SKILLS GAP

February 26, 2020


If you read literature regarding the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), you know that the United States has a definite “skills gap”.  The skills gap refers to the difference between skills required for a job and the skills an employee actually possesses. Because of the skills gap, employee might not be able to perform the complete job.  According to the Progressive Policy Institute, “Those who have never worked in the private sector might be forgiven for being skeptical about the existence of a skills shortage. But employers know that America has a significant skills gap – one that is growing with each passing month. And you won’t find many skill gap skeptics among underemployed workers, particularly Millennials.

 America’s economy has digitized over the past decade and our legacy infrastructure – postsecondary education institutions and workforce development boards – have not come close to keeping up. Moreover, the digitization of the economy has also changed hiring practices, with real implications for our workforce.”

 There can be no question that American employers have a record number of unfilled jobs. For the past year, the number has hovered around seven (7) million.  As of early January 2019, the number reported by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was six point nine (6.9) million.  When you think about it, this is a huge number—HUGE.   If we take a look at possible causes, we see the following:

  • THE DIGITAL SKILLS GAP— The World Economic Forum found only twenty-seven (27%) percent of small companies and twenty-nine (29%) percent of large companies believe they have the digital talent they require. Three quarters of Business Roundtable CEOs say they can’t find workers to fill jobs in STEM-related fields.  Deloitte in the United Kingdom has found that only twenty-five (25%) percent of “digital leaders” believe their workforce is sufficiently skilled to execute their digital strategy. Another survey found eighty (80% percent of executives highly concerned about a digital skills gap. And for the first time in recent memory, in May, August, and September 2018, the TechServe Alliance, the national trade association of technology staffing and services companies, reported no tech job growth in the U.S. According to TechServe Alliance CEO Mark Roberts, “this is totally a supply side phenomenon. There are simply not enough qualified workers to meet demand.”
  • THE SOFT-SKILLS GAP— Behind digital skills, as evidenced by job descriptions, employers care a great deal about a second set of skills: soft skills like teamwork, communication, organization, creativity, adaptability, and punctuality. Employers want workers who will show up on time and focus on serving customers rather than staring at their phones. They need employees who are able to get along with colleagues, and take direction from supervisors – a particular challenge for headstrong Millennials. But soft skills aren’t screened at the top of the hiring funnel. Employers aren’t likely to list “willingness to take direction” or “humility” as skills in job descriptions. And the soft skills that are listed aren’t readily assessable from résumés. So soft skills are evaluated further down the hiring funnel, via interviews – and long after the initial screen (primarily on digital skills) has weeded out many candidates with strong soft skills. It’s no wonder employers don’t think candidates’ soft skills are up to snuff. In a LinkedIn study of hiring managers, fifty-nine (59%) percent said soft skills were difficult to find and this skill gap was limiting their productivity. A 2015 Wall Street Journal survey of nine hundred executives found that eighty-nine (89%) percent have a very or somewhat difficult time finding candidates with the requisite soft skills. One reason for the soft skills gap is that Millennials (and now Generation Z) have less exposure to paid work than prior generations. When older Americans were in high school, even if they weren’t working during the school years, they probably took summer jobs. Some worked in restaurants or painted houses, others mowed lawns or scooped ice cream. But in the summer of 2017, only forty-three (43% percent of 16-19-year-olds were working or seeking work – down from nearly seventy (70%) percent a generation ago. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts teen workforce participation will drop below twenty-seven (27% percent by 2024.

SOLUTIONS:  There are solutions or ideas about solutions to this demanding and very important problem.  Some of these are given with the graphic shown below.

  • Learning institutions and curriculum development
  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Assisting educational institutions with classroom instruction.

If we look at the graduate skills gap, we see how very important companies and other institutions regard the skills gap.  It will be a continuing problem until our country comes to its senses and addresses this critical problem.


My last post, “ENGINEERING SALARIES KEEP GROWING”, gave the starting salaries for various engineering disciplines.  Well, engineering is one profession in which specialized training is absolutely necessary, at least in my opinion.  In other words, you have to go to school.  You have to be instructed.  Now please do not get me wrong, on the job training or internship is great to have and demonstrates the real world to entry-level engineers.  Engineering student on coop programs have realized that for years.   The profession today is extremely complex due to the digital age, 5 G, IIoT, AI, RFID, computer simulation, etc.  I could go on and on but will not.  With that being the case, let us now take a look at those universities that provide a graduate with the best starting salary.  Here we go.

