Dr. Hal Salzman, Ph.D.

STEM students are far from immune...they just don't know it - complete hearing

Points Hard to Refute.


In the past year we've seen the chasm between evidence and policy grow ever wider and deeper; the U.S. STEM workforce is being weakened through policies and guest worker programs that are increasingly exploited by shortsighted firms and industry groups.  Despite rigorous and independent research by my colleagues and by me, of over a decade of research showing the U.S. educates an ample supply of qualified STEM workers, we see the continued expansion of policies that shift work to offshore labor.  Instead of developing a globally competitive and internationally integrated workforce, all evidence and events from the past year suggest we are heading down a very different path consisting of legislation, policies, and programs to substitute guest workers for U.S. STEM workers and graduates.  These are programs that allow firms to subvert the free market in setting wage rates; these are policies that deny U.S. workers-whether native or immigrant, whether citizen or permanent resident - the career and compensation their education and skills should bring them if not for the huge, congressionally-created labor pool of guest workers that industry has available to staff the vast majority of new IT openings.


To review the evidence about STEM workforce supply.


(1) Overall, our colleges and universities graduate twice the number of STEM graduates as find a job each year; that is, only about half of our STEM graduates enter the STEM workforce;


(2) Of the entire workforce, only abut a third of those with STEM degrees are employed in STEM jobs.


(3) The glut of scientists at the Ph.D. level is so great in areas such as the life sciences, the National Institutes of Health, the global leader in public funding for health science and research, has an $11 million program in 17 universities to develop alternative career paths for the nation's recent doctorates and post-doctoral Fellows.  That is, the NIH is funding efforts to find alternative employment for the 30 to 50 percent of recent Ph.D.s who cannot find career employment in the sciences.  A number of the country's leading scientists have started an organization, "Rescuing Biomedical Research" to do just that, in part by addressing the problem that "...the training pipeline produces more scientists than relevant positions in academia, government and the private sector are capable of absorbing...a growing number of PhDs are in jobs that do not take advantage of the taxpayers' investment in their lengthy education."


(4) Engineers are graduating in sufficient numbers for nearly all hiring needs of industry.  The one area that was in high demand a few years ago, petroleum engineering, is the exception that proves the rule.  The number of graduates tripled when industry raised salaries beginning in the mid-2000s; a shortage was quickly followed by an oversupply that became a problem even before the most recent decline in oil prices. Last May, when oil had slipped to $60 a barrel, the Wall Street Journal reported “There are too many [petroleum engineering] students coming out looking for jobs”; industry executives have suggested that newly-minted petroleum engineers start their careers working as roughnecks (a physically demanding job on the floor of oil rigs requiring a high school education).6  Now, even those jobs would be hard to come by.


(5) And that leaves us to consider the “T” of STEM – the tech workers, only about a third of whom have STEM degrees while another third do not have any four-year degree, and most of whom are in jobs that don’t appear to require bachelors-level technology degrees:7 the desktop support technician, systems administrator, help line representative and tech writer positions that make up a large share of IT industry hiring; even most programming and coding jobs do not require a computer science degree.   It is, thus, a most interesting situation that of all the STEM fields, it is only a very particular slice of the technology sector that seems to be unable to find U.S. workers and seems unable, or perhaps unwilling, to use free-market mechanisms to recruit them. And, as the data on the education and background of its workforce indicate, the IT industry has a very large pool of potential college graduates to draw from; although it needs highly skilled workers, unlike the market for scientists, it is not employing people with very specialized education that takes a decade or more to acquire.  It is peculiar, indeed, that despite financial resources second to none and an all-star reputation among our college graduates, the IT industry alone among the STEM industries has a special congressionally-provided and discounted labor supply and still claims it is unable to fill its ranks.


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Release 4.0.1