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Monday, October 14, 2013

Is The STEM Crisis A Myth?

Teacher Heather Scott and students Stephanie Lamas, Dana Bielinski and Smriti Marwaha examine a test tube at Science Careers in Search of Women, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory. (Argonne National Laboratory)

Teacher Heather Scott and students Stephanie Lamas, Dana Bielinski and Smriti Marwaha examine a test tube at Science Careers in Search of Women, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. (Argonne National Laboratory)

President Obama has asked that an “all hands on deck” approach be taken in regards to getting more people trained in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields because there is a shortage of qualified prospective employees.

Contributing editor for IEEE Spectrum magazine, Robert Charette, recently wrote a piece arguing the STEM crisis is a myth and that there are more people trained in the STEM fields than there are jobs. Charette says the myth has existed for years and it affects not only the U.S., but the global economy.

Guest

  • Robert Charette, contributing editor of IEEE Spectrum Magazine. He tweets @RiskFactorBlog.

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW.

And we've been hearing for years: We're in a STEM crisis. Bill Gates testified before Congress that without more science, technology, engineering and math or STEM graduates, we'll fall behind other countries. President Obama, responding to a 2012 report from his advisors, called for graduating 100,000 students and teachers a year for 10 years in the STEM fields. He's asking for $3 billion a year toward STEM education. And study after study backs up his claim that without those workers, the U.S. will fall behind.

But consultant and engineer Robert Charette wrote an article for IEEE Spectrum magazine - that's a favorite of techies - with an opposing opinion. He joins us now. Welcome.

ROBERT CHARETTE: Well, thank you, Robin.

YOUNG: You found other studies as well, though. What did they show?

CHARETTE: Well, what they showed was, not only in the U.S. but in other countries, that there really is some doubts about whether or not there is a STEM shortage or whether or not there's actually a broader skills shortage. For instance, in the U.K., there were reports recently, studies that were done, that showed that six out of 10 U.K. employers were turning away perfectly capable graduates in STEM and other skills because they didn't want to pay them the wages that they had.

But if you go back all the way back to the 1950s, you can find, study after study, one by Blank and Stigler, who later won a Nobel Prize in Economics back in 1957, called "The Demand and Supply of Scientific Personnel," which said there was no shortage then. What was interesting about that study that came out in June of 1957, of course, but it came out in October, and all of a sudden we have this massive shortage. But you can go basically every five to 10 years and find study after study that says there isn't a shortage, yet we hear this persistent cry of a shortage.

YOUNG: Well, let's go back to what you said because every time we do this topic, we hear from people who say the same thing. It's not that there's a shortage of workers. It's that the pool includes people who want to be paid well. They think this is about the push to open up H-1B visas. These are temporary immigration permits for skilled workers from outside the country so that companies can bring in foreign skilled workers who will take lower pay.

CHARETTE: Well, I think that's part of the issue. There's a claim among manufacturers, among other types in the I-tech industry that say that we don't have the skills, that we don't have the numbers nor do we have the skills. And if you take a look and you listen to people like Gary Becker, who's a Nobel Prize winner in economics who talks about bringing in a million or more H-1B visas - in fact, he doesn't want to have any visa limits - to lower the earning premium that STEM workers get in this country.

Alan Greenspan made that same point a few years ago, saying that basically our skilled workers are paid too much. And all of this is to try to increase the economic capability of the States in comparison to the rest of the world. But it's a pretty hard sell to STEM students if you say to them, well, the government really thinks you're paid too much, and it's going to do everything in its power to lower your pay.

YOUNG: Well, take us to another area here because you say another surprise that you found in merely digging deeper into this is that there's a mismatch between getting that STEM degree and then having a STEM job. What do you mean?

CHARETTE: We graduate many more folks in STEM than there are STEM jobs. Georgetown University did a study and estimates between 250 and 275,000 jobs open up in STEM every year. And of those, about 180,000 are for bachelor's degrees. But if you take a look at the pipeline, right now we're producing 250,000 STEM bachelor degrees, another 80,000 masters, another 20,000 PhDs, 40,000 associate degrees. And then, if you add in the H-1B visas, another 50,000.

