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What STEM Crisis?

There is no real shortage of people working in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, writes Robert Charette at IEEE Spectrum. Indeed, dire predictions of a shortfall of scientific talent go back nearly 80 years, he points out.

Despite these warnings being sounded by the governments of a number of countries and the heads of many companies, Charette says that there are more STEM workers than there are jobs for them, adding that there are some 15 million Americans with a bachelor's degree in a STEM field, though 11.4 million, or about three quarters of them, don't work in a STEM field.

He suggests instead that having a surplus of STEM workers is beneficial for the companies that hire them, as they can then keep wages low.

“If there was really a STEM labor market crisis, you’d be seeing very different behaviors from companies,” Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, tells Charette. “You wouldn’t see companies cutting their retirement contributions, or hiring new workers and giving them worse benefits packages. Instead you would see signing bonuses, you’d see wage increases. You would see these companies really training their incumbent workers.”

At In the Pipeline, Derek Lowe agrees. "The market for people who do these things does not look like a market facing any kind of shortage," he writes.

Further, Charette says that an emphasis on STEM disciplines at the expense of others is problematic. "Without a good grounding in the arts, literature, and history, STEM students narrow their worldview — and their career options," he says.