On NPR: Engineer Shortage? Vivek Wadhwa and Duke University Study Says No

For my friends in Engineering Excellence as well as those interested in following outsourcing issues and the concern of offshoring engineering jobs. I listened to Vivek Wadhwa on NPR this morning, Duke University’s executive-in-residence in the Master of Engineering Management program.

Listen to this story... Morning Edition, April 30, 2007 · Why are so many engineering jobs being sent overseas? Leaders of tech companies say the United States does not produce enough engineers. But a Duke University study says the real issue is cheap overseas labor. Vivek Wadhwa discusses his study’s findings. 

He spoke about the quality of engineering hiring overseas… primarily for cost reasons. Wadhwa discussed that many of the engineers in India and China aren’t adequately prepared, and that the assumption that the US isn’t producing enough engineers is wrong.

“I researched exactly what was going on in india and found that India and China has no real advantage in quantity or quality. Asked company why they were going overseas and the #1 reason was cost, cost, cost… the economic benefits.”

There was also a snippet of an interview with Bill Gates, who said “many people who look at off-shoring are looking to save costs. The way we are do our R&D, that not the key thing: it’s the quality of the innovation how quickly we get things done.”

Listen to this story...Also on Morning Edition,  reported that Asia is producing engineers short on skills, and that “many graduates of those nations’ lesser engineering schools lack the skills to be hired, at home or abroad.” He also cited a recent report from the Chinese government, stating “60% of engineering school graduates are not just unemployed, they are unemployable.”

This article from Duke News looks at the increased number of engineering and technology graduates in China, ahead of the U.S. and India.

“The trend is part of a complex picture that challenges popular wisdom and sheds new light on how the United States and its two emerging Asian rivals -– China and India — may compete for the technical talent that will underlie future jobs and industries.

“Where the Engineers Are” is one of four articles about India and China appearing Friday in the journal published jointly by the National Academy of Sciences and others. It is available online at

“The Duke authors — Vivek Wadhwa, Gary Gereffi, Ben Rissing and Ryan Ong — dispute popular claims that India and China are graduating many times more baccalaureate-level engineers than the United States. However, they say China leads the other two countries in producing master’s and doctoral degrees. Looking beyond these statistics, they examine how the situation is affected by the quality of Indian and Chinese graduates, international job marketability, salary deflation and unemployment.”

Fascinating. I’ve downloaded the report for a full read, which I’ll do later this week.

As noted during the NPR interview, Wahhwa’s report is available on-line and is “part of an ongoing study to compare the number of U.S. engineering graduates to those in developing nations, particularly India and China. This is a complex issue and requires further study but this preliminary report raises several questions about the numbers quoted in the popular press. This report was developed by graduate students of Duke University’s Master of Engineering Management Program in the Pratt School of Engineering under the guidance of Dr. Gary Gereffi, and Vivek Wadhwa with consulting assistance from Katzenbach Partners LLC.”

Download the full report (as pictured) Framing the Engineering Outsourcing Debate: Placing the United States on a Level Playing Field with China and India, as well as the Appendix.

Also of interest: previous reports from team members are available online:

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