In the pipeline, there's over 440,000 folks who are newly minted going after these 250 to 275,000 jobs. And so what's happening is you're finding students graduating with some pretty strong credentials not getting jobs at all.

YOUNG: Well, let's stay with that for a second. Are they not getting the jobs or not wanting the jobs? In other words, are people graduating in fields like science and math and then choosing to go somewhere else?

CHARETTE: There's not a lot of people who goes through an engineering or science degree and then decide, well, this - I'm going to go do something else. I'm going to go wait tables. After I published this story, I got an email from a young graduate from Ohio State University. She got her degree, a BS in physics, and she's been looking for over a year for a job. She has sent out resumes, 20 to 30 resumes every week for the past year. She's done 30 interviews in 10 states, and she can't get a job. She has not only her undergraduate degree but she worked two years in a laboratory, did everything that recruiters told her that she need to do and can't get a job. I just met recently a Ph.D. from John Hopkins(ph) and he can't get a job. What he's doing right now is he's tutoring high school students.

My argument is that the future requires a better understanding, a better integrated understanding of science, mathematics, literature, English. All these things are needed because society in the future isn't getting any less complicated. I think that the focus is so much on a STEM crisis, on the science and technology because scientists and technologists are looked upon to save the U.S., to get us out of this economic black hole that we're in, that we're kind of missing the point.

The point is is that we have to teach children how to learn how to learn, and that's very important. They're going to have three, five, six careers because they're going to live a lot longer than you or I. Their average lifespan is going to be probably close to a hundred, if not more. So if you're talking about trying to manage a career over a long period of time, you better have really good groundings in math, in science, in the liberal arts to be able to think extremely well.

And that's not what we're really focusing on. What we're focusing on is trying to increase the education of a small elite group of students rather than a broad-based approach to education. I think if you're going to be a STEM student today, you need to understand what you're getting yourself into.

It's a great career, but it's also one that if you take a look at the stats - and this has been for a very long time - is that you probably have a good 15 or 20-year technical career at the most and then you better prepare yourself to move on to something else.

YOUNG: Robert Charette, management consultant and president of the ITABHI Corp., a business and technology risk management consultancy. His article about whether or not there is a STEM crisis, a lack of workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is in IEEE Spectrum. We'll link you at hereandnow.org. Robert, thanks so much.

CHARETTE: Well, thank you very much, Robin.

YOUNG: So what are your thoughts especially if you work or hope to work in a STEM field? We hear continuously of STEM companies looking for workers. Are you having a hard time finding them? Go to hereandnow.org. Let us know. You can also send a tweet: @hereandnow, @hereandnowrobin, @jeremyhobson. You're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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  • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

    In the wake of the launch of Sputnik in 1957, the US ramped up support for STEM education. That effort lasted a couple of decades, during which time a number of high-tech industries gained enormous ground.

    But then, in the late 70s, the US reversed course, attacking the giants of the high-tech culture for achieving too much dominance in the economy. Among the casualties was the Bell System, and the demise of Bell Labs.

    It was a profoundly dispiriting time for those of us in vanguard of the high-tech culture of that era.

  • B. W.

    As a recent graduate from a major research university with a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology who has had years of undergraduate research experience and community service I can vouch for the difficulty in getting a job in a STEM field. I have sent out hundreds of job applications thus far, and have yet to be employed in a job even remotely related to my degree. While I absolutely love science and learning, my experiences make me question whether pursuing such a rigorous degree was worth it.

    • Groundwater

      Please be aware that the working level degree in most STEM fields is an MS, at least for the better jobs. If you are serious about staying in the sciences, consider a graduate degree and do your homework about which degree it should be before starting. Cross-disciplinary MS graduates are generally in greater demand than those who are more narrowly focused, at least outside of academics. Find out what is needed in the market if you want a job. Good luck!

      • Geraldine Merola

        I disagree, a Master’s degree in pure and applied science is nothing but a consolation prize. It means you didn’t have what it took to get your PhD. Only teachers and business majors value a master’s degree. MORE education is just throwing good money after bad. You’ll have more loans and just as little income.

        • Groundwater

          I have to respectfully disagree. Being neither a teacher nor a business major but working in a field that hires large numbers of engineers and scientists, I can say that the MS is valued. We rarely consider candidates without an MS.

