Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nuclear Workforce Update

Earlier this month, Joseph Somsel talked about some of the challenges facing new plant construction, including concerns about the nuclear work force. Today's edition of The Scotsman is reporting that the twin challenges of replacing the U.K.'s nuclear submarine fleet and reviving its domestic nuclear energy industry may be under threat because of a shortage of qualified workers.

But the concern isn't limited to the nuclear industry, as Microsoft founder Bill Gates outlined in a speech in Moscow earlier today:

A shortage of information technology graduates from Western universities is leading companies to call on developing countries to meet research demand, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said on Tuesday.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia's internationally renowned education system became a cheap talent pool for the West. Now dozens of Russian language Web sites offer computer programming jobs in the United States, alongside visa support and language training.

"Worldwide, a lot of the developed countries are not graduating as many IT students as they were in the past, which is kind of ironic as it does mean it does increase the opportunities," Gates said.
Here at NEI, we've been at work on this issue for some time now, and I'm happy to see that the new chairman of NRC, Dale Klein, recognizes the challenge as well.

It seems that what America needs is a new appreciation of the value of education in science and engineering. Here's what Scientists and Engineers for America have to say about that issue:
America's prosperity and security in the twenty-first century depend on our ability to develop scientific and technical talent. Quality of education and equality of educational opportunity are essential to compete in a tightly interconnected global economy. A firm grasp of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is essential for all Americans and so we must ensure that talent is identified, encouraged, and supported without prejudice.
Those are goals I think a lot of Americans could sign on for. Here's hoping they do.

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