U.S. predicts zero job growth for electrical engineers

IEEE-USA said government estimate is probably accurate

Two occupations long associated with innovation -- electrical and electronics engineering -- has stopped growing, according to the U.S. government.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in an update of its occupational outlook released Friday, said that the number of people employed as electrical and electronics engineers is now at 316,000, and will remain mostly unchanged for the next decade.

The government put the 10-year job outlook for electronic and electrical engineers at "0% -- little or no change."

The IEEE-USAsaid the BLS estimates "are probably correct."

"While some parts of the engineering and computer workforce remain strong, the reality is that much of the engineering world, like the economy in general, has seen little job growth over the past several years," said Russ Harrison, the IEEE's government relations director, who said the BLS estimates reflect this situation. "Electrical engineers, like most Americans, will see modest, if any, job growth for the foreseeable future," he said.

"This bleak view of engineering is in direct contrast with company claims that American is suffering from a massive shortage of skilled engineers," Harrison pointed out.

"Companies need to focus their energies on investing in their American workers and in America, not lobbying Congress for access to inexpensive foreign workers," said Harrison. The IEEE-USA has been a strong critic of efforts in Congress to raise the H-1B cap.

The government splits this job category between electrical engineers, which is expected to rise 1% over the next decade, and electronics engineers as declining by 1%.

Electrical engineers design, develop and test electrical equipment such as motors, radar, communications, automotive and power generation; electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, such as music players and GPS systems, and many work in areas closely associated with computer hardware, according to the government's descriptions.

The slow growth or decline in manufacturing sectors is getting much of the blame for the growth issues in this occupation.

The BLS says electrical and electronics engineering job growth will occur largely in engineering services firms, because companies are cutting costs by contracting. Among the areas that will be in the most demand will be developing technologies around solar arrays, semiconductors and communications.

Victor Janulaitis, who heads the IT labor analysis firm Janco Associates, said the U.S. could improve the need for electrical engineers by doing things such as "demanding that rockets that launch our spy satellites, astronauts, and weather and GPS equipment use U.S.-made rockets."

"Why should we give [tax] credits to people who install Chinese solar panels? That just encourages companies to move more jobs overseas," said Janulaitis.

Janulaitis said the government "should focus its efforts on making our economy strong and tax credits -- tax breaks -- should be focused that way."

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) proposal to require H-1B jobs pay a minimum of $110,000, would also help, said Janulaitis. "At that level it would be more cost-effective to hire a U.S. worker at $100,000," he said.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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