Mar 172010
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The U.S. is graduating fewer and fewer scientists and engineers

Editor’s note: The most valuable employees of any technology company are the engineers and scientists, which is why everyone in Silicon Valley does whatever they can to ensure the continuous supply to this talent pool. The size of the talent pool is ultimately determined by the number of people who graduate from colleges and universities with science, technology, engineering, or mathematics degrees. The U.S. is graduating fewer and fewer scientists and engineers, causing concern in many quarters.

While many people agree this is a problem, not everyone agrees on what should be done about it. Former Intel chairman and CEO Craig Barrett is a strong proponent of priming the pump with more undergraduate science, engineering, and math students. Duke/UC-Berkeley professor (and regular TechCrunch columnist) Vivek Wadhwa thinks that better rewards for people who pursue engineering and science degrees is the right approach. So we asked Barrett and Wadhwa to debate the issue of how best to fix technology education in the U.S. Their exchange is below:

Craig Barrett is someone who I hold in the highest regard. Ever since he retired as Intel’s CEO, Dr. Barrett has made it his life’s mission to improve U.S. competitiveness. He believes that the way to do this is to teach more math and science. And he believes we need to graduate more PhDs in science and engineering.

I wholeheartedly support improvements in education and know the value that math and science skills provide. But the problems I see in U.S. competitiveness aren’t related to the numbers of engineering PhDs or scientists that we graduate. American companies are shifting R&D abroad because it makes economic sense for them to be near growth markets, and they can hire talented workers at a lower cost. It isn’t about deficiencies in American workers or a weakness of U.S. math and science education.

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