Despite rising payroll taxes, the uncertainty over global economic growth and the U.S. government’s tendency to play political hopscotch from one crisis to another, my company Riverwood Solutions is hiring. Since the new year began, we have added a handful of jobs in the U.S. as well as a couple of jobs in both China and Mexico, which is significant for a company of less than 100 people.

I was reviewing resumes the other day and found myself uncharacteristically excited by the skills, experience, and especially the education of a particular candidate. I could not remember the last time I had seen a resume where a candidate had a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering (go Boilermakers!). I can remember quite a bit earlier on in my career, a number of my peers and managers were “IEs” by training and at that time the manufacturing employment base of the U.S. was far higher than it is today.  But for whatever reason, industrial engineering seems to be viewed by college students as a bit of a dinosaur and perhaps not as practical a field of study in today’s globalized and outsourced world as other fields such as Elizabethan literature, Etruscan studies or paleontology.

So I spent a bit of time on line and with our research department and came up with some interesting stats about industrial engineering studies in U.S. colleges and universities. In the top 100 schools for industrial engineering in the U.S., there are a total of just 5,360 students that have IE as their declared major. In fact, there are twice as many college students studying political science in California than are studying industrial engineering in the entire U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only about 200,000 industrial engineers in the U.S. and this number will grow by a total of just 6% over the next decade - a career path that the BLS flags as having “below average growth.” In defining the job of industrial engineers, the BLS says the following:

What Industrial Engineers Do

Industrial engineers find ways to eliminate wastefulness in production processes. They devise efficient ways to use workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.

Now what does it say about America’s foundation for industrial growth and manufacturing revival when the CEO of a firm such as mine, that does nothing but help companies with their manufacturing and supply chain, finds himself almost giddy at stumbling across a single highly skilled manufacturing professional with an M.S.I.E.? It says, in part, that our country is losing its base of capabilities from which to build and rebuild its industrial might.