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The STEM Crisis Is a Myth 284

Posted by Soulskill
from the are-there-giants?-i-like-myths-with-giants dept.
theodp writes "Forget the dire predictions of a looming shortfall of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians, advises IEEE Spectrum contributing editor Robert Charette — the STEM crisis is a myth. In investigating the simultaneous claims of both a shortage and a surplus of STEM workers, Charette was surprised by 'the apparent mismatch between earning a STEM degree and having a STEM job. Of the 7.6 million STEM workers counted by the Commerce Department, only 3.3 million possess STEM degrees. Viewed another way, about 15 million U.S. residents hold at least a bachelor's degree in a STEM discipline, but three-fourths of them — 11.4 million — work outside of STEM.' So, why would universities, government, and tech companies like Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft cry STEM-worker-shortage-wolf? 'Clearly, powerful forces must be at work to perpetuate the cycle,' Charette writes. 'One is obvious: the bottom line. Companies would rather not pay STEM professionals high salaries with lavish benefits, offer them training on the job, or guarantee them decades of stable employment. So having an oversupply of workers, whether domestically educated or imported, is to their benefit...Governments also push the STEM myth because an abundance of scientists and engineers is widely viewed as an important engine for innovation and also for national defense. And the perception of a STEM crisis benefits higher education, says Ron Hira, because as 'taxpayers subsidize more STEM education, that works in the interest of the universities' by allowing them to expand their enrollments. An oversupply of STEM workers may also have a beneficial effect on the economy, says Georgetown's Nicole Smith, one of the coauthors of the 2011 STEM study. If STEM graduates can't find traditional STEM jobs, she says, 'they will end up in other sectors of the economy and be productive.'"
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The STEM Crisis Is a Myth

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:27AM (#44730063)

    Articles like this a) assume all STEM degrees are interchangeable and b) assume that possessing a STEM degree means that they are qualified to work in a STEM field. Anyone who's had to interview candidates before knows that's not the case.

    • by cookYourDog (3030961) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:34AM (#44730083)
      But I'm security expert! My University of MerryLand University College Institute Degree says so!!! Gibbe monies plox!
    • by horm (2802801) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:35AM (#44730087)
      Whereas it's practically accepted that just possessing an bachelors degree in Education means that someone is qualified to teach children what they need to know to advance in STEM fields.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        The qualifications begin with a degree or alternative route program. Then you must pass an education theory exam (PRAXIS PLT), and a subject area or specialist exam (physics, math, elementary ed, etc.). You also spend a semester to a year as an apprentice, two to four years of on the job observation during which you can be fired or non-renewed for anything, and then you are evaluated every one to three years to help you grow or to identify and remove you if you are not performing to expectations.

        • Backwards (Score:5, Insightful)

          by bradley13 (1118935) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @12:40PM (#44731425) Homepage

          Which is exactly backwards, at least above the primary school level. Want to teach math? You ought to have a degree in math. Physics? Degree in physics. The pedagogical stuff can be picked up on the side and checked with a specialist exam.

          At 6th grade and above, teachers who have not actually studied in the area of teaching will be outpaced and embarrassed by the more gifted students in their class. I had a teacher like that - I was so f***ing bored in her class (as was a friend of mine) that (in order to avoid falling asleep) we sat quietly in the back and wrote notes to each other. The fact that we could always answer the questions she randomly threw at us during class infuriated her, so she seated us on opposite sides of a tall cabinet. We responded as maturely as our ages (12 or so) by throwing notes over the cabinet.

          Had the teacher actually known and cared about math, she would have given us some sort of challenge - we'd have dug in and been quiet. Since she quite clearly did not even particularly like math, well...

          Three years later, I was in the "slow" math class because I had phased out. However, my parents had moved me to a private school, and that teacher was a mathematician. I saw some stupid typo he made on the blackboard, corrected it probably as snarkily as you would expect. He immediately realized what was going on, and sent me to the advanced class down the hall. Man, the teachers all knew their stuff, and really enjoyed teaching it. What a revelation!

          Above primary school, education degrees are irrelevant. A couple of classes in child psychology and teaching techniques will do. Training in, and a love of the subject you are teaching is all that should matter. Which is one of the biggest reasons that most American public schools suck.

      • by nbauman (624611) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @01:55PM (#44731769) Homepage Journal

        Whereas it's practically accepted that just possessing an bachelors degree in Education means that someone is qualified to teach children what they need to know to advance in STEM fields.

