U.S. colleges are simply not spitting out enough computer scientists and electrical engineers to meet the sheer demand
According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft has more than 6,000 job openings for software developers and engineers that it canít seem to fill.
It would appear U.S. colleges are simply not spitting out enough computer scientists and electrical engineers to meet the sheer demand.
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Whatís worse, according to the piece, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting another 120,000 new jobs this year that will need to be filled by candidates with computer science degrees, while only 40,000 new computer scientists are expected to graduate. Talk about a deficit.
And itís not just computer scientists in high demand, either. The U.S. Labor Department predicts a flood of STEM (science, technology, maths, engineering) jobs (some 1.8 million of them to be precise) will become available by 2018. Thatís a number America canít currently hope to fill with predicted graduates, even when supplemented by the current influx of foreign workers--unless some rather drastic action is taken.
Both presidential candidates are giving a lot of lip service to the need for more science teachers and a greater focus on STEM in schools, with new federal programs being set up to do just that. So far, $1 billion in taxes is being set aside to fund the initiative, which, despite how it sounds, is not particularly significant. But at least itís something.
The school boards seem to be taking steps in the right direction, too, with indications that STEM will be introduced to kids at an earlier age, in some cases even in pre-school.
But how much of an impact will it make? And Is it enough to solve the talent deficit within the next five to 10 years? If not, whatís the solution?
It looks like many US companies are all looking to hire the top 25% of the CS graduates from top schools, then cry there is not enough 25% to hire. I totally disagree with your assumption of your question: I don't believe graduating more students from STEM program will solve the problem. Most of the people not going into STEM programs now are not likely to be good STEM graduates. (Let me ask you this: What's the percentage of lawyers do you think have the talent to study STEM?)
My son graduated from UC Berkeley EECS, majoring in CS, this summer. He talked to MSFT in spring, but didn't get invited to HQ for further interview. (FYI: Berkeley EECS average GPA is 2.7. And my son's is around that.)
I don't know how good MSFT is expecting from its new hires. But I know my son is better in skills than most of my coworkers 20 years ago, when we are most competitive in the world.
Even if MSFT can hire the most talented CS people around the world to work for it, what should we do with other people? It is not obligated to hire anyone from any school. But if an average Berkeley CS graduate is not good enough for MSFT (or Google, FB, etc.), what should we do with those average engineers?
Good points research90. I would love to see the statistics on the number of STEM graduates that actually work in a STEM field.
Everyone knows that the top graduates -- those with the highest GPAs -- get the best offers. But what is often overlooked is that many of the middle-of-the-road graduates get no offers at all. I suspect that most of them end up going into an unrelated field, possibly going back to school to pursue something else -- business, law or whatever.
Of course it's not just GPA that counts. Summer internships, on-campus research -- anything that resembles work experience in a STEM field helps alleviate the negative impression of a less-than-stellar GPA. But most companies will set a minimum GPA requirement for on-campus interviews. If you don't meet that, you can't talk to them.
I think you both make excellent points, and in fact I think a lot has to do with salaries. if salaries were higher for STEM jobs, engineers would fill them, rather than going to the financial sector or places they could earn more.
Honestly, I think the corporations are putting on a big PR show, with their supposed job listings. And that includes my own, by the way.
It's almost comical. We are told on the one hand that the work force in my area is decreasing, and at the same time we are being offered amazing bonuses if we can attract new hires with x, y, z qualifications, for work in this area. But they need candidates with precisely 10 years experience in certain specific fields, and they are hiring only at a specific engineer level code. Doesn't that seem ridiculous? It does to me! Since when do corporations hire people with such narrow view?
My conclusion is, these supposed long lists of job offerings is only a ploy to appease the politicians, to keep them in your good graces. And/or, an excuse to hire lower cost H1B visa candidates.
There is both supply and demand. More supply is available at a higher price so it is impossible that those 6,000 positions cannot be filled by qualified people. Those 6,000 openings must be for qualified engineers that are willing to take a lower salary.
But Sylvie, it's more than just salaries that push some young degreed engineers into other fields -- it's lack of opportunity to even work as an engineer at any salary if they are not the best and the brightest.
research90 asked an important question, "what should we do with those average engineers?" He says the average GPA at UC Berkeley for EECS majors is 2.7. That's enough to graduate and get the degree, but not enough to get a job offer -- except perhaps from a company the student has interned with, who already sees value in him or her regardless of the low GPA.
When these young engineers finally graduate, most of them have student loans that they soon need to start paying back. They need to work, and if not in their chose field, then at some other job, any job. The longer they are out of school and not working as engineers, the less likely it is that they will EVER work as engineers.
To put it more simply, what do you say to a young graduate who just completed an engineering degree and has a 2.7 GPA? "I'm sorry you wasted your time and money."
Now if he or she could just get that first engineering job, the GPA will no longer matter and future job opportunities will look at work experience and skills. But when looking for that first job, the GPA matters. It's one of the most important things on that resume.
And it could be worse than some might think. Where I went as an undergrad, the class average for EEs was C. Deliberately so, to weed out those who weren't working hard enough. Which meant that when you looked at the grades posted on the profs' doors, there wasn't any list of As and Bs, as you saw for most other majors. We used to laugh about it.
So a 2.7 is not half bad, when you consider that the vast majority of entering EE freshmen switched to another major, and never got that EE degree.
The current hiring situation is very strange. I'm convinced the job postings are mostly phoney, mostly there for ulterior motives.
@Bert: "My conclusion is, these supposed long lists of job offerings is only a ploy to appease the politicians, to keep them in your good graces. And/or, an excuse to hire lower cost H1B visa candidates."
I think you've hit the nail on the head there....
There is no shortage in a free market. A company can always hire as many people as they want. If a company says it cannot fill positions, what it really means is that it cannot fill those positions at the salaries they wish to pay.
At some point in the life of a technology startup company, the CEO and the founding team will be confronted with the question of whether to sell the company or not. Hopefully, the question arises in a positive context and comes from an interested buyer driven by the opportunity to deploy the new technology to a much larger user base.
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