More on the STEM Talent Shortage, or Lack Thereof

Fall weekends are for two things, watching my beloved New York Football Jets display their unique brand of ineptitude on fields across America (big non-relevant aside: I am starting more and more to come down on the site of Malcolm Gladwell regarding football and its eventual and likely marginalization. The only football game, college or NFL, I watched all weekend was the Jets vs Bucs, and in that game alone in the first half, two Jets players wobbled off the field, pretty much incoherent from blows received to their helmets. Multiply that by hundreds of games, many played by little kids as young as 7 or 8 and try to count, you can't, the number of kids/teens/collegians/men who are absorbing ridiculous and repeated trauma to the head each weekend. I don't know. Most of think boxing is a crazy sport. But we are ok with football. Sorry, that was a long aside), and catching up on some longer reads from the week I did not have time to really review.

The piece I'd like to call your attention to is titled 'The STEM Crisis is a Myth', an absolute takedown of the notion that currently the American economy is suffering, and will continue to suffer from a dearth of workers with the needed STEM skills to fill current and expected demand for them (or more precisely, the skills themselves). The author, Robert Charette, makes a compelling case that there is not, in fact, a STEM worker shortage. If anything, there is a surplus of STEM-capable workers, both from the amount of STEM graduates that are produced each year, and from the upwards of 11 million STEM-trained workers that for one reason or another, are not working currently in STEM roles.

Chech the below chart from the piece to see where Charette is coming from:
















Do the math, (no pun intended), if you like, but when you break down the estimates of new STEM jobs being creating against the numbers of new graduates and existing STEM-educated workers it becomes harder and harder to make the 'shortage' case.

Additionally, it might be in tech and other firms best interested to play up the shortage narrative. Why?

From the piece:

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. It gives employers a larger pool from which they can pick the “best and the brightest,” and it helps keep wages in check. No less an authority than Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, said as much when in 2007 he advocated boosting the number of skilled immigrants entering the United States so as to “suppress” the wages of their U.S. counterparts, which he considered too high.

And STEM wages are 'in check', check this nugget from the article:

And over the past 30 years, according to the Georgetown report, engineers’ and engineering technicians’ wages have grown the least of all STEM wages and also more slowly than those in non-STEM fields; while STEM workers as a group have seen wages rise 33 percent and non-STEM workers’ wages rose by 23 percent, engineering salaries grew by just 18 percent. The situation is even more grim for those who get a Ph.D. in science, math, or engineering. The Georgetown study states it succinctly: “At the highest levels of educational attainment, STEM wages are not competitive.”

It is a complex and even controversial subject, but in light of all the available data, it gets harder and harder to make the 'shortage' case, and in fact, it gets more dangerous if it perpetuates to the point where it serves to help create a real shortage in the future, as students decide to avoid these fields in the future.

If you're interested at all in these issues, I encourage you to take a few minutes to read 'The STEM Crisis is a Myth', maybe bookmark it for new Saturday though!

Have a great week!



To read the original article on Steve Boese's HR Technology, please click here.


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