Friday, June 17, 2011

Outsourcing strikes too close to home

The globalization of the economy has local effects, and not all of them are pleasant.

Nine years ago, our son entered the field of physics as an undergraduate. He had it all planned--he'd earn his Ph.D. and make a decent, though probably not spectacular, living in research and development.

That was the way the world looked to him nine years ago.

Imagine his dismay when he realized that, in the interim, many of the jobs for which he'd planned to apply had been shipped overseas.

As luck would have it, our son's planned doctoral research project didn't work out, forcing him to have to decide whether to leave graduate school with the Master's that he'd already earned or find a new research topic. Given the current employment outlook, he concluded that it would be best if he stayed in grad school. Since the U.S. job market in R. and D. is much smaller than he'd anticipated, he assumed that he'd have even more trouble finding a job with just a Master's than with a Ph.D. And the fact that, as long as he stayed in grad school, he'd keep his lab job, and its accompanying medical coverage, is no small consideration in this rotten economic climate.

It's not just manufacturing and "call centers" anymore, folks. Everything is getting outsourced, including computer and other technology and science jobs. By the time our son finally earns his Ph.D., he'll have been in college for at least a decade. Will he be able to find a job in physics, and, if so, will it be in this country? Or will he end up ditching his hard-earned degrees and working as an electrician?


Anonymous TOTJ Steve said...

I don't think your son should underestimate the "quality" factor. Talented people still get jobs. There's just a lot of mediocrity out there.

But what would be bad about being a well-educated electrician. They are well compensated, highly employable, and the opportunity for self-employment and control of one's destiny is significant. On multiple occasions I have urged my kids to consider such vocations, and not feel compelled to follow their parents into the "learned profession".

Fri Jun 17, 01:41:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

TOTJ Steve, I certainly hope you're right about the "quality" factor.

Skilled tradespeople certainly make a good living. It's just that one doesn't invest a decade of one's life going to college with the expectation that one might end up in a field that one could have learned in a couple of years of trade school. It's not worthy the debt.

Fri Jun 17, 01:51:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous rivkayael said...

The learning curve in graduate school is extremely steep. My guess is that he will now be better able to figure out when something is *not* going to work and troubleshoot accordingly. (and tell him it's not alone...many of us go through this and graduate) Many of us had fantasies of quitting with a Masters too!

Fri Jun 17, 02:02:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking about "talent" is either ignorant or dishonest. Physics is suffocated by regulation, we don't develop new energy sources - instead of investing, the government places outright bans and ridiculous regulations on any research that can make energy cheaper. It doesn't matter how "talented" you are, if you are allowed to research only
_dead end_ topics.

Regulation is also to blame for outsourcing, offshoring and the high cost of education and health care in this country. Regulation determines the cost of everything. The politicians know that _very well_. Indeed it makes no sense to get education if the cost cannot be recovered. So if the politicians keep the cost high and the rewards low, we must assume that their goal is to keep the people uneducated and sick. Is it a coincidence that such people are easily pauperized and controlled?

Fri Jun 17, 05:18:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

My son says that, while government regulation is a pain, the government does actively research new energy sources--his current government-funded research is related to that topic.

Sun Jun 19, 02:25:00 PM 2011  

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