The world as seem by my students

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Submitted by mydogsarelazy on March 16, 2007 - 12:24pm

I teach at a Community College, and whenever I have the chance I talk to my students about their plans and sometimes they open up and tell me about things going on in their lives. This semester, the sense of despair felt by many of my students is just profound.

The impact of the housing boom on them is that they just can imagine how they would ever get started in life -- economically speaking -- and they have a tremendous sense of going nowhere. I often advise my brightest students to think of ways they could get started elsewhere, by teaching English overseas or something of that sort.

When I tell them that housing will soon be crashing, that isn't much of a consolation, as we all realize that it will happen at the same time as a major recession or even depression.

This is not a good time to be young in California.

Your thoughts?


Submitted by ucodegen on March 17, 2007 - 4:58pm.
    Americans (despite their reputation) aren't stupid....

I go back and forth on this.. I see something like this

and I would agree.. Then I see things like this..
and of course the people on Jerry Springer....

After which I would have to say they are extremely stupid.

I think the truth is that Americans span the gamut. We have very bright and very stupid.. Not much in between, and the media seems to make fun of the bright and idolize the stupid. This does not help the motivation for a highschooler debating whether to sneak out and party or stay in and work on the homework..

Submitted by surveyor on March 17, 2007 - 5:23pm.


The reason Americans aren't applying to engineering or CS programs like they used to isn't because they are lazy or stupid. It's because those jobs are perceived as being difficult, not lucrative and lacking in prestige and security.

Isn't that the definition of lazy, when you don't pursue something difficult that is lacking in prestige and security? And you're saying increasing the pay will change that? Not true. By your reasoning, high-paying jobs should have high enrollments in their university majors. That is not the case.

The easiest branch of engineering is civil. It has the highest enrollment. Why? Because it is considered the easiest. Civil engineering is among the lowest paid of the engineers that the supply meets the demand (one could say that there is more supply than demand).

Also, to draw on the illegal immigration component, saying that if you pay Americans more to pick lettuce that Americans will show up, that is not true either. I talk to landscapers who have a hard time hiring even though they pay very high wages (in excess of $20/hr.). They cannot keep an "American" on staff. (sidebar: does this mean I want open borders? no, but I don't believe paying more will make someone necessary want to work).

IIT applicants who can't quite make the cut frequently end up at MIT and Stanford.

Interesting perception. I would argue they make the cut at MIT and Stanford because we don't have enough good quality students here to go to those universities.

Keep on telling yourself that some jobs are safe from outsourcing. Pathology and radiology work are being outsourced.

I believe the claim was not saying that engineering jobs were safe from outsourcing. The claim is that they are MORE safe from outsourcing because of several factors - language, quality control, and the ability to manage. Maybe for jobs that are somewhat "soft" in skills (like call centers) these can be outsourced and they can see a cost savings. However, from the companies I've seen try to use outsourcing to address complicated professions, like ENGINEERING, there is a furious communication problem. Try explaining to a guy over the telephone or even a tele-conference that you want certain designs implemented. I've seen it done. It usually ends up costing less to hire someone here. These are the limits of outsourcing.

I will not argue that outsourcing makes things here in the U.S. difficult, but the world is changing and you have to be able to change with it. Should you just give up just because your job has a 10% chance of being outsourced? Should we just give up hope altogether? No, we should make ourselves better than everyone else and look for opportunities whenever we can. And the other posts here have shown that despite outsourcing, there is a lot of opportunity that still exists. If you're talented, good at your job, you'll find and make your opportunities.

Submitted by kev374 on March 17, 2007 - 9:24pm.

It makes sense to me that as these countries rise and their citizens gain wealth, the pie will actual grow larger so that we can all eat more of it.

I doubt the average American will benefit from outsourcing and the new demand by the burgeoning middle class in China and India. The only ones that will become rich are the top tier execs of the American corporations and the investors. That is the true reason they are there, they want to establish the brands and reap in the profits.