          • Geraldine Merola

            In the years I’ve been actively searching, I’ve never seen a single opening for a Master of Science in biology or Chemistry, or physics or mathematics. I’ve seen lots of ads for post-docs and all the jobs are simple low pay jobs. There’s so many science grads that employers can advertise for post-doc technicians and still have applicants. Engineers may still be marketable with a Masters- but that is neither a pure or an applied science. Neither is architecture or computer science. A masters is like being the tallest midget in the lab!

          • Groundwater

            Well, that last comment is insulting in several ways but apparently your line of work is different from mine. First, engineering is absolutely an applied science, and as is hydrogeology and other earth science disciplines. I am sorry your experience has been negative, but I have 25 years of extensive experience and observation to the contrary. Readers can choose between your course of action or mine. Which one has worked? I don’t mean to be harsh, but negativism will not get you a job.

    • Geraldine ‘Merola

      Don’t waste your time with a master’s! That hydrology consultant is drinking his own cool aid. When’s the last time you saw a job advertised outside of business or teaching that asked for an MS? Never- that’s when. The federal govt website, the national labs, and all the major university research groups all want post-docs and nothing else. There’s way too many science grads.

  • Doug Holstein

    My fellow PhD candidates in mathematics often joke that a person has to be a first class idiot to get a doctorate in mathematics.

    • A Lance

      Add your fellow PhD graduates in Neurobiology to the jokesters!

  • TooBad

    I have both a B.S and M.S in molecular biology. I graduated in 2011 with my M.S. Like others, I have sent out ~20 resumes/week. I have had maybe 10 interviews in the past 2+ years, and no offers. Even living in the bay area has not afforded any promise.

  • Skip Conrad

    There are limits on H1-B visas. but for “educational” and “research” institutes, there is no cap! Wierd, huh? What the point of that?

  • Kristin

    I’m in a largely NASA-funded STEM field, after earning a B.S. and M.S. Right now, a large majority of my peers are furloughed due to the government shutdown. I’ll be with them if nothing is resolved in the next couple of weeks. If this is something that is to be expected even every handful of years, it’s sadly a major deterrent to working in research.

  • catohornet

    The STEM Crisis is not a myth! Nor is corporations’ continued practice of off-shoring positions in Technology because they don’t want to share the wealth they accumulate from our hard work and sacrifice. Nor do they really care about the effect of the social politics that perpetuate the destructive mentalities and traditions some H1-B workers bring to the U.S.

    Why should any skilled person in a STEM career think that their ‘shelf life’, so to speak, is only ~20 years then ‘they should think about doing something else’.

    What if the current Nobel Prize winners followed this point of view?
    Ridiculous!

  • it_disqus

    There is no shortage. This is only corporations paying off politicians (both R and D) to manipulate the “free market” in their favor.

  • Groundwater

    I am a hydrogeologist and water resource engineer with over 25 years of experience, mostly as a consultant. I am involved with hiring of engineers and scientists for my company. From my observation, the problem is not a shortage of supply of STEM people but rather a shortage of people with the right training and experience for the job market. All STEM fields are not created equal, at least not in the marketplace. The unemployed graduate with a BS in physics should understand that her degree is in a field which, although essential as a foundation for science and engineering, has few direct applications outside of accademia. She should go back for a MS degree in engineering or perhaps an MBA. When I hire someone, I am looking for a person with relevant cross-disciplinary education and training, a positive attitude, ambitious but realistic career expectations, and good written and verbal communication skills. Students entering college should know WHICH STEM disciplines are in demand and should be prepared to be well-rounded contributors. And some business sense can only help.

    • A Lance

      What ever happened to on-the-job training? Does anyone remember back in the 60′s when IBM would pay their employees to go back to school for a 4-year degree and pay them at such a rate that they could afford for their family of 4 to live as upper class? No? Too long ago for you? Well how about in the 70′s, when a STEM graduate student salary provided a modest income for a family of 4? That was before the 1976 Eilberg Amendment.
      Or in the 80′s when companies at least paid for tuition and books for promising young computer programmers for 4 years of college?
      Now they don’t even pay for 6 months of on-the-job training. You are supposed to walk in knowing everything about the job on the first day and you are supposed to live on slave wages, speak only when spoken to and only respond with, “Sir, Yes sir!” to everything your boss asks of you.

