Monday, July 7, 2014

I have a hard time believing Burning Glass' numbers on STEM jobs

Jonathan Rothwell at Brookings has a new report out using Burning Glass Technologies' numbers to argue that STEM job vacancies sit longer on company websites than other types of positions, thus suggesting that this is evidence that there's a shortage of STEM workers.*

Naturally, I'm very skeptical. But I want to point out a figure from the report on the left -- this suggests that it takes 40+ days to find an acceptable analytical chemist for the companies that Burning Glass' web spiders were monitoring. I have a very difficult time believing that. It's takes close to 30 days to find a HPLC type? Umm...

It is also interesting to see it claimed that biological types have a more difficult time being sourced than overall chemically-related positions; I have a sense that there are many more biologically-trained people than chemists. Another confusing aspect of this figure. I'm stumped, to be honest.

*Should also be noted that Brookings/Rothwell has a very expansive view of STEM positions, including medically-related positions and also a lot of skilled trades. 

14 comments:

  1. Unstable IsotopeJuly 7, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    I read a story on this survey in USA Today. It was counting health field as STEM and skilled trade (like plumbers) as STEM as well. Clearly "STEM jobs" has no meaning anymore. I'm not sure what to make of these competing studies. Most surveys find chemistry has similar unemployment to all college grads and wages aren't rising. We need a study of studies or something.

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    1. They call that there a 'meta' study.

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    2. I think the confusion here lies in a STEM definition used for education purposes. One thing are STEM skills that are skills that are necessary for a particular type of job. In that case we could argue that health field requieres some STEM skills specially on health research (at least that is how some research papers on education make health jobs fit the STEM need). Though I agree that there's a difference between STEM skills and STEM jobs.

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  2. But if an opening isn't posted long enough, how will companies find the desperate people willing to lowball their salaries. It takes time to find these people!

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  3. To follow on what Anonymous at 5:31 p.m. said, it could be that the jobs are staying longer on company websites because companies are pickier about who they hire in terms of education, experience, age, and salary requirements. Interpreting the length of time on a website as evidence of a STEM shortage is too much of a reach by Burning Glass. What I've seen in the company for which I work is that there are many chemists looking for employment, but the company takes its time in deciding who to hire.

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  4. From my recent experience, 40 days sounds like it's too short. I've received call backs on jobs that I applied for 4-6 months prior.

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  5. You could also chalk some of the numbers up to HR people not doing their jobs. Some of the jobs don't get removed from the websites even after they are filled.

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  6. "Days to fill a position" is a horrible proxy to understanding how much demand there really is. You need to find out how many qualified people APPLY to each position, which would take a lot of work. Please, somebody do this analysis and save us from these horribly flawed studies.

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  7. This analysis is fundamentally flawed. It is assuming that all postings are for jobs which can be filled.

    Chemistry jobs many times are posted for long periods of time due to hiring freezes.

    Some chemistry jobs are not open positions at all (here's looking at you major pharmas). Some companies fish the pond to see what they get (and how much it will cost) prior to massive layoffs. All the more reason not to lowball a salary. You may make a job of someone disappear without getting ajob. That someone may be capable of taking a job you could have gotten!

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  8. Days to fill seems like a real dumb metric. I don't know their methodology, but seeing as HPLC, Mass Spec, and wet chemistry are all sub-disciplines within analytical it seems like there would have to be some very long times for some other area to balance out. I could actually buy that there are SOME analytical positions that stay open for a while because the field has become hyper-specialized in recent years like everything else, but it wouldn't be because the general analytical skills are lacking, it would be because the specialized skills are lacking.

    Of course, looking at the chart the whole thing may be meaningless considering that "Experiments" is even harder to fill. What the hell does that mean? Doesn't pretty much everyone with an S or E degree have skills for experiments?

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  9. I've noticed that temp jobs never seem to be taken down, even long after the positions have been filled. Most analytical chemist jobs are temp jobs.

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  10. For biology, there are so many candidates that it takes HR 50 days or more to go wade through the applications

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  11. More on this:

    http://www.vox.com/2014/7/7/5862450/a-huge-debate-about-the-labor-market-is-driven-by-a-nonsense-acronym-stem-shortage

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  12. Since it takes no time at all to find a sales assistant or a food server and according to these guys the average ad duration for these occupation is 38 days I would suggest that 38 should be considered an origin point. All their data make sense after that.

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