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ENGINEERING MANPOWER CONCERNS
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 6, 1981
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The committee met at 9:10 a.m., in room 2318, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Don Fuqua (chairman of the committee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Fuqua and Harkin.
Today is the first of 2 days of full committee hearings on engineering manpower concerns. The subject has caused increasing alarm as we have focused on the need for economic recovery and strengthening of our national defense. It is obvious that without the necessary engineering and technical manpower, we cannot hope to proceed in implementing these vital programs. All the advances in science and technology available to us will not prevail if we lack the human resources to apply these advances.
The purpose of these hearings is basically twofold. First, we want to broadly define the extent of the problem now facing us in engineering and technical manpower. Second, we seek to explore the alternative solutions-realistic alternatives, other than simply putting more Federal dollars into more Federal programs. Such solutions might include more cooperative and more direct interactions between industry, government, and the university community than currently exists.
There are a number of questions which should be answered. We need to ask: Is there really a shortage of engineers overall or does it occur only in certain specific areas such as chemical engineering or electronic engineering?
What is the long-term outlook in industry and our universities? Is the educational focus simply at the undergraduate level or at the graduate and precollege levels as well? How do we deal with the problem of retooling a labor force as we introduce new and innovative technologies?
We must also ask: Does there exist a clear national policy regarding engineering manpower? If so, what is that policy and
how is it being implemented? What is the proper role of the Federal Government? Of industry? Of the academic community? What steps is this administration taking or planning to take in addressing these and related concerns? What steps should Congress take?
We have a good cross section of witnesses from various sectors, public and private, whom I hope will help us in answering these
and other questions. I look forward to hearing their testimony and exploring these important issues.
On our list of witnesses this morning is Dr. Robert Frosch, no newcomer to this committee, who is now the president of the American Association of Engineering Societies; Mr. Jack Geils, of the American Association for Engineering Education; Gen. Robert Marsh, Commander of the Air Force Systems Command; and Prof. Robert Gaither, president of the American Association of Mechanical Engineers and chairman of the department of mechanical engineering at the University of Florida.
We will follow this panel with Dr. Lewis Branscomb, who is chairman of the National Science Board. We will hear from the witnesses in the order that I called them. So, Dr. Frosch, we would be happy to hear from you first. If you have a statement you would like to insert in the record, we will do that. And, if you want to summarize, your statement in its entirety will be made part of the record.
Before hearing your statement, there is a request to take photographs and recordings during the course of the hearing. Without objection, that will be approved.
[The opening remarks of Messers. Fuqua, Walgren, Winn, and Mrs. Heckler follow:]
OPENING STATEMENT OF Hon. Don FUQUA Today is the first of two days of full Committee hearings on "Engineering Manpower Concerns". This subject has caused increasing alarm as we have focused on the need for economic recovery and the strengthning of our national defense. It is obvious that without the necessary engineering and technical manpower we can not hope to proceed in implementing these vital programs. All the advances in science and technology available to us will not prevail if we lack the human resources to apply those advances.
The purpose of these hearings is basically two-fold. First, we want to broadly define the extent of the problem now facing us in engineering and technical manpower. Secondly, we seek to explore alternative solutions-realistic alternatives other than simply putting more federal dollars in federal programs. Such solutions might include more cooperative and more direct interactions between industry, government, and the university community than currently exist.
There are a number of questions which should be addressed. We need to ask: Is there really a shortage of engineers overall or does it occur only in certain specific areas such as chemical engineering or electronic engineering? What is the long term outlook in industry and our universities? Is the educational focus simply at the undergraduate level or at the graduate and precollege levels as well? How do we deal with the problem of retooling a labor force as we introduce new and innovative technologies?
We must also ask: Does there exist a clear national policy regarding engineering manpower? If so, what is that policy and how is it being implemented? What is the proper role of the federal government? of industry? of the academic community? What steps is this Administration taking or planning to take in addressing these and related concerns? What steps should Congress take?
We have a good cross section of witnesses from various sectors, public and private, whom I hope will help us in answering these and other questions. I look forward to hearing their testimony and exploring these important issues.
