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Euro Companies Scramble for Engineers

American defense companies are not the only ones scrambling to find engineering talent. The chief technology officer from EADS, the European defense and aerospace giant, told reporters here in Paris that his country is scrambling to find enough talented engineers to fill the company’s needs for 3,000 to 4,000 every year.

Speaking at a day-long seminar of the sort only a European company could imagine -- complete with easy access to the CEO and other top officers and applause from the reporters at the end of presentations -- Jean Botti noted that Europe provides only about 30 percent of global research these days so his company is casting a wide net to find as many talented engineers in as many countries as possible.

EADS has tapped the Russian Academy of Research, set up programs in Singapore and at China's Tsinghua University -- as close as China gets to MIT -- and will soon open a major program in India. All these are aimed at improving the company’s access to qualified engineers. And EADS North America plans to soon announce a chief technology officer, Botti said, to help the North American subsidiary recruit engineers and ensure a steady flow of talent.

Botti offered one horror story similar to those American executives have told for some time. Almost 40 percent of graduates from one of France's best engineering schools were leaving to work for banks. That, he said wryly, may well be changing in light of recent financial events.

Finally, Botti referred to something that lots of old guys have grumbled about for years -- young people "have difficulty taking the pain of going through science and technology courses."

Let's hope those greedy little whippersnappers begin to realize building things usually contributes much more to society than does coming up with a lucrative financial instrument. Of course, if they can get a job with EADS they will get five week vacations and very comfortable benefits, in the best European tradition.

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