      • Groundwater

        A Lance, no one is entitled to a job just because they have a degree. No, your portrayal of the work place is inaccurate an unfair, and not at all what I said. People will always learn on the job and that is understood and expected. But when there are more candidates for a job than there are jobs, the entry level person or any one else who has worked to make themselves more valuable will get the job. You extrapolated very far away from what I said. I was simply trying to give a STEM employer’s perspective that perhaps will help someone that edge. The employer doesn’t owe you a job, just a chance to tell him or her why you are the best candidate for their needs.

        • Geraldine Merola

          You can’t “work” to make yourself more valuable for a job when employers are stipulating arbitrary levels of experience and background requirements for the job! Especially entry level positions. I’ve been turned down for jobs because I live in the wrong zip code and the employer thinks I’ll have too difficult a commute! (I’m not kidding either!)

    • Geraldine Merola

      The employer is expected to provide the training and experience! Schools provide theory and background- not OJT. Whatever happened to investing in an employee, grooming them for an industry and getting exactly what you want? There is very little a solid science grad from a major university cannot learn on the job! You have created a very narrow list of requirements because you have too many qualified applicants- that is not the same as not having the “right” applicants.

    • MentalMarketer

      I think you’re approaching but not quite connecting with a major issue in our STEM education system in the U.S. Students in the STEM field are taught as though academia inevitably awaits them in their future. Unfortunately, that’s just too narrow-minded of an approach. We need to recognize the applicability of STEM skills and knowledge in a whole host of fields. I would also agree with you that communication and interpersonal skills are not in great supply in the STEM field, which I think in turn perpetuates the understanding that STEM graduates will end up staying in their bubble, i.e. academia.

      My prescription for action?
      1. Recognize the terminal degree typical of your desired field or your desired level of expertise. I understand that to typically be a Master’s degree (and rarely a Ph.D. or Sci.D.) in the engineering fields and a Ph.D. in the biological and most physical sciences and mathematics.

      2. Always aim to make yourself well-rounded. Develop communication, presentation, and analytical skills.

      3. Consider what are still considered “alternative” uses of your degree and background in business, etc. Those fields can just as readily benefit from the analytical skills and method of thinking learned in the STEM disciplines.

      Then again, I’m just tutoring high school students. Important and fulfilling? Yes. What I expected to be doing or lucrative? Not exactly.

  • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

    The STEM disciplines have revolutionized most sectors of our culture with the notable exception of government itself.

    Sometime in the 21st Century, I expect the conflict between STEM and government will be resolved and the government will embrace STEM-based solutions to systemic problems in government.

    • MentalMarketer

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for pointing out the need for STEM graduates in policy and government! I just recently met with Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), one of the few Ph.D.s in Congress (physicist from Princeton), and he spoke of the importance of involving scientific thinking in all that we do. It relies on data, offers insightful analysis, and produces sturdy, reasoned solutions.

  • My teachers lied

    Graduated with a BS in biology from Purdue 1989. Changed over to pharma sales in 2000 after 9 years of unpaid overtime in a dead end, career in in-vitro fertilization. I hated sales, but as everything, I managed to apply myself and get pretty good at it. I’ve been laid off 3 times in the last 5 years since Medicare Part D and I’ve applied for every single science and tech opening I can find in my area. After all that time in reference labs- NY won’t let me take the med tech exam to work in a hospital lab unless I enroll for a new BS degree in medical technology. Most biology labs now want HPLC, PCR, flow cytometry, or DNA electrophoresis and none of the schools teach it as continuing ed or will accept a student not enrolled FT in grad school. I’m a great teacher- but the public schools want a degree in education- not science. The local medical school won’t touch anyone that was foolish enough to soil themselves with a pharmaceutical company- even if it was the only job I could find! I’m back cleaning houses to make ends meet. As I came from a very long line of Victorian Irish housemaids, I still manage to bring a certain air of dignity and professionalism to my work- but it isn’t the intellectual bliss of scientific precision and it doesn’t challenge me. Where is the “shortage” of STEM grads that I was promised back in 1985? It never did happen. The only shortage was in decent jobs with benefits.

