In his former life as a Hollywood actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger eradicated terrorists, battled tribal warlords, and conquered man-eating aliens. As California's governor, he has now put himself up against a foe that infrastructure managers find far more insidious: the engineer shortage.

At the end of December, Schwarzenegger announced a plan to address California's need—shared with every other state in the union—to bring more engineers to the state, both in the private sector and in public service.

“California needs more engineers to achieve the improvements to our roads, schools, and other infrastructure that voters envisioned when they passed the Strategic Growth Plan (SGP) bonds last year,” he said. “As my administration works to deliver these improvements better, faster, and for less through performance-based infrastructure, we must also ensure that our colleges and universities can attract and graduate the best and brightest engineers to build the Golden State.”

His plan includes the following components:

  • Establishing programs at state colleges to expedite granting of engineering certification to veterans with engineering backgrounds. The measure would open up opportunities for approximately 3000 service members discharged to the state each year that held engineering-related jobs in the military.
  • Steering $1 million in federal Workforce Investment Act funds to develop new apprenticeship programs partnering private industry and the state's community colleges.
  • Expand the charter of the state's High Tech High vocational school, which is designed to encourage elementary-age children to enter engineering-related job fields later in life.

As ambitious as Schwarzenegger's plan might seem, if it performs as anticipated, it still could leave state agencies and businesses short-staffed. According to the state's Labor and Workforce Development Agency, California will be short 40,000 engineers by 2014. By contrast, Schwarzenegger's plan aims to bring 20,000 to 24,000 engineers, in the hopes that those new engineers will encourage more youngsters to enter the field down the road.

The SGP, launched in January 2006, is the first phase of Schwarzenegger's 20-year plan to rebuild and maintain state roads, water supply, schools, and other infrastructure. The measure, approved by voters in November 2006, is intended to address the estimated $500 billion shortfall in state infrastructure coffers.

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