Engineers Joint Council to “Study” Engineer Unemployment

This essay is reproduced here as it appeared in the print edition of the original Science for the People magazine. These web-formatted archives are preserved complete with typographical errors and available for reference and educational and activist use. Scanned PDFs of the back issues can be browsed by headline at the website for the 2014 SftP conference held at UMass-Amherst. For more information or to support the project, email

Engineers Joint Council to “Study” Engineer Unemployment

By S.S.

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 3, No. 4, September 1971, p. 10

The June issue of Consulting Engineer reports that the National Science Foundation has awarded a $65,000 contract to the Engineers Joint Council for a study of engineer unemployment.

The Engineers Joint Council is a creation of U.S. old line engineering organizations: American Society of Civil Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and so on. For years, its Engineering Manpower Commission has published tables and charts forecasting engineering employment. The head of EMC until recently was Donald E. Irwin, the manager of General Electric’s engineer recruiting program. Its current chairman is college president Dr. William Hazell. The EMC Executive Secretary is J. D. Alden, a former naval officer. Employee engineers are left out altogether.

EMC compiles engineering employment data by circulating questionnaires to corporation personnel agents. EMC does not release figures for individual firms; hence there is no way of checking the figures’ correctness. Indeed, since personnel men are under pressure to hire engineers as cheaply as possible, they always talk about an existing or prospective engineer shortage. Not surprisingly, EMC’s data has consistently forecast such a shortage; thus EMC failed completely in forecasting the current unemployment disaster which finds 50,000 to 100,000 engineers out of work.

EMC’s charts plot expected engineer job openings against numbers of new university graduates while omitting the large group of older experienced engineers seeking work. (Chemical Engineering, July 1970) In doing so, EMC condones employer discrimination against the older men even though this practice violates both state and federal law. (The U.S. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 forbids employers of 25 or more persons to discriminate against individuals in the 40~65 age group. Additionally, California may impose a $500 fine and 6 months in jail for such discrimination. New York has a similar law with a one year penalty.)

EMC employment charts make other key omissions:

  1. What proportion of university graduates were actually placed? — if an appreciable number did not find jobs, the data is useless.
  2. Do the curves show completely new job openings? Or do they include the replacement of older, experienced men with new graduates at lower pay?

EMC recently published a group of charts purporting to show engineers salaries against the number of years since graduation. (Chemical Engineering, April 19,1971) Here also, EMC made significant omissions:

  1. They failed to distinguish between employee engineers and those holding supervisory and managerial positions. Salaries therefore appear higher than actual.
  2. They did not include the 50,000 or 100,000 engineers now unemployed, thereby embodying one more upward bias.

The reason for EMC’s publicizing of falsely high engineer shortages and salaries is obvious: to help create a large pool of engineer labor by enticing young high-school graduates into the field. Under these circumstances, the National Science Foundation’s $65,000 contract for an enemployment “study” is just another boondoggle.

We do need reliable engineer job data. One way of accumulating such information is for engineering undergraduates to circulate questionnaires to prospective employers asking such questions as:

  1. How many engineers did you hire last year? Over 40? Over 50?
  2. What was the average pay in each group?
  3. Did you layoff any engineers last year? How many in each group?
  4. How many in each group quit? Why?
  5. How many years service for a two week vacation? Three weeks? Four? Sabbatical year off?
  6. What tuition payment for additional schooling? What work time off for this purpose?
  7. How long for pension contributions to become employee property? What provisions are there for transferable pensions?

Answers from individual companies should be published; publication would reveal false replies within a year or two. Companies with nothing to hide should be willing to answer. Those who refuse should be denied the privelege of campus recruiting.


>>  Back to Vol. 3, No. 4  <<