The American Electronics Association (AeA) has updated its report on U.S. competitiveness, first issued two years ago. The 38-page document (http://www.aeanet.org/competitiveness) is
worth reading in part for the marshalling of facts it accomplishes.
While proposals to boost U.S. education, R&D, and business investments have multiplied, little action has been accomplished in the last two years. A raft of competitiveness-related bills were submitted to the 109th Congress, however, the AeA contends that “not one of these bills was passed or ever seriously debated.”
The report takes a reasonable tone towards foreign competition. No one wants to turn the clock back 50 years to when China was a cesspool ruled by a despot. But if inaction continues by the federal government, the report’s conclusion that the U.S. economy will lose its economic leadership over the next 20 years is hard to dispute.
The AeA correctly sees competitiveness in terms of human capital, with dozens of recommendations to support education and R&D efforts in the United States.
It outlines the mediocre standing of U.S. students in math and science, and recommends adoption of generous scholarship programs for U.S. citizens who seek to pursue science and engineering degrees. It endorses an American Academy recommendation to annually recruit 10,000 science and math teachers by awarding 4-year scholarships.
For the average U.S. family, higher education is becoming more difficult to fund. The AeA reports that in 2005, one year of study at a public college costs an average of $12,127, and the median family income stood at $46,326. Between 2000 and 2005, public college costs rose 28 percent while median family income declined by three percentage points, itself proof that something is not quite right with U.S. competitiveness.
Noting that nearly one-fourth of the engineers and scientists working in the United States were born outside of the United States, the AeA recommends that all U.S.-educated master and doctoral students receive green cards.
Entitled “We Are Still Losing the Competitive Advantage: Now Is the Time To Act” the report quotes statistics showing that China graduates almost six times as many engineers as the United States. “Some U.S. executives have argued that engineers educated in Chinese universities, in many cases, are not of the same caliber as American or European-educated workers. But as China sharply increases investment in its technical education system, the gap is closing, and closing fast.”
The report also marshals interesting facts about federal R&D funding, which has shifted dramatically towards life sciences and away from technology --- defined as engineering, physical sciences, math, and computer science.
“In 1982, technology R&D represented 48 percent of the federal government’s R&D budget and life sciences represented 36 percent. By 2005, these priorities had switched, with technology R&D at 32 percent of the federal R&D budget and life sciences at 54 percent.”
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About weQuest: weQuest's are written by G Dan Hutcheson, his career spans more than thirty years, in which he became a well-known as a visionary for helping companies make businesses out of technology. This includes hundreds of successful programs involving product development, positioning, and launch in Semiconductor, Technology, Medicine, Energy, Business, High Tech, Enviorntment, Electronics, healthcare and Business devisions.