Why, wonders Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry Sandi Vito, are there so many unemployed Pennsylvania engineers? "This is something that needs to be drilled down on," she said. "If these folks are unemployed right now, we have some great talent sitting on the sideline."
The engineering stat -- 15,000 engineers unemployed statewide -- was part of a report Vito's department released on Wednesday titled "A Profile of Pennsylvania's Unemployed People." You can read about the report in the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning. Vito said she found it particularly mystifying because there's always so much talk about how the United States doesn't have enough scientists and engineers to keep us competitive.
I asked Cheryl Spaulding about the report. Spaulding runs Joseph's People, a suburban network of church-based support groups for the unemployed -- the type of group that tends to attract educated and older unemployed workers (such as engineers).
When she's not worried about unemployment (which is most of the time) Spaulding runs an information technology consulting business. She said some of the problem stems from a disconnect in how jobs are listed on job board search engines. For example, she said, many computer engineers are expert in main frames, now known as "linked servers." If an unemployed main frame engineer uses the term main frame in his resume, a company's job board will likely eliminate it because it didn't match the equivalent term linked server used on the job posting.
"We've got a matching system that doesn't work," she said.
And maybe the assumption is just plain wrong. That's what researchers at Georgetown and Rutgers Universities reported last year. They found that in the last decade, U.S. colleges graduated three times more scientists and engineers than the number of jobs available, the researchers said. The data went through 2005 and did not reflect the recession.