        I don't know who accepts that. Science magazine (which is read by a lot of science teachers) has articles on science education all the time. It's generally accepted that competent science teachers have to know (1) the science and (2) how to teach.

        Conversely, you're not qualified to teach STEM just because you know STEM. People say, "I have a PhD in engineering, I can teach high school science." A lot of them can't.

        For example, teachers have to know exactly what kids on each level are capable of understanding. I was surprised to find out that even kids up to middle school can't understand molecules, according to the science teachers who teach them. So you can go on for half an hour about molecules, the kids will try to follow you, but if you ask some non-rote questions, you'll see that they don't understand. Actually, that makes sense. The greatest scientists in the 18th century had a hard time understanding molecules. Can you give an experimental demonstration to prove that molecules exist?

        Another difficult task that educators learn, which Science has discussed in several articles, is how to figure out what the kid's misconception is when he doesn't understand something, and how to get him to understand it. You can't just repeat yourself, you have to understand what the kid is thinking, and figure out how to get him to think it out himself.

    • by hairyfeet (841228) <{bassbeast1968} {at} {}> on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:36AM (#44730341) Journal

      No they just face reality which is for the past 40 years we've been faced with a concerted effort to turn America into a third world country that speaks English.

      Look at the student loan bubble which will soon burst, kids having to enslave themselves for life with debt they can't even discharge through bankruptcy (but the corps sure don't have any trouble discharging THEIR debts) just in the (in most cases) vain hope to rise above grinding poverty only to find that instead of that degree giving them a ticket out of poverty it instead ties a millstone around their neck because they can get an Indian or Chinese for less than the interest he is paying on his loans. Think if you tried the reverse and organized a mass immigration to India or China they would accept you taking THEIR jobs? Not a chance in hell because both countries are "nationalist" which is a code word for "Not fucking retarded and whored out to the megacorps".

      For the past several decades you have seen the top 5% go from controlling 45% of this country's wealth to over 82% (and its been a couple years since i checked, probably higher than that now) and the reason for that is shit like this and "How NOT to hire an American" which for those who haven't seen it you should really look up the video, its a confidential law firm lecture on how easy it is for them to help these corps make sure they ONLY hire foreign workers. Time and time again you see the revolving door between DC and the corps and you see the future of America being sold to the new robber barons, refusing to accept that while the far east will have an abundance of skilled workers coming up with the next revolutions in tech we are increasingly becoming like the third world, huge ghettos of grinding poverty with the elite in their gated communities down the street living as Gods.

      But massive change is coming folks, if you want to see the future look to the east, look at what has happened all over the middle east with the so called "Arab Springs" which should rightly be called class warfare as the poor refuse to be stomped on and rise up against the elite that have ruled them for so long. The reason you will see a similar event here, and why there hasn't been one so far here is because there is a MASSIVE stock market bubble [] and part of that bubble has been used by the government to provide "bread and circuses" to the poor so they do not revolt. Oh and before the right wing chime in on how its all the fault of the current figurehead? Might want to look at the graph at around the 3.30 mark and see when the bubble started really blowing up, the date is in the mid 80s, specifically when Ronnie Raygun signed the 401K and 403B programs into law. What that did was pour billions upon billions into the stock market, inflating the "value" of stocks to true insanity levels and causing an entire industry to be born just around leeching some of that "wealth" and manipulating it.

      So why is it doomed, and guaranteed to make the 29 crash look like a flash crash? Simple in their infinite greed and lust for ever higher profits the corps didn't bother to think what would happen when they fired all the American workers and replaced them with cheap labor, what happened was the birth of the "temp nation" and money from 401Ks and 403Bs dropped like a stone. After all that temp worker barely keeping a roof over his/her head certainly isn't sticking money in a 401K. Because "privatize profits, socialize costs" is practically the mantra of Wall Street they ran to mommy government who likewise wasn't bringing in the dough, again because the middle class was gutted and because those at the top pushed the "job creators" myth and lowered taxes while increasing spending, but have no fear, The Federal Reserve is here!

      But you can't print your way out of a dead end, and you can't expect Americans paying over $100K for their education to be able to compete with somebody who paid less for a master's than we do for a new Mustang so the money? Not

      • by GargamelSpaceman (992546) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @11:09AM (#44730891) Homepage Journal

        So when other countries stop having faith in an infinite number of Yankee Dollars (which they will) and stop taking them you'll see the whole thing come crashing down

        If someone has something the US wants to buy ( like oil ) then they'll just be bombed till they do. Soon enough the powers that be will realize this ( they already have ) and just take the dollars and accept living like the kings they are *within the system*. If you have power, do you ally with the winning side, or do you attempt to find a coalition of those being shat upon? If you have power, you personally aren't being shat upon, because you rationally sell out. It's those with no power who are being shat upon - the poor. So who exactly is there to oppose power?