NUMBER 20:  Kettering University

Early Career Salary   $71,000

Mid-Career Salary     $130,900

Kettering University (formerly General Motors Institute of Technology and GMI Engineering and Management Institute) is a nationally-ranked STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and Business university in Flint, Michigan and a national leader in combining a rigorous academic environment. (Image source: Kettering University)

NUMBER 19: The United States Coast Guard Academy

 Early Career Salary   $71,900

Mid-Career Salary     $134,000

The United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) is the service academy of the United States Coast Guard, founded in 1876 and located in New London, Connecticut. It is the smallest of the five federal service academies and provides education to future Coast Guard officers. (Image source: US Coast Guard Academy)

NUMBER 18: The University of California, San Diego

 Early Career Salary   $65,100

Mid-Career Salary     $135,500

The University of California, San Diego is a public research university located in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California, in the United States. The university occupies 2,141 acres near the coast of the Pacific Ocean with the main campus resting on approximately 1,152 acres. (Image source: University of California – San Diego)

NUMBER 17:  Clarkson University

Early Career Salary   $67,900

Mid-Career Salary     $137,500

Clarkson University is a private research university with its main campus located in Potsdam, New York, and additional graduate program and research facilities in New York State’s Capital Region and Beacon, N.Y. It was founded in 1896 and has an enrollment of about 4,300 students. (Image source: Clarkson University)

NUMBER 16: Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

Early Career Salary   $71,600

Mid-Career Salary     $138,600

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, commonly known as Cooper Union or The Cooper Union and informally referred to, especially during the 19th century, as “the Cooper Institute”, is a private college at Cooper Square on the border of the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, NY. (Image source: Cooper Union)

NUMBER 15:  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 

Early Career Salary $72,200

Mid-Career Salary $138,600

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, or RPI, is a private research university and space-grant institution located in Troy, New York, with two additional campuses in Hartford and Groton, Connecticut. The Institute was established in 1824 by Stephen van Rensselaer and Amos Eaton. (Image source: Rensselaer Polytechnic)

NUMBER 14:  Georgia Institute of Technology

Early Career Salary   $73,700

Mid-Career Salary     $138,700

The Georgia Institute of Technology (commonly called Georgia Tech, Tech, and GT) is a public research university in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States. It is a part of the University System of Georgia and has satellite campuses in Savannah, Georgia; Metz, France; Athlone, Ireland; Shanghai, China and other locations. (Image source: Georgia Tech)

NUMBER 13: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 

Early Career Salary   $76,200

Mid-Career Salary     $138,800

Rose–Hulman Institute of Technology (abbreviated RHIT), formerly Rose Polytechnic Institute, is a small private college specializing in teaching engineering, mathematics and science. Its 1,300-acre (2.0 sq mi; 526.1 ha) campus is located in Terre Haute, Indiana. (Image source: Rose-Hulman)

NUMBER 12:  Carnegie Mellon University

Early Career Salary   $78,300

Mid-Career Salary     $141,000

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is a private nonprofit research university based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1900 by Andrew Carnegie as the Carnegie Technical Schools, the university became the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1912 and began granting four-year degrees. (Image source: Carnegie Mellon University)

NUMBER 11:  Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Early Career Salary   $75,200

Mid-Career Salary     $142,100

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is a private research university in Worcester, Massachusetts, focusing on the instruction and research of technical arts and applied sciences. Founded in 1865 in Worcester, WPI was one of the United States’ first engineering and technology universities. (Image source: Worcester Polytechnic)

NUMBER 10: US Merchant Marine Academy

Early Career Salary   $82,900

Mid-Career Salary     $143,500

The United States Merchant Marine Academy (also known as USMMA or Kings Point), one of the five United States service academies, is located in Kings Point, New York. It is charged with training officers for the United States Merchant Marine, branches of the military, and the transportation industry. (Image source: US Merchant Marine Academy)

