I’ve recently begun following the blog of high-tech CEO Penny Herscher. The particular post I linked to discusses the need for more engineers in our workforce and makes the additional point that we are recruiting way too few women into the field.

She says, “In Silicon Valley we have one engineering job open for every two engineers that are employed – this means it is hard to find enough qualified workers and so companies move jobs offshore to India and China where they graduate many more engineers than we do. Today we simply do not have enough people trained in the ‘STEM’ areas to staff the technology build up that is happening (STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

When Steve Jobs met with President Obama earlier this year he made this case strongly. From Walter Isaacson’s new biography… “Jobs went on to urge that a way be found to train more American engineers. Apple had 700,000 factory workers employed in China, he said, and that was because it needed 30,000 engineers on-site to support those workers. ‘You can’t find that many in America to hire,’ he said. These factory engineers did not have to be PhDs or geniuses; they simply needed to have basic engineering skills for manufacturing. Tech schools, community colleges, or trade schools could train them. ‘If you could educate those engineers,’ he said, ‘we could move more manufacturing plants here.’ “

She adds, “Technology is an area that is a wonderful example of American leadership. Leadership, innovation and the place where we can say ‘Made in the USA’ with pride. Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook – all are growing, innovative global technology leaders. All are changing the world today in dramatic ways. All are essentially American and all need more engineers. Google and Microsoft both invest heavily in change agents like the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology precisely to change the ratio of men to women in engineering and so produce more qualified engineers to grow their businesses.”

When I was a kid, I was drilled in the idea of education raising the standard of living for all of us. Now, to be honest, I earned a degree, but most of my education came through my own work. Much of the math I know, almost all the electronics, all of the computer science and much more, I learned on my own initiative. I don’t advocate that. Not everyone is strange and rebellious like me. But at least from an early age I caught the teaching about the importance of math and science.

What disappoints me the most about the ensuing 30 years or so is the devaluation of much of education. In far too many situations, a high school diploma means a learning level of about jr. hi in my time; too many BAs haven’t learned as much as we were taught in high school. Where is the rigor? Where is the leadership to motivate kids to stretch, excel and earn some of these crucial skills?

I’m with Penny. We need to work on this.

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