However, the future is hard to predict. India has extremely poor infrastructure. I've been to Bangalore many times and know this first hand. It takes 2 hrs to go 10 miles and there are power cuts of 3-4hrs each day which require expensive alternative power sources. Just few weeks ago there were riots in Bangalore and our India SW development team could not work for 2 days causing downtime!! We also sometimes have issues that require immediate resolution when staff in India is sleeping, it has to be done here in the US to avoid business losses.

Another issue is severe wage inflation of 13-15% a year and heavy workforce attrition. When an employee leaves they take the business domain knowledge they have gained with them and someone else has to start from scratch, this is not good for a company.

While it is easy to offshore entry level software development functions, complex Business Analysis and architecture is not that easy to develop abroad. We live in a very dynamic environment where the business rules change fast, for many companies time to market has to be low for survival. Many companies are realizing this and therefore choosing to keep those functions in the US itself.

Submitted by kewp on March 18, 2007 - 10:39am.

"Ever heard of IIT? Probably the best engineering school on Earth, and IIT grads are some of the world's biggest movers and shakers. IIT applicants who can't quite make the cut frequently end up at MIT and Stanford. There are excellent engineering schools all over the world, not just in the US."

Sure have! Worked with a few grads at AT&T and Bell Labs. Until recently, the majority of them were emigrating to the states. Was quite the scandal in India, as its a state-funded uni!

While it is indeed a great school, world-class in fact, it still can't compare to our domestic educational offerings. It's like rolling a few of our top engineering schools into one giant institution and closing everything else except for the community colleges.

Beyond that, the IIT grads are either moving out of india, or demanding salaries that are not attractive to western companies looking for dirt cheap labour.

My personal opinion of the current dearth of engineering students is that its simply due to economics. Why bother investing in four-six years of intense school work in order to get a grueling engineering gig? That starts at less than 100k to boot?

Especially when you can become a realtor with literally only hours of prep work and then make 10k a week selling houses from one flipper to another. Not to mention the dozen or so investment properties you have on the side, paid for with low-interest/no money down loans.

Submitted by CostaMesa on March 18, 2007 - 12:47pm.

Engineers have little opportunity to rise into jobs that are sufficiently 'sexy' for today's addled youth. Go talk to the kids, that's what they'll tell you.

Why are there 20X as many business majors than engineers and 100X as many law students? Because those professions are where the money is for the superstars. When a kid has already figured out that they're not going to be the next Michael Jordan, Cindy Crawford or Jim Carrey, then they've got to figure out another path to that goal of superstardom. Following in Ken Lay's footsteps seems like a good idea to lots of these dreamers. (this is the future of America!!!)

I went back for a masters in engineering last year. There were 3 American students and 32 foreign students in the incoming class. Of the 32, two were from Europe and the rest were from India, Taiwan or China.

America is doomed long-term. Our populace is filled with far too many fat/dumb/ignorant people who feel entitled to a phat salary and all the perks without ever trying, because they see so many others getting that for nothing.

As long as we believe in the lottery, nothing will change.

Submitted by Raybyrnes on March 18, 2007 - 8:48pm.

I have fmaily members in Ireland who are making a killing as engineers and managers of IT teams. Additionally thery are seeing an Influx of American IT professionals who ahve figured out that you have to go where the money is at. Right now Ireland is booming. If I were an enginneer I would be exploring overseas opportunities.

Submitted by startingout on March 19, 2007 - 12:37pm.

Half of my family are in Ireland, as well. Not only is my brother-in-law engineer making absolutely loads of money, even relatives who work in other traditionally not-so-lucrative jobs (nannies and receptionists) have salaries and perks that are unheard of in the U.S. I know that for my particular profession, my starting salary in Ireland would be almost double what I make now (if you convert the Irish salary from Euros to dollars, and compare Irish wages in dollars to US wages in dollars). My husband made the same amount in Ireland working as a farm hand as he does here as a highly qualified rock crushing technician.