        Macheavellii would say that it's always better to ally with the weaker side because it increases your leverage and prevents you from becoming someone's bitch, but do you really CARE if you are someone's bitch? I mean who wouldn't rather be a billionaire than a king? You get all the perks without the stress/risk/culpability

        And the fact is, most humans are redundant. The world is going through a sea change as big as the one that caused an end to serfdom and brought forth the enlightenment and the rights of man. Instead of people being valuable b/c of megadeath caused by the black plague, and new untapped worlds opening up around the world begging for humans to take advantage the world is filling up. Stuff is more valuable than people. Now that humans are not valuable, they will be treated worse than before. I wouldn't be surprise to see a rolling back of the gains made since the middle ages. Only megadeath would seem to have a chance of making humans more valuable relative to things.

        UC Davis' Gregory Clark has some iteresting insights about this []

        Also, technology during the industrial revolution pushed human labor into pursuits that could not be mechanized. With thought itself more and more mechanizable, what is left for humans? [] ?

        Paris Hilton is very productive. ( in the economic sense where work done with a backhoe is more productive than work done with a hand shovel ) Her labors are mixed with a very high level of capital. And what do those labors consist of? Merely not losing her money. Does she need to be superior in any way to perform her duties? is there any meritocracy going on? Well...

        She can and likely does hire a finanacial planner. Brains are a dime a dozen.

        She buys $40,000.00 purses. So at first glance it would seem she does a poor job at not losing her money. But she can afford $40,000.00 purses. That doesn't realy represent substantial consumption. Giving away half her money to someone who's never had money would involve *massive* consumption. If she gave me half her wealth, I would probably give half of it away to people I know who would also spread the wealth themselves etc. This would cause *millions* of dollars in consumption. A $40,000.00 purse is nothing.

        So it seems Paris Hilton is far better qualified than I to be wealthy.

        But isn't it weird that she doesn't have to do anything but not consume?

        All she needs to do to not give away her wealth is insulate herself from need and the temptation to give it all away. That is, she need only stay amongst the her own kind and not mingle with the peasants.

        Societies that support this tendency win out militarily because those societies with the most capital will be able to field the most fearsome militariy might including robotic military might. There is no reason to suppose that without valuable labor to parlay into means to consume, tha

    • by w_dragon (1802458)
      My first thought as well. I also know people who have STEM degrees, worked in the field for a year, and decided it wasn't for them. I know a lot that have moved up to management or project management, do they still qualify as STEM workers?
    • by rsilvergun (571051) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @11:53AM (#44731139)
      the article doesn't even touch on your point. It just says that gov't and business are touting statistics that say there aren't enough people with STEM degrees and that those stats are lies used to lower the standard of living and quality of life for those same degree holders.

      Now, to your point, I love the sentiment you just expressed: "Americans are too dumb and lazy. We need more H1-Bs". I'm not even sure you know you're expressing it. That's the beauty of it. That thought is being drilled into our heads by corporations. That and the notion that you, yes you, are too lazy and stupid and if you don't have a good life it's all your fault for not working harder (and has nothing to do with the fact that you're poor []).

      It's the opposite of an "Entitlement Complex". A Disenfranchisement Complex maybe? I don't know. But I know this. American spent the last 30 years being told their worthless garbage that are not worth the salaries they make. and they've started to believe it...
    • by nine-times (778537) <> on Sunday September 01, 2013 @01:02PM (#44731531) Homepage

      To flip it around, I think what you're saying could be used to present an argument that it's silly to be talking about a lack of qualified STEM workers in the first place. I'd agree that STEM degrees, and therefor workers with STEM degrees, are not interchangeable, so we therefore should not be grouping them all together as 'something we need more of'.

      Why are we all using this 'STEM' acronym now anyway? All of the sudden we're all using a new acronym that doesn't serve to make the discussion any more clear, which to me is a clear indication that the discussion is being manipulated by someone. So what are we really talking about here? When we're talking about the need for more 'STEM workers', we're just talking about engineers, right? Most likely software engineers, I'm guessing, since I only hear about it in reference to Facebook and Microsoft complaining that it's too hard to hire programmers.

