This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

May 10, 2006

Brain Drain

Employers in the United States are increasingly concerned about the shortage of highly-educated scientists and engineers. These specialized workers are needed for research and development in the corporate world and in government. They are needed to serve as professors and researchers in colleges and universities to teach the next generation. As our need for technology grows and work becomes more complicated, tomorrow’s workforce will need much more of this learning.

The future scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and computer program designers—still in school today—need role models and mentors. As they grow, they will seek guidance and inspiration in the pursuit of these important avenues of education and careers. A shortage of people in these fields could easily mean less support for young people considering this type of work. With the challenges we already face in motivating students to enroll in the more difficult science and math courses, this deficiency is a serious concern.

Senior academic staff and directors of research centers around the world typically receive their doctoral education from research universities in the United States, the United Kingdom, or France. Graduates have always had opportunities to return to their home countries to work in significant science and technology positions. Although the number of foreign doctoral recipients planning to stay in the United States increased in the 1990s, now home-country employers are extending attractive invitations more assertively. In this increasingly competitive global creative environment, the graduates are needed for collaborative research and networking with home-country scientists.

Taiwan and South Korea have been strongest in absorbing Ph.D.-holding scientists and engineers trained abroad. Some graduates are recruited after they have enjoyed a distinguished science career abroad.

These respected professionals conduct the ground-breaking research to develop new technologies that create competitive advantage. The exodus of these specialists presents host countries—-like the United States, United Kingdom, and France-—with a serious brain drain. Universities in these developed countries report difficulty filling their classrooms with students from their own countries. Facing a shortage of interested and qualified students, they open their doors to people from other countries who will compete with them after graduation.

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