It's not just Ireland's engineering and IT sectors that are booming- it's everything!

It's true that cost of living is more expensive in Ireland (food, clothes, etc.), but their sky-high wages more than compensate for it.

And, at first glance, their housing market seems to be as ridiculously priced as ours. But then, take a look at the job boards (such as Irish Jobs.IE), and you'll see that their wages are much more able to support their prices, while CA wages can in no way support CA prices.

The Irish have certainly gone through some absolutely terrible times, but for right now, it's great to be a citizen of the Republic of Ireland.

Submitted by Cow_tipping on March 19, 2007 - 1:08pm.

IIT and MIT are not really competetors. There is no "if you cant get into MIT, you'd get into IIT". Here is why ...
MIT under grad is for students who will be able to pay up and study there and usually limited to students in the US.
IIT is only for students in India and you need to write an entrance exam or be a Government nominee (AKA son of a govt big wig and there are only like 10-15 seats in the pool of 3000) and be a graduate of a 12 year education not counting kindergarden including math, physics and chemistry and be under 21 years of age. I dont know of how many students will be considering this or that, not many I can assure you. Maybe a miniscule 1-2 a year.
IIT undergrad courses teach a lot of theory and some of it very obscure and irrelevant. So much so that they are usually deemed fit only for research, Saying they dont know how to hold a wrench. Also an undergrad course was 175 credits as opposed to the 120 that is standard in US. They like to breed book worms.

Submitted by fun4vnay2 on March 19, 2007 - 1:34pm.

I agree cent percent by CONCHO

I have been a long time lurker in this site with little posts.

Let me tell you guys something about myself.
I hail from India and I am from one of the premier engineering colleges there. I got my BS in Electrical Engineering from a college which is ranked after IITs. I could not secure admission in IIT because I could not pass the entrance exams.
If one wants to study in premier colleges in India, there is only one way to secure admission: Work hard and Pass their exams with good marks unlike the admission criteria here in USA for top schools.
I took GRE with a score of 2200/2400. Most IITians get 2300+/2400 in GRE and 750+/800 in GMAT.
I came here for my MS in EE and had a very very easy sail with GPA of 4.0.

During my MS here in US school, I also worked as a tutor for undergrad engineering schools and I can tell you that in the second or third year of their under grad school, they are learning/studying stuffs which I did when I was in high school back home.

Aslo, I am here on Visa and wanted to add my experience about getting jobs in multibillion dollars company.
Whenever I apply for a job with any company, their first action is to fill up the particular position with any qualified american citizen and if and only if they can not find anyone qualified they hire foreign citizens. Obviously, their pay has to be competitive. Mind it , this is my and few of my friends personal experiences with big companies.



Submitted by anxvariety on March 19, 2007 - 5:51pm.

RE: "winning the superbowl".. I never said I felt like I won anything, I said I felt like I was on the team that won.. so the feeling I was trying to identify was one of small participation but moreso a rewarding association experience(fellow piggys).

Does this crash present a slam dunk opportunity for anyone? Can you keep your job and stay docuemented-stable so that you'll be able to get a loan? I personally think there is more opportunity on the back end of this cycle.. When everyone panics and things become oversold, feverish and very predictable(I'd guess in panic times, the trends closer to follow basic human psychology rather than seasonal or other patterns).

How is the tail end of a boom the good one? If someone were to go for leveraged investments say out of the money puts, and they were using something like 50-100k(around a down payment price).. I think what they can get on the back end of this boom is more than they'll get throughout the entire next boom... If you put 50-100k into those LEND puts as many people were idnetifying as a possibly good investment - you'd have a nice chunk right now.. maybe 500k-1mil... how about letting that sit and earn interest during the inflationary period, and then cashing out 75k in 10 years to buy a house that will get you a inflation paced return.. Maybe someone can slam this if they feel so, I'm just tossing it out as something to think about..

Submitted by denis4x4 on March 20, 2007 - 5:49am.