      I'll tell you, there are plenty of programmers out there. There's not a shortage. You might respond by claiming that most of those programmers aren't too brilliant, but the truth is, there's always a shortage of brilliant people in any field. So what, exactly, are we talking about here? As far as I can understand, we're talking about software developers complaining that there's a shortage of a glut of programmers that would allow them to treat programmers as minimum-wage interchangeable cogs in a machine.

      So you're right, 'STEM' is too broad a term and is insufficient to describe the issues we're facing, so let's just not use that term. It's a term that was most likely invented to obscure what the discussion is actually about, so let's try to be more descriptive.

  • don't bother doing anything hard kids, take a 'media studies' degree, 'cos you'll end up sweeping streets anyway. In fact, forget the degree - go straight to an industry apply to be an apprentice or intern and then work your way through its hierarchy by diligence, and/or brown-nosing.

    Then, in 20 years time, you can turn around to anyone who asks "what became of America, why is it such a useless 3rd world country now when it was so great back in the 50s", you can give them the answer before telling them to g

    • by slick7 (1703596)
      You are better off going to college, amassing an enormous debt load, then competing with questionabe foreingners for a technical McJob that will allow you to pay down your student loan in 2 million years at 12 times the original amount? That sure sounds like bankster math to me.
    • very insightful +1

  • by mark_reh (2015546) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:38AM (#44730099) Journal

    'they will end up in other sectors of the economy and be productive."

    That may be true (STEM grads probably have functioning brains), but is a STEM education an efficient way to train greeters at Walmart or burger flippers? A STEM education IS good at creating a new crop of student loan slaves every year...

    • 'they will end up in other sectors of the economy and be productive."

      That may be true (STEM grads probably have functioning brains),

      So you're saying they have an actual brainstem?

    • by Livius (318358)

      Driving a taxi or cooking French fries are, technically, productive contributions to the economy.

      (Banking, although necessary, is not actually productive in an economic sense.)

      • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @11:26AM (#44731009)

        Driving a taxi or cooking French fries are, technically, productive contributions to the economy.

        Not just "technically", but in a very real and productive sense. I, and many other people I know, have hailed cabs or ordered fries, and been willing to pay for it, without the slightest coercion.

        Banking, although necessary, is not actually productive in an economic sense.

        Banking is productive to the extent that it provides useful financial services. However, the fact that the percentage of GDP devoted to it has doubled, while the additional "production" has been extravagant pay, scams, and financial crises, says that the additional costs of banking have not been productive.

    • Huh? I'd say STEM is one of the safer bets to avoid loan slaving, though it's the school that does it, not the degree. I sunk only ~ $15,000 for a BS in Mathematics, which is hefty for somebody entering the job market, but it's definitely payable. Given all the research grants, co-op opportunities, teaching positions, and fellowships, it's doable to go through STEM grad school accumulating little to no debt at all. The trick is to start prepping for industry/research early on. And network. And for the scien
      • by mark_reh (2015546) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @12:05PM (#44731195) Journal

        I don't want to upset you, but you are confusing "not accumulating debt" with earning a living. I think it is safe to say that most people don't view seeping on a couch in mom and dad's basement as a long-term goal.

        It is true that a STEM education is likely to land you a higher paying job and thus more likely to enable you to make student loan payments than studying something like sociology, but that points to some structural problems with the whole student loan system. First and foremost, they'll lend money to anyone to study anything. The CEOs, politicians, etc. continually decry the poor state of education that doesn't produce qualified workers in one breath and then hand money to people to study underwater basket weaving as readily as they do to people who want to study STEM, (and in the next breath the CEOs moan about high taxes).

        Not only that, but they charge the same interest rate for studying engineering that they charge for studying art history. In a truly capitalist society (which seems to be popular with the Fox news crowd) the interest rate on the loan should be commensurate with the risk- every loan shark knows that- but the feds charge the same rate to study medicine that they charge to study silly things. Furthermore, post grad interest rates are 2x the rate of undergraduate rates, though post grad educated people are far more likely to be able to repay loans than undergrads. We are still smarting from the lesson that Goldman Sachs taught us about the safety of home mortgages, yet the mortgage on my house is 3.6% while I am paying off my post grad student loans at 6.8%.

