While in Austin recently for some meetings at the Fieldbus Foundation I read a copy of the Wall Street Journal about the state of technology workers in the United States. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that approximately 7.6 million workers in the US work in technology fields and the low range is only 5 million. This is less than 5% of the work force. The problem would be MUCH worse if not for immigration as the percentage of this labour force that was born outside the country has doubled from 10 to 20% since 1990. Another alarming statistic is that the number of scientists and engineers under the age of 35 fell 1% in between 2005 and 2010. The only real good news in the article was that unemployment for tech workers is about half the national average – sounds like a good reason to me to pursue this sort of career.
The irony of the above is that though the number of people working in technology continues to decrease the amount of technology in our daily lives continues to increase, I believe exponentially. Software design and applied mathematics numbers have actually increased – who wants to work in manufacturing it seems. If this does not sound like something to cause concern about infrastructure and long term economic health of the country and lifestyle to which this continent has become accustomed, hackers should be the least of your worries – at least the hackers understand technology.
The shortage of workers will affect the automation industry as well especially as we continue to use open technologies that are similar to those used in the office environment because if the skill sets are similar the job descriptions will also evolve in the same direction.
There are things you can do however and participation in activities such as FIRST (http://www.usfirst.org/) is one step you can take to reverse the stereotype that technology and how it works is cool (leave your pocket protector at home please) and show young people in middle school and junior high school, when they are making career choices that science can be fun and rewarding.