Employee Supply for STEM and IT Jobs: Too Many? Too few? Which Is It?

Posted on May 5, 2013. Filed under: employment, science & technology, workforce | Tags: , , |

The U.S. is not turning out the engineering students that we need to in order to compete as an innovative country. The skill level in science and math reasoning among the students coming out of high school is not where it needs to be. There are not enough U.S. students that are interested in the STEM fields. ~ National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA)

Our examination of the IT labor market, guestworker flows, and the STEM education pipeline finds consistent and clear trends suggesting that the United States has more than a sufficient supply of workers available to work in STEM occupations ~ Economic Policy Institute (EPI)

Well?  Which is it?  We probably all recognize the value of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and jobs to the U.S. economy,  that there’s truth to both statements, and that there are other truths as well.  Which makes for a complext situation.  What else is new!

The NDIA is not alone in asserting an alarming shortfall of  U.S. graduates ready for STEM-related careers.  The Association calls for efforts to excite and attract K-12 students into STEM careers and urges [more] cooperation between federal departments, agenices, and industry on STEM workforce development initiatives, among other actions.   You can learn more about their perspective at their STEM Workforce webpage.

The Economic Policy Institute report Guestworkers in the High-Skill U.S. Labor Market: An Analysis of Supply, Employment, and Wage Trends was released just last week, on April 24th,2013.  While the report focuses on IT jobs, it does assert that that “For every two students that U.S. colleges graduate with STEM degrees, only one is hired into a STEM job” and “In computer and information science and in engineering, U.S. colleges graduate 50 percent more students than are hired into those fields each year.” 

I’ll go on record as agreeing that “level of skill” is important, and note that the NDIA statement, in and of itself, does not provide actual data that there is an alarming lack of skill.  Neither does the EPI statement that 50% more students in these fields graduate each year than are hired mean, in and of itself, that those 50% actually have the requisite skills.   In fact, both statements may well be true.  And probably are.

Since, on the basis of essentially no data at all, I accept that the U.S. (or any country) requires ongoing research and innovation to remain competitive and to provide a high standard of living to its citizens and other residents, and since I believe that STEM interests and jobs fuel research and innovation, I’m all for efforts to excite and attract young Americans into the various STEM fields, and to ensure they graduate with the requisite skills, and to further ensure there are careers for them to enter. The devil, of course, is in the details.

What do you think?

NKS Info Services / Bosque Farms, NM / info@nksinfoservices.com / 505-715-0607

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