        Furthermore, as in the home mortgage disaster, people who should not be given loans are being handed blank checks. If you're interested in studying art history and you take on $100k in loans without ever giving a thought to how you're going to pay that money back, you're an idiot. Yes, society needs a few people who know art history- the key word is "few". If you want to study art history and you don't have some sort of connection that is going to guarantee work as an art historian when you finish school, pick a different field of professional study and be satisfied with studying art history as a hobby.

        The goal of the student loan program appears to be the same as the goal of the banks who issue credit cards- to turn people into slaves at an early age.

    • by fermion (181285)
      Certain stem degree does mean that you can compete. The highest LSAT score comes from phyics/math majors with engineering being a close second. Prelaw is one of the lowest. Math and physical science tend to the be highest scores on the MCAT. Premed tends to be the lowest.

      I have said this before. A good stem education, which means that you are well versed in the physical sciences, math including linear algebra and calculus, the engineering process with a good understanding of mechanical and electrical

      • Certain stem degree does mean that you can compete.

        But not necessarily in English composition.

        The highest LSAT score comes from phyics/math majors with engineering being a close second.

        Law requires aptitude in English.

        BTW, I normally don't pick on people's grammar, but waxing ecstatic about the virtues of STEM degrees for non-STEM careers is like painting a bull's eye on your chest. My apologies if you've not long been using English as a primary language.

        More importantly, you've cited a correlation between undergraduate major and success (at least on standardized tests) in other fields but, as can't be repeated too often, correlation does not dem

  • Hanlon's Razor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dutchd00d (823703) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:41AM (#44730113) Homepage

    Clearly, powerful forces must be at work to perpetuate the cycle

    Wow. I do believe a dose of Hanlon's Razor [] is in order here.

    • by Compact Dick (518888) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:04AM (#44730205) Homepage

      Clearly, powerful forces must be at work to perpetuate the cycle

      Wow. I do believe a dose of Hanlon's Razor [] is in order here.

      Exactly what the powerful forces want us to believe.

    • Hanlon's Razor doesn't really work when each individual entity has a reason to be malicious. Don't rule out malice after all.

      • Hanlon's Razor is absolutely essential in understanding things. It's because three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.

    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      every 20 years or so, education reform comes around again. the rallying cry has been "more stem" due to differences in USA vs Asian test scores. now schools are picking up on that, whether it is needed or not.

      same time, "work readiness" is a big focus on what business wanted for 20 years. that is also a focus for reform. work ready means trained to be an employee, not employer. most people will be employees, so it makes sense if everyone gets the same basic curriculum, to teach employable skills.

      now we have

    • by g01d4 (888748)

      Wow. I do believe a dose of Hanlon's Razor is in order here.

      Why is that? The "bottom line" is given as an example of a powerful force. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by greed.

  • by JanneM (7445) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:46AM (#44730123) Homepage

    You can easily have an abundance of STEM people overall, and yet have a shortage of people in specific fields. The shortage is of course most likely in new and in growing fields, while surpluses are most likely in old and settled, or declining areas.

    So, mismatch can easily explain the discrepancy without ascribing malicious intent to anybody (which is not to say there is none). Instead the problem really is the tension between learning a field and training for a specific job.

    Seems US and European corporations are more and more insistent on finding workers that fit right into a specific job with little to no training*. Which seems good in the short term, but people with mostly job-specific training will have a much harder time retraining for a different kind of job when the winds inevitably change. They'll act as anchors for their employers, and collectively reduce the pool of qualified replacements if or when their employers decide to kick them to the curb.

    I suspect that this practice is in fact bad in the short term as well; but since the effects across the life cycle of an employee are felt in very different parts of an organization it's not a waste that any one person will normally notice.

    * Japanese corporations, on the other hand, go overboard in the other direction. They hire mostly or only new graduates for any career jobs, and you - and the company - generally don't even know what you will actually be doing once you start. They want to hire blank slates they can train and mold as they see fit.