STATEMENT OF Hon. Doug WALGREN Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to see the full Committee addressing this important issue of engineering and technical manpower. As you have just stated, our nation's economic health and future prosperity depend very directly on the quality as well as quantity of engineers and technicians available to our industries, our universities and our government. We can point with pride to the number of Nobel prizes our scientists have achieved in recent decades, as well as the countless discoveries made in basic research in the physical and natural sciences. However, it is the engineers and technicians who are able to translate that scientific knowledge into products and marketable services that benefit the economy and society as a whole.
The Subcommittee on Science, Research and Technology as part of its oversight responsibilities held hearings earlier this year in which some of the questions concerning engineers and scientific manpower were addressed. Among the facts we heard presented were:
That enrollement in engineering has increased by over 50 percent in the past decade, while the number of of engineering faculty have declined by better than 10 percent.
That instructional and research instrumentation have become increasingly inadequate and obsolete-students are no longer acquiring “state-of-the-art” training or even near "state-of-the-art” training.
That high industrial salaries are attracting graduate students and faculty out of the universities, thus worsening an already severe shortage of trained educators.
That, whereas our engineering resources both in quality and quantity are declining, Japan, Russia and other international competitors are increasing theirs.
I would make one final point. The steel industry, one of the nation's critical basic industries, has recently announced a new $5 billion initiative in capital investment in new and innovative technology. Obviously some major portion of the 16,000 or more engineers and technicians in the steel industry will require retraining or a refocusing of their job skills. Similar needs can be imagined throughout our nation's industries as new innovations and technologies are introduced. I believe we must focus not only on the training of new engineers but as well on the retraining and retooling of our entire technical workforce as we see the introduction of necessary basic changes in our industries.
I hope we can explore further these and other ideas. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.
OPENING REMARKS OF HON. LARRY WINN, JR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I believe that these hearings are an important step in exposing the problems that the U.S. must overcome in order to maintain its competitive edge in the international marketplace. Prime assets of this nation are its scientific and technical human resources. Currently, however, there is a crisis in engineering education of all forms—electrical, computer, chemical and aeronautical engineering. We must reexamine our educational policies, along with the role industry and government play in this vital issue, so that we do not allow American science and technology to atrophy.
U.S. education in mathematics, physical science, and engineering is slipping. Some say that the educational system is an outright failure. Graduate enrollments in engineering, physics, and chemistry have fallen anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent from a decade ago. Also, because of faculty shortages and increased student demand, many engineering schools are limiting undergraduate enrollments, and this poses a perplexing problem. Colleges and universities have found that they are unable to compete with the salaries industry is offering. This drain of the faculty ranks has taken its toll also at the high school level. The Association of High School Science Teachers decreased by 10 percent over the last year. Most of them were absorbed into better paying positions with firms in the high technology industry. Thus, a current concern regards the quality of engineering education and the longer term implications of a lost generation of faculty.
The rapid rise in industrial salaries has given little incentive for people to remain on the faculty of colleges and universities. For an engineer, a salary with industry is usually at least twice as great as a university salary. Industry's leaders, though, are slowly learning that it is partially up to them to take responsibility for maintaining educated personnel. In a speech last year, David Packard, chairman of HewlettPackard Company, stressed that it is in industry's “self-interest” to increase its support to colleges. If long-term consequences are not taken into consideration, our nation's innovative potential could become a vacuum.
Government, working with industry can play a vital role in solving this problem that has taken on an international scope. Last year only 6 percent of the bachelor degrees awarded in the U.S. were for engineering, while Japan had 21 percent and West Germany had 37 percent. The Soviet Union has twice as many scientists and engineers as the U.S., and Japan has six times as many engineers per 10,000 people.
The imbalance in the supply of professionals along with the depleting ranks of engineering professors are problems we must contend with immediately. Society depends on engineering professionals, researchers, and professors to advance the role of science. During the 1980's a healthy supply of engineers is essential to maintain healthy levels of innovation and productivity.