  • A Lance

    I am a PhD, with a specialty in Neurobiology, who tried to talk to Congress in 1992 about how unlimited immigration and the so-called “Free Trade” were destined to destroy this country. I was shouted out of Senator Danforth’s office by the daughter of Indian immigrants and told that I had “NO RIGHT” to say such things. Yes, you read that correctly. I was shouted out of the office of a person who was elected to protect my Constitutional right to free speech for saying, very quitely and privately and without anger, that the government was headed down a path toward certain destruction of the country. I had all but given up that our government and the news media (with the exception of Lou Dobbs and a few others at Fox News) would ever again consider the welfare of native-born US citizensin the policies they promoted.
    THANK YOU!!!! Robin Young and Here and Now for finally sharing part of the American side of the immigration issue. After hardly ever hearing anything but pro-invaders rhetoric from NPR for 20 years, I used to justify listening to NPR as knowing what the enemy was saying. Certainly, NPR has been nothing like unbiased. Lately, I just got tired of getting angry every time NPR aired a propaganda piece on immigration. I had pretty much turned off my radio. It was quite by chance that I tuned in today for the first time in nearly a year. I hope that Here and Now is not the only program on NPR that is giving more balanced views on this issue.

    • A Lance

      Sorry about the typo’s: line 6 quietly, not quitely
      line 10 citizens in, not citizensin

    • oriole77

      How DARE the daughter of Indian immigrants say anything to you! How DARE she?? Tool.

  • RMGH

    Thank you for posting this. I have a Ph.D. from a major medical school. I saw the writing on the wall about 7 years ago and left the field. The colleagues remaining are either unemployed or hanging on by their fingernails.

    A couple of things:
    The nature of the beast in most STEM fields really does require on-the-job training. There is too much variability between specific jobs and it should NEVER be on the employee to supply, at their expense and time, a laundry list of skills that takes 30 years to acquire. Those who do not wish to hire from the pool of qualified Americans should not be allowed to bring in guest workers unless they have truly exhausted the list of qualified Americans that is not limited to a “goody bag” of skills that they say they “require”. This has been used as a canard to suppress salaries by using guest workers whose salary base has enough loopholes to run a Sherman tank through.

    If you want to people to pursue highly intensive you have to have jobs at the end of the long educational pipeline. Stoking the pipeline with promises of high-paying jobs at one end and choking off jobs by using manipulative techniques like what I described above, pretty much guarantees that these fields will die. In the end, it will create critical shortages that will impact our viability as a 1st world nation and even our national security.

    It may already be too late to salvage American exceptionalism, but if we don’t deal with these issues head-on, we are in big trouble down the road.

  • D. P.

    Thank you for an excellent story. I also agree that the STEM shortage is a myth, especially at the highest (doctoral) level. This has been so for some time, and is particularly true for those doctoral candidates who eventually hope for a position in academia. In the late 1980′s, after graduating with a doctoral degree from an institution ranked in the top 5 of my particular field, I had difficulty obtaining an academic post, and was told by one big-ten university faculty member that they’d received 300+ highly-qualified applications for ONE single tenure-track opening (!)… and this, during good economic times! I’m aware that, in the past, some state institutions have received higher state “formula” funding for each *graduate* student, as compared to undergraduates. I believe that Texas, for example, provided state institutions with 9 times as much funding for a single doctoral student (as compared to an undergraduate), thus encouraging state universities to boost their Ph.D. enrollments with little concern about “where will all of these Ph.D. graduates eventually find work?” Although I’ve had a successful academic career, I’ve discouraged some very capable students from seeking a Ph.D., given the great changes in academia on the horizon (e.g., from MOOC online curricula). So, where do the Ph.D.’s go? They’re forced to compete with M.S. graduates, who in turn will be forced to compete for B.S.-level positions, and the depressing cycle continues…

  • D. P.

    Thank you for an excellent story. I also agree that the STEM shortage is a myth, especially at the highest (doctoral) level. This has been so for some time, and is particularly true for those doctoral candidates who eventually hope for a position in academia.