NUMBER 9: Colorado School of Mines

Early Career Salary   $76,200

Mid-Career Salary     $143,600

Colorado School of Mines, also referred to as “Mines”, is a public teaching and research university in Golden, Colorado, devoted to engineering and applied science, with special expertise in the development and stewardship of the Earth’s natural resources. (Image source: Colorado School of Mines)

NUMBER 8: Lehigh University

Early Career Salary   $70,500

Mid-Career Salary     $143,700

Lehigh University is an American private research university in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It was established in 1865 by businessman Asa Packer. Its undergraduate programs have been coeducational since the 1971–72 academic year. As of 2014, the university had 4,904 undergraduate students and 2,165 graduate students. (Image source: Lehigh University)

NUMBER 7:  Stevens Institute of Technology

Early Career Salary   $76,200

Mid-Career Salary     $145,800

Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT) is a private, coeducational research university located in Hoboken, New Jersey. The university also has a satellite location in Washington, D.C. Incorporated in 1870, it is one of the oldest technological universities in the United States. (Image source: Stevens Institute of Technology)

NUMBER 6:  Webb Institute

Early Career Salary   $80,900

Mid-Career Salary     $145,800

Webb Institute is a private undergraduate engineering college in Glen Cove, New York on Long Island. Each graduate of Webb Institute earns a Bachelor of Science degree in naval architecture and marine engineering. Successful candidates for admission receive full tuition for four years. (Image source: Webb Institute)

NUMBER 5:  California Institute of Technology

Early Career Salary   $89,900

Mid-Career Salary     $156,900

The California Institute of Technology (abbreviated Caltech) is a private doctorate-granting research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Known for its strength in natural science and engineering, Caltech is often ranked as one of the world’s top-ten universities. (Image source: Caltech)

NUMBER 4:   US Naval Academy

Early Career Salary   $85,000

Mid-Career Salary     $158,800

The United States Naval Academy (also known as USNA, Annapolis, or simply Navy) is a four-year coeducational federal service academy adjacent to Annapolis, Maryland. Established on 10 October 1845, under Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft. (Image source: US Naval Academy)

NUMBER 3: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Early Career Salary $89,900

Mid-Career Salary $159,400

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction. (Image source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

NUMBER 2:  Stanford University

Early Career Salary   $83,500

Mid-Career Salary     $161,400

Stanford University (officially Leland Stanford Junior University, colloquially the Farm) is a private research university in Stanford, California. Stanford is known for its academic strength, wealth, proximity to Silicon Valley, and ranking as one of the world’s top universities. (Image source: Stanford)

NUMBER 1:   Harvey Mudd College

Early Career Salary   $90,700

Mid-Career Salary     $161,800

Harvey Mudd College (HMC) is a private residential undergraduate science and engineering college in Claremont, California. It is one of the institutions of the contiguous Claremont Colleges which share adjoining campus grounds. (Image source: Harvey Mudd College)


I graduated from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1966.  Even though I entered the Air Force I did interview several prospective companies.  All were hiring and I was offered jobs upon successful graduation.  One dream job was working for Pratt-Whitney Aircraft.  My offer, $12,000 per year plus benefits.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  $12 grand, are you kidding me?  How will I spend all of that money?  Well, times have changed.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, (BLS), jobs for engineering graduates are expanding, and so are salaries.  If you are an engineer or an engineering student, this is great news.

The BLS figures are similar to results from the Design News study presented in the article, Engineering Career & Salary Survey – Are You Getting Paid Enough?. The average salary in our survey was $98,000, which is quite a bit higher than the average engineering salary of $85,000. The difference is likely because the Design News respondents included a preponderance of electrical and mechanical engineers, whose salaries tend to be higher than the average engineering salary. 

The BLS data shows that engineering jobs are projected to grow three percent (3%) from 2017 to 2024, adding about 67,200 new jobs. The growth rate is slower than the average for all occupations, in part, because several technician occupations in the group are projected to decline from 2017 to 2024 as improvements in technology, such as design software and surveying equipment, make workers more productive.

Let’s take a look at salary levels for various engineering classifications. Here we go.

Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree

Median pay: $66,180

Aerospace Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $107,830

Agricultural Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $75,090

Biomedical Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $86,220

Chemical Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $97,360

Civil Engineering Technicians

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree

Median pay: $49,260 

Civil Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $82,220

Computer Hardware Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $111,730

Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technicians

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree

Median pay: $61,130 

Electrical and Electronic Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $95,230

Electro-mechanical Technicians

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree

Median pay: $53,340

Environmental Engineering Technicians

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree

Median pay: $48,650

Environmental Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $84,560

Health and Safety Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $84,600

Industrial Engineering Technicians

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree

Median pay: $53,780 

Industrial Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $83,470

Materials Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $91,310

Mechanical Engineering Technicians

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree

Median pay: $53,910

Mechanical Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $83,590

Mining and Geological Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $94,040

Nuclear Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $102,950

Petroleum Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $129,990

CONCLUSIONS:  Trust me on this one, an engineering degree from a four-year accredited college or university is a REAL commitment and sometimes a slog.  If you can tolerate the long days and sometimes sleepless nights and do graduate, you can see that “sheep skin” really pays off.  I would say—stay the course. 

I CAN’T READ

February 8, 2020


Several years ago, 1981 to be exact, the company I worked for was sold and ultimately liquidated.  I was given an opportunity to move to Ohio to join the engineering team at their headquarters.  I declined.  My wife and I had our children in great schools and all of our family was close by so we decided it would be best to “stay at home”.  This, of course, meant I needed to find a job with a company in the area. I did so.  I will not name the company because it is not relevant.

One afternoon I was asked to accompany one of the other employees to pick up gas cylinders used for oxy-acetylene cutting torches.  I won’t go into detail because that’s not the purpose for this post.  I had no idea as to where the supplier was so I thought that was the purpose for his riding along with me.  Boy was I wrong.  I was told that Joe (not his real name) had some difficulty with directions so I was given instructions in writing as to the location of the company; which made me even more suspicious.   Well, as it turned out, Joe was functionally illiterate. He simply could not read and eventually, he admitted it.  He was passed along year after year through grammar school and high school simply because they did not know what to do with him.  Here is a high school graduate, an adult, on the street not knowing how to read.  I discovered later he did know how to write his name but that was because someone taught him to do so.  That is just about all he could put to paper. 

With this in mind, let’s look at language and literacy rates in the United States.

As you can see from the graphic above:

  • An international reading assessment shows that the U.S. ranks twenty-third (23rd) in reading skills behind China, Estonia and Poland.
  • From 1992 to 2013, the percentage of 12th graders who scored below basic reading skills achievement increased from twenty percent (20%) to twenty-five percent (25%), while those at or above proficient decreased from forty percent (40%) to thirty-seven percent (37%).
  • The mean SAT verbal score among college-bound seniors decreased more than eight percent (8%) between 1968 and 2015.

The graphic above indicates that funding for literacy skills is low to very low.  Below we see that:

  • From 1992 to 2008, the percentage of U.S. residents who read for pleasure declined by eleven percent (11%).
  • Family members reading to children declined eight percent (8%).

From the graphic above, you can see that employers still value literacy and language skills.  Reading is fundamental in getting and keeping a job.

In the US, fourteen percent (14%) of the adult population is at the “below basic” level for prose literacy; twelve percent (12%) are at the “below basic” level for document literacy; and twenty-two percent (22%) are at that level for quantitative literacy.  This may not sound like a great number or percentage but looking at a U.S. population of 327.8 million people, this is about forty-six million people.  Now, if you back out infants you certainly get a smaller number but:

  • More than thirty (30) million adults in the United States cannot read, write, or do basic math above a third-grade level. — ProLiteracy
  • Children whose parents have low literacy levels have a seventy-two (72%) percent chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves. These children are more likely to get poor grades, display behavioral problems, have high absentee rates, repeat school years, or drop out. — National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
  • Seventy-five (75%) percent of state prison inmates did not complete high school or can be classified as low literate. — Rand Report: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education
  • Low literacy is said to be connected to over $230 billion a year in health care costs because almost half of Americans cannot read well enough to comprehend health information, incurring higher costs. — American Journal of Public Health

CONCLUSIONS:  As we progress deeper and deeper into the “digital world” it becomes more necessary that we eliminate the lack of reading and communication skills or those even with marginal reading ability will be left behind.  In a world of 5-G, the “cloud”, AI, robotic systems, etc. a definite level of reading ability is an absolute must—a must.  WE MUST AND CAN DO BETTER.

%d bloggers like this: