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Science and Engineering Workforce Has Stalled In the US 433

dcblogs writes "The science and engineering workforce in the U.S. has flatlined, according to the Population Reference Bureau. As a percentage of the total labor force, S&E workers accounted for 4.9% of the workforce in 2010, a slight decline from the three previous years when these workers accounted for 5% of the workforce. That percentage has been essentially flat for the past decade. In 2000, it stood at 5.3%. The reasons for this trend aren't clear, but one factor may be retirements. S&E workers who are 55 and older accounted for 13% of this workforce in 2005; they accounted for 18% in 2010. 'This might imply that there aren't enough young people entering the S&E labor force,' said one research analyst."
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Science and Engineering Workforce Has Stalled In the US

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  • Re:Offshoring (Score:4, Informative)

    by Colonel Korn ( 1258968 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:33PM (#39221809)


    The data might not mean there is an outright shortage of S&E workers; it could indicate a combination of factors related to such things as the recession and offshoring.

    This suprises anyone?

    Given the high unemployment among S&E workers the conclusion is rather obvious: the qualified employees are there but the jobs aren't. Last year I interviewed three PhDs, one with 25 years experience running a research group with a dozen other PhDs under him, hoping to get a contractor position that required an associate's degree and paid accordingly. Also in the running for this one opening were ten people with less impressive but still solid backgrounds. Most had been in divisions of their previous companies that had been slashed in half or completely eliminated.

    To repeat: we have a glut of talented, motivated S&E workers looking for jobs. We need more R&D positions created. We don't need to find ways to solve the imaginary problem of a paucity of scientists.

  • Re:Offshoring (Score:5, Informative)

    by w_dragon ( 1802458 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:55PM (#39222143)
    Last time I saw stats STEM unemployment was running at about half the national unemployment rate. [], page 5. What's the source for your complaint about unemployment?
  • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:08PM (#39222325) Journal

    One issue is the large "winnowing out" of STEM majors in college []:

    Among students who majored in liberal arts, business or other fields, 73% of white students and about 63% of black and Latino students finished their degrees in five years.

    Forty-one percent of American students who start off majoring in science, math, engineering or technology fields graduate from those programs within six years.

    The question is whether this "winnowing" is due to lack of preparation of the students before college, or simply a non-educational strategy of signaling that the students who "survive" are of high quality, in which case the institution should consider not calling itself a "higher learning" institution but a "better signaling" institution.

    Students in general are choosing non-STEM majors []. Top US graduating majors are 1) Business 2) Social sciences and history 3) Health professions and related clinical sciences 4) Education 5) Psychology 6) Visual and performing arts.

    I feel pretty bad for anyone who took out loans for majors #2 or #6 and think they can pay them back...#5 will have a rough time as well. Education doesn't pay well on day 1, but if you can stick it out for 10 years and sneak a graduate degree you can do OK, depending on your union contract.

    One other issue is that while more women than men are now attending college (57% women/43% men), women are even more likely to choose non-STEM majors []. In Business, the female/male ratio is nearly 50/50, but in the #2 top major group of Social Sciences, it is 64/36 in favor of women. In #3 Health, it is 76/24. In #4 Education, it is 77/23.

    In CS the female/male ratio is 30/70, in Engineering it is 17/83.

    Physical sciences are closer to even (47/53) while Math is slightly more female (58/48).

  • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:19PM (#39222461) Homepage Journal

    We've really created a hostile environment for anyone wanting to study science as a kid.

    Can't give your kid a chemistry set, those don't exist. Can't buy chemicals, you might be making a bomb.

    For several years (after 9/11) you couldn't buy a model rocket engine, 'cause of course you could use it for terrorism somehow.

    Until recently you couldn't build a UAV. Well, you could build it, but flying it was illegal.

    Students are arrested if they bring electronics projects to school (Can't find the link, remember reading about this).

    Having canning jars and a bag of fertilizer in your car can get you arrested for having bomb-making materials.

    Taking apart a smoke detector (and using it to demonstrate alpha radiation) is a "grievous offense" (actual NRC term) and can get you raided and have *all* your lab equipment taken away.

    Your hackerspace will be shut down [] instead of "given 30 days for compliance" as would be the case for a company.

    Really... what's left? Mathematics? I'm surprised that we have *any* young people interested in science ATM. We make it nigh impossible and come down hard on them when they do.

  • Many factors (Score:5, Informative)

    by sarysa ( 1089739 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:42PM (#39222783)
    That, combined with the college/student loan bubble. S&E students tend to be, well, intelligent. The combination of outsourcing concerns, college costs vastly exceeding inflation (which any intelligent middle/high schooler witnessed during those years), college costs more or less exceeding what one could realistically pull in with employment, and the fact that there's no way out of student loans that didn't produce return on investment would scare away plenty of people with the natural talent needed for S&E. These people may seek out other fields that can be entered through different means, finding other means to make it.

    Those who simply equate college=more money and don't THINK, often go into unprofitable majors, don't work part of it off and leave their four year with five figures of debt, or worse. Incidentally, their burden on the demand is responsible for scaring away those who would otherwise get into profitable S&E fields.

    At the risk of getting too political, we have deep inlaid problems that will take years if not decades for the masses to finally pick up on...
  • Re:Incentive (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @03:02PM (#39223059) Journal

    Athletic departments usually sustain themselves.

    This is not true. Only the very largest and most popular athletic programs are profitable. Consider this [] from Reason magazine:

    Most college athletic departments are a net drain on the budget. Three years ago, the NCAA issued a report that found most athletic departments operate in the red. A more recent analysis by Bloomberg found the same thing: 46 of the 53 schools it looked at subsidized their sports programs. The money usually comes from sources such as student activity fees, such as that charged at Virginia Commonwealth University. Earlier this year VCU jacked up its fee by $50 to help fund the Rams basketball program.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears