The 1998 IEEE professional activities conference was held over Labor Day weekend in Phoenix AZ. As always, the activities began by 7 a.m. and continued late into the night. There were many meetings, seminars, training sessions, and cracker barrels.
One topic of great interest all those present was the status of the H1B VISA legislation. This legislation is aimed at increasing the number of foreign workers allowed into the United States to fill specific High Tech needs. There was a great deal of discussion concerning whether there was actually a shortage of engineers and programmers. From the results of the discussion, it would appear that the shortage applies to specific skills contained within one individual. An example would be for a person with 10 years of C++ experience designing process control systems for the assembly of temperature controllers. Some of the job descriptions are so narrow that they are impossible to fill leading to a shortage. There is also great concern that the numbers being quoted for shortages include jobs for low end data entry personnel.
The IEEE USA is attempting to focus on specific activities of interest primarily to United States members. Due to the fixed funding requirements, it is necessary that the IEEE USA become self-sufficient. To meet these goals, the IEEE USA is becoming more entrepreneurial. They are attempting to provide and package products and services that will not only be a benefit to members, but will also provide income. TODAY'S ENGINEER magazine is one of these products. This magazine is targeted at the working engineer and provides valuable information focused on the professional side of engineering. The format is easy to read and provides valuable information without a heavy technical focus.
Other topics discussed included pre-college education, membership retention, and how to provide services of interest to more members.