IEEE-USA president cites need for high-tech national strategy on offshoring

WASHINGTON (24 October 2006) -- Because the offshoring of U.S. engineering and other high-skill jobs to developing countries is increasing, America needs a coordinated national strategy to maintain its technological leadership and promote job creation, IEEE-USA President Ralph W. Wyndrum Jr. said at the National Academy of Engineering today.

Wyndrum, speaking during the Academy's two-day "Workshop on the Offshoring of Engineering: Facts, Myths, Unknowns and Implications," said the offshoring of the U.S. engineering enterprise is an almost inevitable outcome of globalization.

"Labor cost is undoubtedly the major factor at present, but offshoring is much more complex than that," Wyndrum said. "Business is also motivated by such considerations as market access and market development, access to talent, the cost of capital, governmental economic incentives, special or lower cost infrastructures and capabilities (e.g. subsidized telecommunications or Internet), access to universities and research centers, comparative government regulations, and a host of other factors. Even if labor cost-margins narrow, there will still be strong incentives for offshoring."

Wyndrum's panel, "Implications for the Engineering Workforce and Profession," included Richard Freeman, the Herbert S. Ascherman professor of economics at Harvard University; and Vivek Wadhwa, executive-in-residence and adjunct professor at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering. Lori Kletzer, professor of economics and department chair at the University of California, Santa Cruz, served as moderator.

Although U.S. engineers cannot guarantee their jobs will not be offshored, Wyndrum recommended mid-career and lifelong education, as well as being innovative and entrepreneurial to remain employed. "It will require a modicum of tough love at times to change engineers' thinking about their careers," he said. "And it will take time to affect changes and see the results."

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For more on the workshop, go to http://www.nae.edu/nae/engecocom.nsf/weblinks/PGIS-6SKKDZ?OpenDocument.

See Wyndrum's presentation at http://www.ieeeusa.org/communications/presidentscolumn/wyndrum/WyndrumNAEOffshoring.pdf

IEEE-USA advances the public good and promotes the careers and public policy interests of more than 220,000 engineers, scientists and allied professionals who are U.S. members of the IEEE. IEEE-USA is part of the IEEE, the world's largest technical professional society with 360,000 members in 150 countries. See http://www.ieeeusa.org.


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