I'm 66 years old and a high school graduate. I've not seen one mention in this string of creating a business or filling a niche. In 50 years of working, 48 of those years were spent working for myself and creating jobs as well as products and services. The rewards include a nice collection of cars, RV's, an apartment building in PB with an owner's suite, a ranch in Colorado and piece of mind as everything is paid for and has been for the last 25 years.

It's been said that a high school graduate in the 1950's got an education at least equal to two years of junior college. For the record, in the San Diego Unified School District, the dollar amount spent per student was $396 for the 1959-1960 school year. Today that number exceeds $7,000 and at least half of the students entering college have to take remedial math and English!

If there's one constant theme running through this string, it's the idea that someone else is to blame. Suck it up people and take responsibility for your life.

Submitted by Critter on March 20, 2007 - 6:48am.

Everybody deals with the cards they are dealt. Since housing is overpriced, now is a great time to rent, invest the rest of the money, explore new neighborhoods, and NOT feel like a failure because you can't buy!

Change is good - I think this is an exciting time to do things differently. I wouldn't feel disadvantaged because I couldn't buy a house or condo right out of college - there are plenty of others ways to get self-esteem. It's not what you own, but who you are.

Submitted by surveyor on March 20, 2007 - 9:10am.



Submitted by North County Native on March 20, 2007 - 9:30am.

good idea juice!

Submitted by kewp on March 20, 2007 - 9:37am.

"Our only hope as a nation lies in the heart and motivation of the part of our population that are driven to make a difference - people like the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines I see volunteering to take a bullet for this country. They come home and instinctively find ways to make themselves and this country better."

Do you mean our young servicemen and women currently over in Iraq, that have been serving multiple consecutive tours of duty? I'll suggest taking a visit to your local VA, outpatient psych ward and/or any dive bars within walking distance of the above to get a feel of how our current veterans are doing, courtesy of our foreign policy.

Or maybe you mean the current crop of new recruits, like the cat iv's? You know, the ex-cons, mentally ill and unemployed angry kids dressed up like gang-bangers?

I work at an engineering school and interface with many highly-motivated, intelligent and creative "American" engineering students. Sure, there are not many of them, but its a tough profession and not for everyone. I have a feeling they will be rewarded for their hard work, however, as there is always demand for good engineers, recession or otherwise.

Submitted by ibjames on March 20, 2007 - 3:19pm.

I'm in info technology, anyone know how to get security clearance? I have no idea where to start.

I have mixed feelings, kind of an emotional rollercoaster sometimes. Somedays I feel that there is hope, and we'll own something, and other days I feel that there is so far prices have to drop to be affordable that I'm fooling myself.

Submitted by Cow_tipping on March 20, 2007 - 5:16pm.

Juice ... big difference between other countries India especially and the US (not sure about europe but India for sure) ...
We do not study what we like, we do not study what comes easy, we do not study to be entertained and most importantly, we do not have a choice of what we study till we are very very old (in US stdent years).
We need to study everything under the freaking sun till we are done and finished with grade 10. We get the whole kit and caboodle. The 4 years of physics, 4 years of chemistry and 4 years of math before we ever get to tell OK ... I wasnt to study commerce and accounting and economics or ohysics, chemistry and math. That stage in your life, nothing is easy. Its death either way. We expect to work 40 hours a week studying if we want to make it. That is other than the 40 hours a week of high school.
IIT aint no big deal, any engineer undergrad from India will completely cut american graduates to pieces on the basis of fundamentals alone. Of course we cant make it a week in the woods or pick up drunk women in bars ... but hey ... trade offs right ... software and coding ... that we know.

Submitted by kewp on March 20, 2007 - 8:00pm.

As an aside, guess what the common trait I've noticed amongst my most successful friends?

Wealthy parents.

Submitted by kewp on March 21, 2007 - 8:48am.

"The Chinese student leaves with better grades, but does that necessarily mean that he will be better at global business?"

