OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

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Graduates in high demand

Published Date: 
Friday, December 16, 2011

When the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s, thousands of U.S. technology jobs were sent offshore. Enrollment in computer science degree programs decreased due to the perception that graduates would not be able to find employment in the states. In reality, however, demand for highly skilled technology designers and software engineers never really went away.

“There’s a public misconception that computer science jobs are all being outsourced to other countries when, in fact, we’re seeing tremendous demand for our computer science students,” said Thuy Tran, director of marketing and communications at the College of Engineering. “At a recruiting dinner held in October, 15 of the 21 companies attending were hiring computer science students.”

A recent graduate landed an entry level position at $92,000 per year, Tran said.

Although two-thirds of the workforce at Cypress Semiconductor currently is located in India and the Ukraine, the company’s architecture and design has always been done in the U.S. and some lower level jobs probably will be moving back from overseas due to rising labor costs in emerging markets, said Heinz Holzapfel, software engineering director at Cypress. “We’re approaching the point where outsourcing based on cost alone is no longer competitive,” he said.

Holzapfel predicts an eventual net increase in U.S.-based jobs even as outsourcing offshore continues. Business and consumer demands are driving the need for continual innovation requiring tightly integrated systems that cannot be produced efficiently without co-located design and engineering teams.

Alan Crouch (’86 CS), vice president and general manager of Intel’s Service Provider Division, said that Intel has transformed its software engineering workforce in the past five years and “hiring computer scientists in the U.S. and worldwide has been the lifeblood of making that happen.” He said Intel has about 800 Oregon State alumni on staff now.

Crouch and Holzapfel are members of the College of Engineering Industry Advisory Board, a group of industry representatives who meet with the dean and faculty to foster relevant technology education that produces work-ready graduates. Strong industry partnerships have produced internships, experiential learning opportunities, and senior design projects that help Oregon State students gain real-world experiences to help them move seamlessly into the job market at graduation.

Steve Horvath, software engineering manager in aviation and aerospace at Garmin, also sits on the advisory board. He estimates that about 60 percent of Garmin’s software engineers graduated from Oregon State’s College of Engineering. The company is extremely supportive of the MECOP (Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program), which gives students the chance to collaborate on-site as part of a design team. Horvath said he has been impressed with the level of work preparedness, enthusiasm, and unique contributions Oregon State students bring to the team.

“Professors are very motivated at Oregon State—they’re enthusiastic, and that rubs off on students when they come and interview with us,” said Horvath. “They’ve had a great experience in their class work, they’ve had growth from internships in a lot of cases, and they’re just really eager to show what they can do. They’re looking for opportunity, and we give them that opportunity.”

Crouch believes the future of computing will involve “large-scale, distributed systems like cloud computing and very small-scale but highly capable smart devices,” and these types of system will only increase the need to co-locate teams. “Smart device innovation is a team sport and it requires players that are software designers and players that are silicon designers. Those people need to be on the same site to get maximum productivity…. That’s why we’re going to keep hiring computer scientists, and locate our software/hardware teams side by side at our anchor sites, both in the U.S. and worldwide,” he said.

--Marie Oliver