Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A small skirmish in the "STEM jobs" PR battle

One of the interesting results of the big Economic Policy Institute study that suggested that there is not a shortage of high-skill workers is the pushback from the trade associations, PR flacks, etc. that have been hired to help with the comprehensive immigration reform bill. Here's a good example in the Seattle Times, courtesy of the great @fiainros:
Need for STEM graduates is indisputable 
The Economic Policy Institute study presents a picture of America’s STEM-worker shortage and STEM-education crisis that is vastly different from authoritative research on this topic [“Study: Shortage of U.S. STEM graduates a myth,” Business, April 25]. 
Most researchers agree there are not enough qualified workers to fill currently vacant American jobs or the jobs the nation is expected to add in the future that require experts like computer scientists, mathematicians and engineers. 
One flaw is that the study uses the category of “information science,” which includes librarians, social scientists and other professions that artificially inflate the pool of STEM workers. 
The reality is the U.S. economy will produce about 120,000 computer-science jobs annually through 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, we only produce 40,000 bachelor’s degrees in that field each year. 
After graduation, 43 percent of STEM graduates do not work in STEM fields. Furthermore, 46 percent of workers with a bachelor’s degree in STEM will leave their field after two years in the workforce, according to a Georgetown University study. 
The need for more graduates in STEM fields is indisputable. Any look at the facts shows our nation needs to invest in and improve STEM education if we are to compete globally, now and in the future. 
Beneva Schulte, executive director, inSPIRE STEM USA, Chevy Chase, Md.
Obviously, this letter is more than a little bit laughable. It sounds to me that most STEM grads do not want to work in STEM jobs, which means that we need more! Chad Jones has a nice post making fun of this letter, and I agree with most of what he says. You should go and read it.

[I would like to know the facts behind those computer science stats. They seem fishy to me somehow, but hey -- maybe I'm wrong. I agree there is an intense demand for computer jobs; this is what is really driving the high-skill part of the comprehensive immigration reform debate.]

I do want to point out Ms. Schulte's qualifications to be the head of "inSPIRE STEM USA", which is that she has a deep background in politics. Naturally, her words on this issue are backed up by evidence and are to be trusted. Indisputably! 


  1. Econotitians agree: The economy is poised to produce a gazillion STEM jobs in the next few years. Ignore all those underemployed scientists and engineers. They're just racist xenophobes. Don't you think you're better off taking the word of a lobbyist? The fact that half of people who get STEM degrees don't work in STEM shows how bad at STEM they are. So to conclude: STEM STEM STEM STEM STEMSTEMSTEMSTTTEEEMMMMMMMMMM...

  2. Viking Chorus:
    Lovely STEM, wonderful STEM!
    Lovely STEM! Lovely STEM! Lovely STEM! Lovely STEM!


  4. The BLS data segregates those groups and gives them their own codes:

    25-4021 Librarians
    19-3099 Social Scientists and Related Workers, All Other
    15-1111 Computer and Information Research Scientists

    Is Ms. Schulte implying that the researchers willfully convoluted their data? If so, she's walking into libel territory, if you ask me.