The President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness announced last week that fifty companies have pledged to double the engineering internships they make available next year. The companies on the list include AT&T, Boeing, Dell, Facebook, GE, and Intel. The commitments should add about 6300 additional internship opportunities. From the press release:
“These commitments are part of a greater Jobs Council effort to help address America’s engineering shortage by graduating 10,000 more engineering students from U.S. colleges and universities each year.”
The release states some worrying statistics. Between 1990 and 2010, overall college graduation levels in the U.S. have grown about 50 percent while the number of engineering graduates has stagnated at around 120,000. And then, the alarmist statement: “By contrast, roughly 1 million engineers a year graduate from universities in India and China. This disparity hinders our global competitiveness and threatens our ability to both retain and create high-tech, good-paying jobs here in the United States.”
A year ago, I wrote about engineering education in the U.S. vs. India and China. The message of that article was that India and China's graduating engineering classes tend to be more about quantity than quality. I can personally testify to that difference in education quality having studied electrical engineering in both India and the U.S.
In a recent Washington Post column, Duke University’s Vivek Wadhwa laid out his arguments to allay concerns of a shortage of engineers in the U.S. and soaring engineering prowess in the east.
But whatever the motivation for the Jobs Council’s efforts, creating more engineering internships is welcome news. Internships are almost a prerequisite for getting a full-time job, and are the best way for students to get their foot in the door. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, companies turn more than half their interns into full-time employees.
PHOTO: Julie Willbrand, Flickr
Prachi Patel is a freelance journalist based in Pittsburgh. She writes about energy, biotechnology, materials science, nanotechnology, and computing.