We must look toward all segments of society, especially industry, to strengthen science education. We must make a long-term investment in science education and science research. The solution of our engineering manpower problems will only come with a dialog between industry, educators, and the government. I congratulate the chairman for initiating today's dialog and look forward to the testimony of this distinguished group of witnesses.
OPENING REMARKS OF HON. MARGARET M. HECKLER Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ths subject of these hearings is of direct concern to me, because engineering manpower is a critical element of Massachusetts' economy. This topic is also of importance to the nation as a whole since engineers are the backbone of America's efforts to stay competitive in emerging technological industries.
In the last five years we have witnessed enormous growth among high technology companies in Massachusetts as well as the rest of the country. This growth, however, is threatened by competition from abroad and from a scarcity of qualified people. This latter factor, the shortage of engineers and other paraprofessionals, can largely be attributed to our nation's educational system which doesn't seem to adequately motivate or prepare students to enter engineering schools. The lack of emphasis on math and science at every level of education should concern us all.
In a major town outside of Boston along Route 128 where there are a great deal of high technology firms, only one year of math and one year of scinece are required to graduate from high school. In a state already short of qualified science professionals, this fact only compounds the problem. The U.S. ranks a poor fourth in scientific literacy behind the Soviet Union, West Germany, and Japan. In addition, in our graduate schools one out of every three Ph. D. candidates is a foreign national.
In the Bo con Globe the recruitment section appears unbelievably thick for a jobshort economy. Most of the ads are for the high tech industry. The main reason for this is that the industry is people poor. To illustrate this point, in June 1980 there were approximately 9000 technical and professional positions available in the state. Companies were only able to employ 6000, some 3000 jobs went unfilled. Many New England companies, especially small ones, have been prevented from expanding because of the lack of engineers. Even more significant, it is estimated that for every engineer employed, there are five additional technical, support and administration employees hired, and for each 100 new jobs in the manufacturing sector, an additional 74 jobs are created in other areas such as finance, construction, retail, and so on. This means that the 3000 unfilled positions represent lost employment for approximately 30,000 people.
To maintain its technological edge in world markets, the U.S. must reemphasize science and engineering on our agenda of national priorities. When the Soviets launched Sputnik I, a remarkable engineering accomplishment, the U.S. rose to the challenge with new dedication to science and technology. Today, our technology lead is again being challenged, not just by the Soviet Union, but by Japan, West Germany and others.
Therefore if we are to meet this challenge with the same dedication the space program had, we must shift science and engineering back toward the top of our national priority list.
I am looking forward to hearing from our distinguished witnesses this morning. Thank you.
[The biographical sketches of Mr. Geils and General Marsh follow:]
Mr. John W. Geils is Staff Executive of the American Society for Engineering Education, where he is directing action programs to solve the engineering college faculty shortage problem. He is on loan from AT&T Co., where he was Director, Network Department Administration. In that capacity, he was responsible for budget and expense control for the Network Department and had responsibility for the professional wellbeing of those in engineering jobs throughout the Bell System, including matters relating to engineering legislation; continuing education; recruitment; placement and utilization of engineers; professional and technical society relations; licensing and miscellaneous personnel matters. Prior to his last assignment he was responsible for the Bell Telephone Laboratories' programs of R&D as funded by AT&T Co., and managed the Technical Suggestions Studies organization.
During his first 23 years he was at Bell Telephone Laboratories, where he performed R&D on telephone transmission systems, military electronics systems and just before being transferred to AT&T Co. spent eight years as Assistant Vice President of the Systems Engineering Department.
Mr. Geils directed the Bell System effort to promote minorities and women in engineering and served in planning the reorganization and consolidation of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NAC.1E, Inc.) As a member of the Board of Directors of Engineers Joint Council, he served in planning the restructuring of EJC into the new American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES).
Mr. Geils holds a B.E.E. degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and has attended Columbia University graduate school and Williams College advanced management programs.
He was a founding Dean of the Bell System Center for Technical Education, the continuing education facility of the System.
He was born in New York City, is married and has one