Saturday, June 18, 2016

Retrenchment 1969 - 1971

Several things happened simultaneously during the time identified here as the "retrenchment" period. 

First, large aerospace cutbacks occurred, creating unemployment problems for some segments of the engineering profession. Thousands of engineers and scientists, including many Ph.D.s, lost their jobs. Many of them remained unemployed for long periods of time.  Newspapers ran articles about unemployed engineers and scientists working as welders, rug salesmen, TV repair-men, bartenders, handymen, and operators of hot dog stands.  Second, newly graduated Ph.D.s in physics, chemistry, and mathematics began having difficulty getting jobs of their choice. Also, there were more new elementary and secondary school teachers than were needed, and many could not find jobs.  Third, the 1970 census showed that the number of young people in the college-age group was going to peak in the early 1980s and would decline thereafter, casting a pall on the prospects of those who were looking forward to university teaching careers.  Fourth, the U.S. economy entered a period of economic recession, with the result that employers cut back on expenditures and postponed hiring new people. All of these events received a high level of media exposure, which produced an exaggerated and misleading picture of the employment picture for engineers.  The cumulative effects of these events on engineering education were drastic. Undergraduate enrollments plummeted but then recovered as it became apparent that the adverse publicity had been substantially misleading.

Other developments of the period were the termination of science development programs by the National Science Foundation (NSF), virtual cessation of training grants, and the emergence of an increasingly restrictive climate toward the funding of university research. The NSF published a report in 1969 stating that an oversupply of science and engineering doctorates by 1980 appeared unlikely; two years later NSF produced another report reversing its earlier opinion, this time projecting that Ph.D. production by 1980 would result in an oversupply of 40 percent for engineers. The 1971 NSF projection along with the 1966 Goals Study projection both sets of projections far overshot the mark.

No comments:

Post a Comment