In a recent blog, UK Elementary Students to Study Robotics, 3D Printing & Laser-Cutting – What About the US?, I looked at what Johnny and Janie are learning in school to sway them to move to a STEM career. It seemed reasonable that if we don't have sufficient STEM workers in this country, education must be to blame. Maybe that's not it.
If US universities are pumping out high-tech college grads in numbers sufficient to fill job vacancies, why is industry saying that they need more? H-1B temporary worker programs that bring in more STEM workers seem to be heating up again -- why?
According to an Economic Policy Institute's comprehensive study concerned with the supply and demand of STEM graduates, findings indicate that for every two students graduating with STEM degrees from US colleges, only one is hired in a STEM job. That's quite a disconnect, especially if the training is rigorous.
The study was prepared by experts Hal Salzman, Rutgers, B. Lindsay Lowell, Georgetown, and Daniel Kuehn, Urban Institute and EPI, and concluded that: "in computer and information science and in engineering, U.S. colleges graduate 50 percent more students than are hired into those fields each year." It also concluded that there isn't a shortage of talent -- and if there was, wages would have risen rather than remaining flat over the period in question.
Looking at the future, the report indicates that there will be three new high-tech degree holders for every two high-tech jobs over the next decade. There are already millions of unemployed college grads.
Why is it relatively easy again for STEM-trained immigrants to get their green cards compared with non-STEM workers? Does labor really need these masters and PhD-laden workers when most jobs still only require a bachelors degree?
Data provided by the National Science Foundation for STEM degrees awarded, the Department of Education, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that from 2010 to 2020, there will be 2.5 million STEM-based job openings. Projected STEM degrees earned to fill those jobs in the US are 3.9 million, with the largest segment (2.6 million) graduating with bachelors degrees. Why, then, do we have a shortage of talent?
Possible answers include:
- Training -- is the training received in US universities of lower quality?
- Work Ethic -- Are US workers sub-par in some way? I can't imagine attacking a rigorous field of education only to lose the passion for it once employed.
- Cost -- How much less do the guest workers charge in comparison?
I'm confused. If we continue to staff US jobs with low-cost, H-1B immigrants, isn't this reverse offshoring? What difference does it make that the jobs themselves are on or come back to US soil if they aren't going to students who are preparing for them domestically? If our students can't compete educationally, strengthen the program -- but then hire them. Maybe I'm missing something. If I am, enlighten me.