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Nanotech Nullified

Young Engineer Hurt by Independent Contractor Law

This is the true job-search story of Jake, a Bachelor of Science graduate of Boston University, who lives in a pleasant suburb west of Boston. Jake is a calm, personable young man and a relentlessly hard worker. He graduated in May, 2013, with the distinction cum laude, meaning “with praise.” He earned that praise.

Jake majored in Biomedical Engineering, with a concentration in Nanotechnology and minors in Chemistry and Biology. His resume looks like what our state’s leaders would call “the resume of the future,” loaded with accomplishments to build our state’s economy during the next 50 years. Can you make a functioning heart-on-a-chip? Jake did. Here’s how.

Jake took courses in thermodynamics and statistical dynamics, quantitative and analytical chemistry, systems physiology, biological and environmental acoustics, nano-meter scale processes in living systems, speech signal processing, and product design and innovation, among others. His list of course projects looks like the work of an engineer twice his age. Wait, there’s more.

While taking these courses and doing the projects, Jake managed the $700,000 student activities budget at BU as Director of Operations of the BU Allocations Board. He founded a fraternity, choreographed and danced with three nationally competitive dance teams, volunteered at Mass General Hospital, and was Treasurer of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers.

Jake wants to go to work designing medical devices, a particularly strong future occupation in the Bay State. He’s qualified for his goal, too. Clearly he is a young man with a bright future, right? Wait, there’s more.

Jake has college debt, more than $30,000 in his name and $80,000 in his father’s name. Jake has to find well-paying work soon, in his field, to have a chance to repay it.

Jake expected to find work immediately in metro Boston’s medical device industry making invasive or non-invasive devices. Employment in that field was growing explosively until five years ago, when increased regulation and the new excise tax on medical devices reversed job growth. Medical device companies shrank hiring under the load of higher costs. Medical device employment peaked while Jake was at BU.

Career Step One. When Jake graduated, he took all the normal job search steps: applying at companies, searching Monster and many other on-line job sites, working with the BU Career Center, searching through LinkedIn , networking with friends of his family. Nothing worked. Posted positions with Massachusetts’ name-plate companies were always filled internally. Effectively there were no jobs in his field available for fresh graduates.