Find the Indian and/or Chinese equivalent of Microsoft, Google, Intel, Apple etc. and you will have the answer to your question.

Submitted by surveyor on April 7, 2007 - 9:29pm.

outsourcing article:

Here is an interesting article regarding outsourcing.

MYSORE, India (AP) - At the heart of the sprawling corporate campus, in a hilltop building overlooking the immaculately shorn lawns, the sports fields and the hypermodern theater complex, young engineers crowd into a classroom. They are India's best and brightest, with stellar grades that launched them into a high-tech industry growing at more than 25 percent annually. And their topic of the day? Basic telephone skills.

"Hello?" one young man says nervously, holding his hand to his ear like a phone. "Hello? I'd like to leave a message for Number 17. Can I do that?"

Nearly two decades into India's phenomenal growth as an international center for high technology, the industry has a problem: It's running out of workers.

There may be a lot of potential - Indian schools churn out 400,000 new engineers, the core of the high-tech industry, every year - but as few as 100,000 are actually ready to join the job world, experts say.

Instead, graduates are leaving universities that are mired in theory classes, and sometimes so poorly funded they don't have computer labs. Even students from the best colleges can be dulled by cram schools and left without the most basic communication skills, according to industry leaders.

So the country's voracious high-tech companies, desperate for ever-increasing numbers of staffers to fill their ranks, have to go hunting.

"The problem is not a shortage of people," said Mohandas Pai, human resources chief for Infosys Technologies, the software giant that built and runs the Mysore campus for its new employees. "It's a shortage of trained people."

From the outside, this nation of 1.03 billion, with its immense English-speaking population, may appear to have a bottomless supply of cheap workers with enough education to claim more outsourced Western jobs.

But things look far different in India, where technology companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in a frantic attempt to ensure their profit-making machine keeps producing.

"This is really the Achilles heel of the industry," said James Friedman, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group, an investment firm based in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., who has studied the issue.

"When we first started covering the industry, in 2000, there were maybe 50,000 jobs and 500,000 applicants," he said. Now there are perhaps 180,000 annual openings, but only between 100,000 and 200,000 qualified candidates.

For now, industry is keeping up, but only barely. A powerful trade group, the National Association of Software Services Companies, or NASSCOM, estimates a potential shortfall of 500,000 technology professionals by 2010.

On the most basic level, it's a problem of success. The high-tech industry is expanding so fast that the population can't keep up with the demand for high-end workers.

Tata Consultancy Services, for instance, India's largest software company, hires around 3,000 people a month. The consulting firm Accenture plans to hire 8,000 in the next six months and IBM says it will bring on more than 50,000 additional people in India by 2010.

A shortage means something feared here: higher wages.

Much of India's success rests on the fact that its legions of software programmers work for far less than those in the West - often for one-fourth the salary. If industry can't find enough workers to keep wages low, the companies that look to India for things like software development will turn to competitors, from Poland to the Philippines, and the entire industry could stumble.

The responses range from private "finishing schools" polishing the computer skills of new graduates to multimillion-dollar partnerships spanning business, government and higher education. The biggest companies have built elaborate training centers. The Mysore campus, for instance, was little more than scrub-filled fields when Infosys, India's second-largest software firm, based in the nearby technology hub of Bangalore, began building here in earnest three years ago.

In America, the campus would be nothing unusual. But in India - with its electricity outages, poverty and mountains of garbage - the walled-in corporate fantasyland, watched over by armed guards, is anything but normal.

It has 120 faculty members, more than 80 buildings, 2,350 hostel rooms and a 500,000-square-foot education complex. There's a movie complex built inside a geodesic dome. An army of workers sweeps the already-spotless streets and trims the already-perfect lawns.

Month by month, it's getting bigger. Today, some 4,500 students at a time attend the 16-week course for new employees. By September, there will be space for 13,000.

Infosys spent $350 million on the campus, and will spend $140 million this year on training, said Pai, the human resources chief.

"This is the enormous cost we have to pay to ensure we have enough people," he said.

