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New Study Suggests No Shortage of American STEM Graduates 344

Posted by timothy
from the shortage-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A study released Wednesday by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute reinforces what a number of researchers have come to believe: that the STEM worker shortage is a myth. The EPI study found that the United States has 'more than a sufficient supply of workers available to work in STEM occupations.' Basic dynamics of supply and demand would dictate that if there were a domestic labor shortage, wages should have risen. Instead, researchers found, they've been flat, with many Americans holding STEM degrees unable to enter the field and a sharply higher share of foreign workers taking jobs in the information technology industry. (IT jobs make up 59 percent of the STEM workforce, according to the study.)"
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New Study Suggests No Shortage of American STEM Graduates

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 26, 2013 @11:35AM (#43556879)

    Obviously the shortage is dreamed up by corporations attempting to justify importing cheap foreign labor.

  • Employability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday April 26, 2013 @11:36AM (#43556885) Journal
    This actual study itself has at least one very good point that may not be obvious to people: our leadership's drive to promote the idea of a STEM shortage is primarily to justify guestworkers and allow them to add provisions like OPT-STEM extensions [uscis.gov]. Don't get me wrong, there is a sort of shadow brain drain war going on here that for a long time the West had easily been winning. UK, Germany, USA, etc had been sucking up the talent from India, China, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, you name it we took the brightest from it. And it was really really easy. And now Western leaders are kind of getting uncomfortable because, well, it's not really working in our favor anymore. I care that our politicians are being deceiving about this concept but I don't care about the "taking our jobs." In fact, I'm one of those meritocratic boogeymen that thinks our borders should be open with nothing more than a background check into your criminal record before you're granted entrance to the United States. Sure, some other stuff would need to change but that's an entirely different argument I'm not going to get into.

    The main point of this study, however, is what the Post picked up on and is being reiterated: there is no shortage of STEM workers here in the US. And while that's likely true, the study (though comprehensive) doesn't really seem to ever step up to the plate and look at STEM versus non-STEM in the cases of employability and what those industries do for our GDP. Our leaders like Obama are operating on the assumption that a surplus in STEM workers is better than a perfectly equalized workforce with zero unemployment. They're not going to say that but my guess is that they're getting uneasy that China is mandating how many STEM workers it will produce and limiting the number of liberal arts degrees. The West is now uneasy that they might start losing the STEM war and they're trying to figure out how to scare their populations into letting them selectively brain drain other countries. A fake "massive shortage of STEM workers" is pretty much their only card so far.
  • by GGardner (97375) on Friday April 26, 2013 @11:37AM (#43556905)
    There's a huge difference in the job market for pure scientists (the "S" in STEM), and IT folks. The job market for someone with a PhD in, say Astronomy is terrible. Lumping these folks together with the legions of code hackers is ridiculous.
  • Stem shortage... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wpiman (739077) on Friday April 26, 2013 @11:38AM (#43556927)
    of course it is a myth. It is just a ploy by large businesses to boost the H1B Visa program to increase the supply in order to push wages down.
  • Correction: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by benjfowler (239527) on Friday April 26, 2013 @11:44AM (#43557015)

    There's no shortage of STEM graduates.

    There's most _certainly_ a shortage of _cheap_ STEM graduates.

  • The HR fantasy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday April 26, 2013 @11:46AM (#43557035)

    The single-minded pursuit of the best and the brightest candidates is a fool's errand. There are only a few of "the best" by definition, and they can work wherever they want. If you are not getting enough good applicants, it's because you are failing to attract them in the competitive marketplace. That may not (just) be because of salary, but also factors like where you're located and whether the work is interesting at all.

    H1-B visas broaden the candidate pool but they won't change a company's competitive standing relative to others. "The best" are still going to go to the most attractive employers, and if that's not you, then I see two alternatives: either make your jobs more attractive somehow, or admit that what you really want are not "the best," but "the good enough."

  • Suspect Logic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Antipater (2053064) on Friday April 26, 2013 @11:47AM (#43557047)

    Basic dynamics of supply and demand would dictate that if there were a domestic labor shortage, wages should have risen. Instead, researchers found, they've been flat, with many Americans holding STEM degrees unable to enter the field and a sharply higher share of foreign workers taking jobs in the information technology industry. (IT jobs make up 59 percent of the STEM workforce, according to the study.)"

    Wages will only rise if the labor supply decreases. The labor supply won't decrease if you import foreign workers.

    In other words, your car will stop if you run out of gas. The car is still moving, so you must not be out of gas. Please kindly ignore the fact that you're rolling down a mountain.

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Friday April 26, 2013 @11:51AM (#43557123) Homepage
    So you are saying that we need more 3l33t Astronomers because the job market for them is terrible?

    "Lumping these folks together with the legions of code hackers is ridiculous."

    When you learn the difference between a Software Engineer and a "code hacker" you might be able to make an intelligent post. Until then, you are just another clueless guy without a job spitting out sour grapes because we don't need as many pie in the sky theorists as we do people who actually produce useful technology that solves today's problems.

  • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Friday April 26, 2013 @12:02PM (#43557245) Journal

    And I don't mean this as a neo-luddite "computers are taking our jobs" kind of way, just that the set of skills that are unique to humanity are shrinking. We're running, as fast as we can, at a point where ownership of capital is the only factor for success in a free-market economy.

    That's when the blood begins to flow. And rightly so.

  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Friday April 26, 2013 @12:04PM (#43557273)

    Parent is a Troll.

    Certainly there is a conspiracy, but there is nothing mysterious about it.

    It is clearly advantageous for companies to hire people that will be happy with flat earnings and no job advancement opportunities, as well as fewer costs associated with the eventual lay-off.

    People like to say H1Bs make the same wages as other IT folks, and this may well be true, but they do help keep wages flat, and their overall cost is less.

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Friday April 26, 2013 @12:05PM (#43557289) Homepage Journal

    Unfortunately, I disagree with people who think a revolution will be a viable solution. Killing is one of the many things that computers are getting better at than us.

  • by Shajenko42 (627901) on Friday April 26, 2013 @12:07PM (#43557327)
    And then the elites put themselves into gated communities with automated turrets set to kill anything that moves within range.
  • Re:Employability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spiffmastercow (1001386) on Friday April 26, 2013 @12:14PM (#43557431)

    In fact, I'm one of those meritocratic boogeymen that thinks our borders should be open with nothing more than a background check into your criminal record before you're granted entrance to the United States

    TPTB would never allow it. If imported talent weren't tied to a sponsoring corporation, they would be free to better their lot through job movement and wages would rise.

    Can't be having that.

    I would say we should only have this arrangement with countries that agree to the same conditions. It's worked out well for the Commonwealth nations, and I don't see why it wouldn't work for us.

  • Shortages??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by litehacksaur111 (2895607) on Friday April 26, 2013 @12:42PM (#43557967)
    Why are people always talking about STEM shortages, but not the shortages in doctors or pharmacists? Corporations always lobby to increase the H1B quota, but you will never see anyone lobbying that we need to bring in more doctors or pharmacists to lower the cost of medical care. The reason I believe is quite simple: The American Medical Association and National Pharmacists Association are very strong unions. They even lobby against increasing seats in US medical colleges and even building more colleges. However, whenever someone talks about trying to form a union for IT developers or Engineers, we call it socialism, nazism, communism. Seriously, we have been saying for the past 10 years after NAFTA and other free trade agreements that only the "low skill" manual laborers will suffer. Well, now they have destroyed the market for manual labor and the corporations are coming for engineers, IT, and scientists wages. The only way we can fight this is if we stand together. This is not about Xenophobia. I myself am an immigrant from India. We need to ensure fair pay and benefits for domestic workers.
  • Re:Employability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ebno-10db (1459097) on Friday April 26, 2013 @12:48PM (#43558075)

    Even if that does work accord to theory, it says nothing about distribution of income. One of the big failings of mainstream economic theory is that it endlessly addresses aggregate income, but says amazingly little about its distribution. If we doubled our GDP but redistributed it such that 99% of it went to the top 1%, would we have a "better economy"?

    It's interesting that this lack of attention to distribution completely ignores one of the key principles of economics: diminishing marginal utility. An extra dollar is worth more to me than Zuckerberg, and an extra dollar is worth more to a minimum wage worker than to me.

    Note to any trolls who may start screaming "commie": I'm not saying that everybody should earn the same income, or that nobody should be rich, or any other such straw men. I am saying that looking at GDP without looking at distribution is idiotic, and violates a prime tenet of both economics and common sense. In past decades (e.g. 1940's-1970's) we had a far less extreme income distribution and had faster economic growth than we do now. Not necessarily cause and effect (though there are some good arguments there) but it certainly demonstrates that extreme disparities aren't necessary for growth.

  • Re:Employability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday April 26, 2013 @12:53PM (#43558165)

    "Nobody in the US opposes having the "best and the brightest" come here, but the vast majority are simply of average ability and recruited to reduce pay of people in the US."

    I think you're referring to this study [informationweek.com].

    H1-B workers are not the "best and brightest" at all. They often did not compare well to native U.S. workers. Companies just wanted them because they were cheap.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Friday April 26, 2013 @01:02PM (#43558361)

    I say give them the H1B workers. Those companies will be worse off because of it.

    Markets can remain irrational a lot longer than you and I can remain solvent.

  • by Xorlium (1409453) on Friday April 26, 2013 @01:25PM (#43558743)
    I don't know if there are too many STEM workers, but there is definitely a huge shortage of understanding of science and math in the general population...
  • Re:Employability (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ebno-10db (1459097) on Friday April 26, 2013 @03:12PM (#43560175)

    With doctors and lawyers, a physical presence is a near-necessity (although this is less true today than 20 years ago even in those occupations). In STEM fields, physical presence is simply not that important.

    That argument would be pertinent if this was about outsourcing. Since it's about guest workers coming into the US, it's irrelevant.

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Mother Nature cannot be fooled. -- R.P. Feynman

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