Desperately seeking math and science majors

Applied Materials had to fly in 100 interviewers just to screen all the job applicants for its new Solar Technology Center in Xi’an, China, last year. The company wanted to fill 260 high-tech jobs. It got 26,000 resumes. A fraction of those applicants were invited to interview. The final selectees, board member Andy Karsner tells me, „were top-of-their-class, English-speaking engineers. They’re the best of the best.” Now some of the most advanced research in this high-value, fast-growing field is being done in China — instead of in the U.S. with American engineers. Why should we care? Because it’s graduation season, when we see how starkly the direction of the American educational system differs from the way that faster-growing economies are headed. Those Chinese solar researchers are the cream of an engineering crop that included an estimated 10,000 Ph.D. graduates last year. This spring the U.S. will graduate about 8,000 Ph.D. engineers, an estimated two-thirds of whom are not U.S. citizens. About 150,000 students who majored in engineering, computer science, information technology, and math will collect bachelor’s degrees. The Chinese government claims that in recent years the number in China has been well north of 500,000 and rising fast; even if overstated, as some believe, the real number is much larger than America’s, and the quality of those graduates is improving.

The United States of…China?

China’s great outward march of investing into the United States is turning into a mad dash. Chinese investments into the U.S. rose 360% in the first half of this year compared to last year, according to Chinese government figures released Tuesday.