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The STEM Crisis Is a Myth

theodp (442580) writes | about a year ago


theodp (442580) writes "Forget the dire predictions of a looming shortfall of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians, advises IEEE Spectrum contributing editor Robert Charette — the STEM crisis is a myth. In investigating the simultaneous claims of both a shortage and a surplus of STEM workers, Charette was surprised by "the apparent mismatch between earning a STEM degree and having a STEM job. Of the 7.6 million STEM workers counted by the Commerce Department, only 3.3 million possess STEM degrees. Viewed another way, about 15 million U.S. residents hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a STEM discipline, but three-fourths of them—11.4 million—work outside of STEM." So, why would universities, government, and tech companies like Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft cry STEM-worker-shortage-wolf? "Clearly, powerful forces must be at work to perpetuate the cycle," Charette writes. "One is obvious: the bottom line. Companies would rather not pay STEM professionals high salaries with lavish benefits, offer them training on the job, or guarantee them decades of stable employment. So having an oversupply of workers, whether domestically educated or imported, is to their benefit...Governments also push the STEM myth because an abundance of scientists and engineers is widely viewed as an important engine for innovation and also for national defense. And the perception of a STEM crisis benefits higher education, says Ron Hira, because as 'taxpayers subsidize more STEM education, that works in the interest of the universities' by allowing them to expand their enrollments. An oversupply of STEM workers may also have a beneficial effect on the economy, says Georgetown's Nicole Smith, one of the coauthors of the 2011 STEM study. If STEM graduates can’t find traditional STEM jobs, she says, 'they will end up in other sectors of the economy and be productive.'""

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Very true (2)

InfiniteLoopCounter (1355173) | about a year ago | (#44727061)

I would love even the chance of getting a secure, long-term science career -- but I live in too small a city and now am several years into another line of work. Like many other people, I have had to settle for a job quite outside the field of specialisation in IT. Sure I, like many other young people in the workforce, have become really good at doing my job and it makes good money, but it is boring as all hell compared to what I'd really like to do in the long term. Under-employment of skills sucks and a terrible long line of politicians are squarely to blame. Only good policy can change this and real investment into STEM and our collective futures.

Chicken and egg (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a year ago | (#44728813)

Reading this it looks like that in a few areas there are not enough STEM people. But for most STEM trained or curious people there aren't enough jobs. Quite simply outside of a few geographic areas STEM jobs are few and far between. Also you have a situation where for true advancement you aren't just looking for someone who has passed the courses and has a degree but is of the best and brightest. But a typical science job does not pay all that well; a job on wall street does. A job in the upper ranks of management does. A simple example from my own past was a manager of programmers (and capable programmer) went into sales "Because that's where the money is".

From an MBA perspective STEM jobs are often involved in R&D and this is something that is risky and can make you look bad. Thus it is better just to buy up any R&D done by others which is less risk and makes you look less bad even though it can cost much more. Plus if after years and years of training your STEM people they leave it makes you look like a Schmuck so again is something best avoided.

This general practice of all North American companies riding on their laurels and hoping that they can buy out any companies with the balls to do the hard and risky work of moving forward might be profitable in the short term but risks having a situation where the science an technology of the future take place elsewhere.

The result is that most MBA run companies have eliminated nearly all research possible. R&D being a greater good tax incentives can help. By carefully figuring out a perfect counter ballance to the MBA cost cutting would then cause the MBAs to come to love R&D. Ideally it would be a situation where overall it is revenue neutral if it fails and a boon if it succeeds. But the most complicated part is that you don't want a bunch of bottle washing monkeys farting around just to get a tax credit. There would need to be some kind of minimum wage (huge) that would attract the seriously smart. You need wages that make people say, screw wall street, screw becoming a VP, I want to invent stuff.
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