U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini joined leaders of top engineering schools and private companies today at Portland State University (PSU) to find solutions to America's shortage of engineers, starting with a significant increase in private internships.
(Pictured, from left: Paul Otellini, president and CEO of Intel; Jon Swartz, moderator, USA Today; Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy)
At a forum of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, Chu and Otellini announced a commitment from 45 private companies, including Intel, to double the number of engineering internships in 2012. Five more companies will increase their internships. The commitment will add about 6,300 job-training opportunities for U.S. students.
Members of the Jobs Council hope the immediate increase in internships will help U.S. colleges and universities reach a goal of graduating 10,000 more engineering students a year. To that end, engineering deans and industry leaders said students need more encouragement, mentoring and role models from an early age.
"This couldn't come at a better time," Chu said. "If you look around, other countries are gearing up their engineering graduates. … We need engineers. We need scientists."
The U.S. graduates about 120,000 engineering students a year, while China and India produce about 1 million engineering graduates a year, according to the White House. Many of the U.S. graduates are not U.S. citizens, a competitive disadvantage in the global economy.
"We have plenty of spots; we just need to get more of the population into those spots," Otellini said. "There are a lot of engineering jobs here in the United States. What we have not done is a good job of glamorizing them."
Jobs Council members said universities and private companies should focus on recruiting more women and underrepresented minorities to engineering schools.
"We work closely with Intel in training engineers and scientists – more than 1,000 Portland State graduates work at Intel’s Hillsboro facility – and today’s discussion will help guide us as we develop and expand that relationship," said PSU President Wim Wiewel.
Renjeng Su, dean of PSU's Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, said the recruiting message should include the broad range of jobs related to engineering that require teamwork and creativity to solve problems. "Down on the ground, it's more like growing a garden than building a machine," he said.