They're not the only ones.

IBM's technical skills programs reached well over 100,000 Indians last year, from children to university professors. At Tata Consultancy Services, measures range from a talent search as far afield as Uruguay to having executives teach university classes - all designed simply to make people employable.

Most industry leaders believe these investments will pay off, and India will remain competitive. But most are also guarded in their optimism.

"We should be able to get through this year, but if we don't get things like finishing schools into place we'll see an actual shortage," said Kiran Karnik, the NASSCOM chairman.

Much of the problem is rooted in a deeply flawed school system.

As India's economy blossomed over 15 years, spawning a middle class desperate to push their children further up the economic ladder, the higher education system grew dramatically. The number of engineering colleges, for instance, has nearly tripled.

But the problems have simply grown worse.

India has technical institutes that seldom have electricity, and colleges with no computers. There are universities where professors seldom show up. Textbooks can be decades old.

Even at the best schools - and the government-run Indian Institutes of Technology are among the world's most competitive, with top-level professors and elaborate facilities - there are problems.

The brutal competition to get into these universities means ambitious students can spend a year or more in private cram schools, giving up everything to study full-time for the entrance exams.

Instruction is by rote learning, and only test scores count.

"Everything else is forgotten: the capacity to think, to write, to be logical, to get along with people," Pai said. The result is smart, well-educated people who can have trouble with such professional basics as working on a team or good phone manners.

"The focus," he said, "is cram, cram, cram, cram."

People can take what they will from this article. They can say, well why bother getting into a technical or working hard to get into college and get good grades if there are legions of not very well qualified Indian engineers to take my place. Or maybe they will say, look, if I work hard, get a good degree, keep in mind that there are going to be many baby boomers retiring in the next few years, and if I position myself to take over those positions, then my future is looking good because there are not many people in India who can do what I can do.

IMHO, there is no country in the whole that can match the U.S. in ingenuity, drive, and opportunity. In the U.S., you can go from dirt poor to stinking rich. There is no country that makes that easier than the U.S. Yes, there are flaws, yes, it's not easy. But nothing beats the U.S. as long as we remember that.

And that's what I tell every young person I encounter.

Submitted by SD Realtor on April 7, 2007 - 10:40pm.

I assume you mean TSMC. They fabricate the ASICs that my staff designs, as well as a majority of custom ASICs.

America cannot compete simply because of the salaries. That is the way it is and the way it will be.

Actually there are other more worrisome elements to this sort of globalization even though it is raw capitalism operating at it's best. That is the security element. If you think about it, a staggering amount of our custom ASICs (chips), parts for military equipment and other basic infrastructure are manufactured overseas.

There is a large ASIC manufacturing area being built in Mexicali. I am quite pleased with that if for anything just to have it closer to American soil. I think that sooner or later we will see that we need to bring more of this sort of manufacturing back physical locations that will be closer to home. If it means subsidizing our workers then so be it.

Everyone whines about loss of jobs. It sucks. I hate it and could lose mine at any time. However the bottom line is that people do what I do on the other side of the planet for a hell of alot cheaper.

SD Realtor

Submitted by barnaby33 on April 7, 2007 - 11:24pm.

You mean, sell real estate for less than 6%! I thought the NAR would have locked themselves in with the CHICOMs for sure!


Submitted by SD Realtor on April 8, 2007 - 12:16am.


Don't get me started on NAR...and don't get NAR started on me. Guys like me are on NARs hit list.

SD Realtor

Submitted by NeetaT on April 8, 2007 - 9:33am.

I'm tired of hearing how bad everything is or will be. I've listened to this same rhetoric for the last ten years and have reacted to it by being very cautious with my money and as a consequence missed out on making large amounts of money. I still hold hope in this prediction, because I've done so for so long. Now I'm stuck. The truth is that most people have allot of money. It's hard to make a case for a bad economy, when I can't find a parking space at a shopping mall and have to wait in line at an Outback Steak house.

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