    In the late 1980′s, after graduating with a doctoral degree from an institution ranked in the top 5 of my particular field, I had difficulty obtaining an academic post, and was told by one big-ten university faculty member that they’d received 300+ highly-qualified applications for ONE single tenure-track opening (!)… and this, during good economic times!

    I’m aware that, in the past, some state institutions have received higher state “formula” funding for each *graduate* student, as compared to undergraduates. I believe that Texas, for example, provided state institutions with 9 times as much funding for a single doctoral student (as compared to an undergraduate), thus encouraging state universities to boost their Ph.D. enrollments with little concern about “where will all of these Ph.D. graduates eventually find work?” Although I’ve had a successful academic career, I’ve discouraged some very capable students from seeking a Ph.D., given the great changes in academia on the horizon (e.g., from MOOC online curricula).

    So, where do the Ph.D.’s go? They’re forced to compete with M.S. graduates, who in turn will be forced to compete for B.S.-level positions, and the depressing cycle continues…

    • MentalMarketer

      Exactly! The way career progression works in academia stacks the deck against its graduates. We have got to re-imagine the STEM economy and what that entails and then evolve STEM education to meet the demands of that re-imagined economy. In other words, inform PI’s of the importance of engaging their students, determining how they want to employ their skills, and serving as a mentor in that capacity as best as possible.

  • CB

    If only we could spell Johns Hopkins correctly…..

    • MentalMarketer

      Given that I am actually the Ph.D. from Hopkins that Bob mentions, I would have to agree. This was a poorly written transcript.

  • MentalMarketer

    On the pay issue, I would like to point out that, yes, it is reasonable to think that Ph.D.’s would like to earn a respectable wage commensurate with their education and expertise. However, immediately after graduating, it doesn’t take much of a wage to impress a STEM grad. If you just finished your B.S., then you’re probably jumping at any offer not having had a job prior. If you just finished your graduate degree, then you’ve been accustomed to making less than $30k per year. Honestly, $50k or $60k annually sounds like a lifeline at that stage. That’s a pretty good deal for a Ph.D. from a top institution!

  • James Hayes-Bohanan

    Thanks very much for this, and especially for the call for integrated learning. As a geography educator, I am involved in STEM education, but in a particular context. Geography is at the intersection between STEM Education and Global Education, and is an important part of the integrated learning that is needed to prepare for multiple careers.

    We are very pleased that the Joint Committee on Education in the Massachusetts legislature will be considering a bill on geography education during public hearings on October 31.

  • Chris

    Another myth based on experience of one….My son has a recent bachelors degree in materials science (engineering) and semester abroad at a rigorous technical school (classwork and team projects done in the foreign language). Yet, none of the large companies to whom he’s applied, even international ones, seem to value the global experience/foreign language fluency at all. This is very disheartening.

  • maryt

    The argument that “the shortage of STEM workers is a myth”, is not valid because the data Charette uses is not considering the deep recession. He picks stats from the Georgetown University Study but leaves out the most important information.

    There can be little doubt that this recession is the worst
    economic downturn since the Great Depression. No matter
    how long it ultimately lasts, the Great Recession of 2007 has
    already outlived the 16-month slumps of 1973 and 1980,
    which had previously ranked as the longest declines since
    World War II. Its job losses, too, outstrip those of the two
    most recent recessions, those of 1990 and 2001. At the height
    of the current recession, monthly job losses peaked at 779,000
    (Figure 1.1), more than double the worst monthly losses of
    1990 and 2001: 306,000 and 325,000, respectively.

    The Georgetown University research states this – By 2018, the economy will create 46.8 million openings—
    13.8 million brand-new jobs and 33 million “replacement
    jobs,” positions vacated by workers who
    have retired or permanently left their occupations.
    Nearly two-thirds of these 46.8 million jobs—some 63
    percent—will require workers with at least some college
    education. About 33 percent will require a Bachelor’s
    degree or better, while 30 percent will require some college
    or a two-year Associate’s degree. Only 36 percent will require
    workers with just a high school diploma or less (Figure 2.1).3
    This growth in demand for postsecondary education dovetails
    with two major trends. First, the fastest-growing industries—
    such as computer and data processing services—require workers
    with disproportionately higher education levels. Second,
    over time, occupations as a whole are steadily requiring more
    education.

