The fields of science, technology, engineering and math, collectively known as STEM, have gained a lot of attention in the recent years the United States. The US is lagging behind several countries when it comes to math and science education. STEM is critical for global competitiveness; however the field is not attracting or retaining as many professionals as in the past. This month at LTAW we will be talking about this field in particular – what is it, how can you get into it and why STEM is critical to the future.
Over the past couple of weeks the debate about whether there is really a shortage of STEM trained talent has escalated fueled by a report released recently by the Economic Policy Institute which asserts that there are plenty of US born STEM educated individuals to take the growing number of jobs. The Economic Policy Institute receives 30% of its funding from labor unions.
In essence the report concludes that “guest workers”, those with non-permanent residency status (H-1B temporary visa program) are hired for up to 50% of the available jobs in STEM and that in computer and information science and in engineering, U.S. colleges are graduating 50% more students than are hired into those fields each year.
On the other side of the argument, Change the Equation which is a nonprofit that works with companies facing skill shortages in STEM jobs says there is indeed a real deficit in this area. This group claims that based on their analysis, the number of STEM-focused job postings outnumbered unemployed STEM professionals by nearly two to one when health care jobs were included. Health jobs were excluded from the Economic Policy Institute study.
I guess it comes down to who is counting and how and what is counted as a STEM job. Based on LTAW’s analysis of the literature on this topic, which is indeed plentiful, those who predict a serious shortage of STEM trained personnel seem to outweigh those who claim you can’t believe the hype.
The jobs in the STEM field that experts say currently experience more demand than supply include the following.
- IT Staff
- Accounting and finance
- Machinists and Machine Operators
Even jobs that do not require a four-year college education like machinists and machine operators require strong math and technical skills. Based on a study by University of Phoenix called Future Work Skills 2020, computational skills is one of the top ten needed competencies regardless of the field one might be in. The point is, that no matter what career you might choose, there will undoubtedly be a need to know something about science, technology, engineering and/or math.
Getting to Know STEM!