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 can’t 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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What’s 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 it’s 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. That’s a number America can’t 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 it’s 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, what’s 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?
MSFT is a notorious H-1B sweatshop in many respects.
Please encourage your son to shop his resume to various startups. If need be, have him walk his resume door-to-door around various Bay Area tech parks; it's worked for many people I know.
At startups, engineers do the hiring and we are always looking for ambitious, talented recent-college-grads; the pay may be lower than MSFT but he'll almost certainly do more in less time and have a greater impact that at MSFT. He's also young enough to take the risk of a startup failing underneath him.
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.
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.
Unfortunately, I found this not to be true. I applied for a job a couple of years ago, and one thing they demanded was my college GPA (and a copy of my transcript). Now, I'm proud of my GPA, but that was over 30 years ago. What relevance does that have to my skills today? Their only answer (and I did ask) was that was their standard application procedure. Maybe HR, maybe coming from another aspect, but definitely unimpressive.
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, you're right: An HR person for a large corporation told me that most all job postings are, in fact, phoney, in order to immunize them from "diversity" complaints: The interviews are just pro-forma, with the actual hires coming from in-house referrals.
One variation of this is in the NFL with the so-called "Rozelle Rule:" It states that whenever there is a head coach opening, the owners must "interview" at least one qualified Black candidate.
it started a bit earlier, as the school's quality declined- particularly math education, the basic of the engineering - and it propagated trough the education system. And imagine when - yes when not if! the H1 guys will leave, what will be left over?, lots of master in business-administration and lawyers....
Frank, I am sure you did not intend to elude those with mid or low GPAs and cannot find jobs, go into business, or law? I would say that engineers with a law or business degree make excellent executive managers. Worse case those scientist and engineer can always go into music like the band Queen who rocked this world! (go look up their background)
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.
@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.
I'm not sure where everyone else on here is getting their information. I graduated with a BSEE in 2008 from a good but not great Midwestern university. Everyone I know from my class has a job in engineering. And we were the class of 2008, right as the economy started to tank. My GPA was only 2.8, definitely not in the top 25%, but I managed to get a job offer before I graduated. I did have one company refuse my resume for a sub-3.0 GPA, but other than that I had no problem finding a job.
My wife's experience was the same as mine. She graduated with an Aerospace degree in 2008 from the same school. All of her friends had jobs immediately (she had her full time offer before she even started her senior year, and her GPA was 2.6). Several of her friends were laid off in early 2009, but all but one of them found new engineering jobs immediately.
I really don't see the bleak situation that everyone else on here sees. I do agree that computer resume screenings are a problem, but I really don't think that anyone receiving an engineering degree is wasting their time or money.
I think you have hit on another factor in STEM graduate hiring. I know a couple new graduates that were picky about where they willing to live. They had problems finding a job. For the graduates who were willing and able to relocate to where the jobs are - no problems.
Ronald Reagan once famously said, "If you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less, tax it." What we have today with government subsidized student loans is that half of graduating seniors have no jobs yet are saddled in debt: We subsidized all these Art History, Woman's Studies, and Music majors -- And got plenty of them -- while Engineering graduates are entertaining multiple job offers, and students in the other sciences are starting their good-paying jobs the Monday after they receive their diplomas.
The solution to getting a flood of new Engineers & Scientists ("STEM") starting in just four years is simple: Let the artificial 3% Government-backed student loan interest rate subsidy expire and revert to 6%; while cutting the interest rate to 1% for students who graduate with a degree in Engineering, **effective upon graduation** This will instantly have two beneficial effects:
(1) It will nudge more students into Engineering & the Sciences with a true subsidy for skills we need;
(2) It will help gently deflate the college "bubble," currently at over $1 trillion in outstanding student loans, pushing out those Liberal Arts students getting worthless degrees in the process -- The good students will transfer to take advantage of the better subsidies, while the slackers get to flip burgers without wasting taxpayer money for their (all-but) useless degree.
Editor, The Hearing Blog
Cherry Hill, NJ
Thanks for the good article and comments...
I agree whole-heartily with Dan. But why not make the interest rate 0 percent? Also...
(1) If the Feds throw $$ at engineering schools, then engineering schools will raise their tuition. There would also have to be cost-containment as part of this program.
(2) Only accredited schools (or schools that place a high percent of grads into tech jobs) should be part of the program.
On a side-note, I think personality plays a part in many engineers not getting hired. I've met so many engineers who can't communicate. Engineering schools need to teach their students inter-personal skills.
If our recruiting practices during WWII were like they are now, we would have lost the war. How many women were hired with no experience or training to work in factories building materials for the war effort? It is like someone who is being picky about their food - they are just not hungry.
Companies seem to be unwilling to hire someone who does not have the exact education, age, salary requirements and experience. The NSF has been complaining about an engineering shortage for at least 20 years. I don't believe it.
All excellent comments - right on the mark. What should be remembered is it takes really-really smart people to become engineers. I don't think anyone would disagree with that. And really-really smart people have other options, especially if making a good salary is a priority. When these smart people look at the free marketplace, and they look at salaries, they make choices, and in many cases choose to become lawyers, doctors, accountants, or enter the financial world. A prominent professor at U of P did a study about this recently and reported that there is no shortage of engineers, only a shortage of engineers that will work for what companies expect to pay. The free market has spoken, but no one is listening...
I'm only 30 years old but I'm old enough to have heard MSFT and other large tech companies loudly and seemingly incessantly bemoaning the fact that they can't find enough good people. Did it ever occur to these tech companies that, by definition, good people are hard to find?
Notice, you almost never hear Apple (regarded by many as the most innovative tech company ever) complaining about lack of talent; In fact in the past *decade*, Apple has only sponsored 2500 H-1Bs or roughly 4% of Apple's total workforce.
Perhaps MSFT and other non-Apple tech companies will consider how vacuous their claims look from this perspective.
of course, part of the problem is always HR. They advertise a position that requires 10 years of experience in a technology that has only existed for five years, and wonder why they have no qualified candidates!
Also, too many firms focus on the 'perceived' need, i.e. they think that they need a developer with X years of experience with tool Y, and so ignore the candidate that has been doing the job they need, just with tool Z. Looking at the candidates as a whole (something that HR is way too busy to do...) and you would find that there are plenty of candidates out there to get the job done.