Only a few years ago, many commentators lamented about the flood of Indian software engineers that local colleges are spewing out in masses there. The fear was that cheap Indian tech workers would replace the engine that drives the US economy. Later, this diffuse and unqualified fear was directed against the Chinese. These reports painted bleak pictures of unemployed US engineers that could not compete against $20/hr off-shore laborers. Panicked voices could be heard in cubicles around the country. Some who lost their jobs after the dot-com burst were discouraged and found new jobs in education and other fields. Enrollment in software engineering college programs dropped substantially within a rather short period of time. The Washington Post reported in 2002:
At Virginia Tech, enrollment of undergraduates in the computer science department will drop 25 percent this year to 300. At George Washington University, the number of incoming freshmen who plan to study computer science fell by more than half this year. . . . In 1997, schools with Ph.D. programs in computer science and computer engineering granted 8,063 degrees. . . . [T]he numbers rose through 2001 when 17,048 [Ph.D.] degrees were awarded. . . . Nine hundred of the 2,000 plus undergraduates studying information technology and engineering at George Mason University were computer science majors last year. This year the enrollment in that major is down to 800, although a newly created and more general information technology major has attracted 200 students. . . . “Having it ease off for a while is a bit of a relief,” said a [George Mason] dean. “Particularly with the field as it has been, they don’t want to spend four years on something and then not get a job.”
On the other hand, Indian and Chinese engineering schools were producing graduates en masse, and continue to do so today:
India and China are producing the world’s largest number of science and engineering graduates — at least five times as many as in the United States, where the number has fallen since the early 1980s. (Reuters, 9/29/2006)
While the statistics have not changed much, these voices have largely disappeared. Maybe because the US economy has started to pick up and most software engineers who were without a job are employed again today, or maybe simply because nobody wants to here these stories anymore, the voices touting the end of the software engineering industry in the Unites States have somewhat quieted down.
But are we really out of the water? Where are we heading today? Continue reading