaum Distinguished Service Award in 2009.

OTHER ACTIVITIES: Golf, Scotch, cigars and horses.

QUALITY QUOTE: Quality can only be measured if you understand the variability of the process.

ASQ Excels in State Award

ASQ has earned the mastery level of performance from the Wisconsin Forward Award Inc., the state’s public-private partnership modeled after the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.

This marks the third time ASQ has achieved that level of recognition, having earned it in 2006 and 2008.


22 ASQ Members Named Fellows

Twenty-two ASQ members were awarded fellow status by the ASQ Board of Directors last month. The 2011 fellows are:

  • Christine M. Anderson-Cook, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM.
  • Edward R. Arling, Quality Compliance Associates LLC, Lyons, CO.
  • Edwin L. Bills, Bilanx Consulting LLC, Sumter, SC.
  • Anthony J. DeMarinis, Sealed Air Nelipak, Cranston, RI.
  • William H. Denney, Organizational Excellence in a Global Environment, Dallas.
  • Denis J. Devos, Devos Associates Inc., London, Ontario.
  • Mark Allen Durivage, Fresenius Medical Care, Oregon, OH.
  • Michael J. English, Best Practices Benchmarking and Consulting LLC, Highland Village, TX.
  • Gary Allen Hiner, Delphi, Kokomo, IN.
  • Anthony F. Ingelido, Global Network Systems, Rockville, MD.
  • Krishan Kumar, Maruti Center for Excellence, Gurgaon, India.
  • Denis T. Leonard, Business Excellence Consulting LLC, Bozeman, MT.
  • Paulo Afonso Lopes DaSilva, Military Institute of Engineering, Rio de Janeiro.
  • Narendra S. Patel, ACell Inc., Columbia, MD.
  • Steven S. Prevette, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, a Fluor Partnership with Newport News Nuclear and Honeywell, Aiken, SC.
  • Paul P. Prunty, Vi-Chem Corp., Grand Rapids, MI.
  • John R. Sedlak, J&S Sedlak LLC, Dellroy, OH.
  • Kush K. Shah, General Motors Co., Detroit.
  • Mary Beth Soloy, Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, MI.
  • Jayant S. Trewn, Thomson Reuters, Philadelphia.
  • Janice Tucker, Metaldyne LLC, Plymouth, MI.
  • Robert L. Turocy, Robert L. Turocy Consulting, Cleveland.

For more on the new fellows, visit www.asq.org/media-room/press-releases/2012/20120105-fellow-status-22-members.html.


In QP’s 2011 Salary Survey, a table breaking down job titles by regions in the United States omitted results from some areas, including Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties in California; Hartford, CT; Sacramento and Yolo (CA); San Diego; and Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Newport News (VA and NC).

You can now access the updated Table 4, pp. 122-140, in Section 13, "Salary by Geographic Location," at www.qualityprogress.com/salarysurvey.

QP editors apologize for the oversight.

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