    …postsecondary education or training has become the threshold requirement for access to middle-class status and earnings in good times and in bad. It is no longer the preferred pathway to middle-class jobs—it is, increasingly, the only pathway.

    Our Postsecondary System Will Not Produce Enough Graduates.
    Economists increasingly worry that America’s postsecondary
    education system cannot keep up with historic increases
    in the demand for college-educated workers. To explore that
    concern, we created a stock and flow model to forecast the
    supply of such workers through 2018.
    Our findings? The worry is justified. Demand for workers
    with college educations will outpace supply to the tune of
    300,000 per year. By 2018, the postsecondary system
    will have produced 3 million fewer college graduates
    than demanded by the labor market.

    At current rates, degrees conferred
    would have to increase by about 10 percent a year to eliminate
    the shortfall—or the economy would need to slow its
    demand for higher education in its workers.

    NO MYTH. Misrepresentation of the data.

    • D.P.

      No myth? Well, how do you explain 300 well-qualified applicants for a single tenure-track faculty position in a technology field in the 1980′s, during which there was no recession? (See my post from October 14, below.) Sounds like supply exceeds demand to me, but then again, I’m no economist.

      I refer you to the Marketplace story from 1 May 2013, entitled “It’s crowded at the top: Freakonomics Radio,” which was broadcast on NPR earlier this year, along with some of the comments. This story confirms some of the depressing anecdotal data I am hearing from very well-qualified, older engineers who are struggling to find challenging work. However, I’m sure they’ll be delighted by the “stock and flow [economics] model” described above… Unfortunately, economics models won’t pay the mortgage.

  • DrGeneNelson

    Charette is spot-on. Here’s an update from Philly dot com from Friday, January 3, 2014, 10:40 AM regarding a Global Post article by James Tapper.
    “Engineers from India: Filling U.S. tech shortage, or just cheap labor?” Please search for it by title.

    I appreciate that journalist Joseph N. DiStefano recognizes this scheme developed by economic elites to enrich themselves by pitting the world’s poor against the American middle class. The economic stakes are huge. $150,000.00 in salary and benefits avoidances is an estimated value per visa admission for greedy employer interests. There have been over 6.5 million H-1B (and H-1) visa admissions between 1975-2010. To learn more, please search by title for the PDF version of the 2012 report “How Record Immigration Levels Robbed American High-Tech Workers of $10 Trillion.”

  • DrGeneNelson

    The reality is that there is a historically unprecedented talent glut, even at the Ph.D. level. This has been a long-term problem in the U.S. We were stacking up surplus STEM Ph.D.s like cord wood in the 1960s. Search by title for this 1969 report cosponsored by NASA, “The Invisible University – Postdoctoral education in the United States” You will learn about the mounting numbers of postdoctoral researchers already building up before the publication of this report. I graduated from high school in 1969 and was informed by my elders of many STEM career opportunities. As an unemployed natural science Ph.D. who earned his degree in 1984, I recognize that any claims of a “looming shortage” in STEM should be taken with a grain of salt.

    • D.P.

      DrGeneNelson: I agree wholeheartedly with this comment and also with your comment immediately following. As a former tenured engineering faculty member in academia since the 1980’s (now retired), I can validate your observations through continuing firsthand experience over 25 years. In some cases, the “cord wood surplus” you refer to arose not from actual need, but from policy decisions at the state level. These policies rewarded universities for ever increasing graduate student enrollments through “formula-funding” which was heavily and arbitrarily weighted towards doctoral (and, to a lesser degree, masters) enrollments.

      The media has recently highlighted comments from American corporate leaders who decry the dearth of STEM workers and students in the U.S. What these leaders are *really* saying is that they bemoan the lack of very-highly-skilled, technically-competent workers who are willing to work at the order-of-magnitude lower wages of lesser-developed countries. Apparently the widening income gap recently reported by Oxfam — in which the wealth of the world’s 85 richest people equals that of the lowest half of the world’s population — is not yet sufficiently large a chasm to satisfy corporate America.

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