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Where Have All the Engineering Students Gone?

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Note from Blog Manager: Mike is our Campus Relations Manager for Portland State University and had a very unique opportunity last week to attend a Listening and Action Session on President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. If you follow him on Twitter, @MikeatIntel, you would have seen his live tweets of the event. We asked Mike to share his experience and the event, in more than 140 characters, right here on the blog!

This week I attended a Listening and Action Session on President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, in Portland, OR at Portland State University. It’s truly fulfilling seeing White House officials, CEOs, VPs, students, and concerned citizens come together for a cause. If you haven’t heard about it yet this action committee was created because we have a problem here in the US: we are not pumping out the engineers like we used to—we’re getting surpassed by other countries. Why is that? Are our kids not being encouraged to learn about engineering concepts at an early age? Perhaps the little to no media attention dissuades kids…the crowd struggled to think of an engineering show on TV, except for MythBusters! (Great show!) Or do new college engineering students who fall behind feel like there is no way to climb back up the ladder, so they quit too early?

This affects industry in the US because it’s getting harder to hire home grown talent to continue creating the next big thing. One of my tweets said it best, “Secretary Chu: We are number 1 in innovation. But we still need to build in the US.” As one of the panel members said, “The United States is the de facto innovation powerhouse. We risk losing that status to other countries if we don’t change.”

OtelliniChuPSU-thumb-341x226Did you know that U.S. universities graduate about 120,000 engineering students a year? But there are 400,000 vacant engineering jobs out there. Now let’s look outside of the U.S.: India and China together graduate about one million engineering students per year. Scared? Don’t be. At least not yet. Our leaders are intent on working towards a solution. We know that a large number of bachelor’s engineering students in the US don’t make it to graduation in the engineering degree that they started in: retention rate is a problem The Deans on the panel started thinking of ways to encourage students to stick it out to graduation. Quick suggestions were bona fide mentors, stronger academic counseling, more group work like business students have so that a single student isn’t isolated and left behind. Another idea was to better embrace technology. Our school systems are based around a Professor standing at the pulpit lecturing while students take notes. But you know what? All of this information is available on the web. Class time should be group discussions, problem based team projects. What ideas do you have?

Something needs to change, and change soon. In the 1950’s we had Sputnik and the Space Race spur engineering and science among the American population. Will it take another Sputnik moment to do that today? And what may propel that action? The Panel had a consensus here too and it won’t surprise you. It’s ENERGY.

What do you think? What would you suggest to the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness?

Intel has a message for you engineering students (or ‘want to be engineering students’) HANG IN THERE! You can do it! Sure, the road ahead may be tough, and present some challenges, but we believe in you and believe that you truly can change the future if you follow through and complete your studies in engineering. We look forward to heading back out to campus this fall and energizing Engineering students across the US! Find us on a campus near you Not in the US? Visit your country’s Student Center to find out more!