23 October 2013

That’s the best evidence for a STEM shorage?

The National Math and Science Initiative blog claims there is a STEM crisis. We just aren’t producing enough skilled STEM graduates, it claims. The article advances three pieces of evidence for a "STEM shortage." All are problematic.

Less than 40% of students who start out as STEM majors in college receive a STEM degree.

The number of students who leave does not address whether the number of students who remain are adequate to meet employment needs. A lot of students start off university wanting to be physicians and health professionals. Not all of them make it. That doesn’t automatically mean we’re failing in education or that there is a shortfall of qualified individuals. It might mean it is a stringent, selective, difficult profession.

Nearly half of the Army Corps of Engineers are eligible for retirement.

First, it is risky to extrapolate from a single subset of one STEM discipline to all disciplines, with all degrees. Second, "eligible" to retire is not the same as "planning" to retire. Shortfalls due to retirement were routinely predicted for academia in the late 1980s, which never materialized.

More than half of the fastest growing jobs in the nation are in STEM fields.

That demand is growing fast does not in and of itself tell you about whether there is adequate supply. Also, those “growing jobs” are likely a widely varied mix, with different skill sets and qualifications. As Biochem Belle noted, it doesn’t make much sense when talking about a STEM shortfall to lump jobs that need a bachelor’s in computing with those that need a doctorate in chemistry, and call them all “STEM jobs.” And probably most of those fast growing jobs are computing and a little engineering.

External links

Once more, with feeling: computer science job growth dwarfs all others

1 comment:

Luis Pedro Coelho said...

I think the problem is the S.

TEM fields are mostly fine (not just computing, a lot of things related to energy extraction are also doing very well).