    • by Mateorabi (108522)
      At some point the divisions become so specialized, the sub-disciplines so fractal [], that no college degree nor previous job is going to fully prepare you. At some point the companies have to stop being whiny and hire someone "merely" trainable and invest time to train them in-house. An unwillingness to do this, and a unrealistic expectation for STEM to produce them whole-cloth, being one of the several reasons for the "shortage."
      • by hibiki_r (649814)

        True, but the problem is that the existing pay model makes hiring entry level to be a negative value proposition. Take software developers: There's a big difference between a pro and your average graduate: For quite a while, many recent graduates are zero marginal product workers. Now, two years later, said developer is quite good, and actually produces more than he costs. But then he's easily poachable by a company that doesn't waste money on entry level workers, and thus can afford to pay more to those th

    • by Shavano (2541114)

      Yet both approaches seen to result in companies that work. The Japanese system builds in institutional memory. Perhaps too much in some cases. But the American system is wasteful too. You're constantly training new people at every career level here because they come from another company and sometimes another branch of industry and have to learn fundamentals. Other companies are constantly cherry-picking your most productive workers and bringing them into their companies where they are less productive

      • by dj245 (732906)

        Every time we lose a an engineer, we suffer a noticeable loss of engineering capacity. It can take 2 to 6 months to find a suitable replacement and then 6 months to a year before they settle in and really get productive. Yet our top management thinks it's OK to have 6 percent turnover in our technical staff.

        6% turnover isn't bad from my perspective. It means that the average employee lasts 7 years before moving on. That's a pretty decent stint.

        I worked at a company where the sales force had roughly a 25-30% attrition rate. At one point, the most senior one (out of a group of 7) had less than 2 years in the company. Their manager and their manager's manager have since been promoted twice.

      • by sjames (1099) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @03:39PM (#44732353) Homepage

        Pay your employees what they are worth and they won't get cherry picked by the competition. Or become a loyal employer and you can have loyal employees who won't leave at the drop of a hat.

        The latter is a big one. Corporate employers have been extremely disloyal for a long time now and the employees have caught on. They have only themselves to blame.

    • by BonThomme (239873)

      "shortage is of course most likely in new and in growing fields"

      And these superjobs of the future would be?

  • Nahhh.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by TemperedAlchemist (2045966) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:53AM (#44730149)

    We don't have an overabundance of STEM workers.

    We have an overabundance of H1B visas...

  • Agism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:54AM (#44730157)
    If you regard everyone over 35 is unemployable, they it is entirely possible you will be short of applicants.

    There is also the not insignificant fact that STEM graduates can get better [pay and more respect by working in other fields.

    • "I keep hiring 23 year-olds fresh out of college so I can pay them pennies on the dollar, but they're all lacking in experience. Our schools must be doing a terrible job!"

    • is a great example if you want to see age discrimination, yet there are where most of the STEM jobs are.

      Quite frankly, agism exist because the managers/owners/business leaders have no idea (or just being lazy) on how to utilize the exceptional experience of the 40+ years old. It takes a special type of manager to manage a team full of superstars. Your local MBA PHB is not going to cut it.

      It used to be that, companies avoid employing older aged people due to potential high health-care cost, but Obamacare pre

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:00AM (#44730177)

    while nobody sees this as yet another failure of capitalism to magically optimize everything for everyone like some kind of wonder fairy. Look, it's a system with winners and losers. Like the lottery, there are a lot more losers than winners.

    Oh, and newsflash. The winners would like workers who are as close to slavery as they can get without an overt revolution which might get expensive. Twas ever thus.

    • by pwizard2 (920421)
      This should be modded insightful, not funny.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Of course your rather snarky analysis, ignores the reality that were it not for the government interfering in the labor market by creating H1-b visa; this so-called crisis would not be occurring. If this is a failure of capitalism, then what would you propose as a replacement? One only has to look at the opulence with which the rulers of non-captialist countries live in order to see that there are ruling classes everywhere - and yes they do want slaves. However, if you think moving from a market to a com

      • were it not for the government interfering in the labor market by creating H1-b visa; this so-called crisis would not be occurring

        Wait a second. When the government loosens immigration restrictions and lets people work wherever they want, that's supposed to be "interfering in the labor market"?

        • by nbauman (624611) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @02:45PM (#44732015) Homepage Journal

          You can have two principled choices: You can say that (1) borders should be open, and any worker can apply for any job that he wants (2) a country has to defend its own borders, and we can't open it up to unfettered competition from overseas workers, products, pharmaceuticals, etc.

          I tend to prefer open borders.

          An Irish radiologist wrote about how the EU has anti-discrimination laws, and a French hospital couldn't discriminate against him in hiring him -- even though his French wasn't quite that good. He said that an x-ray has a lot of ambiguity, and when a radiologist gives a report, the report has to reflect that ambiguity. His French wasn't quite good enough to do that. He would give a report, he wouldn't have time to explain it properly, and then the meeting would be over. It took him 6 months for his French to improve enough to give a good radiology report. The hospital couldn't even discriminate against him because his French needed improvement.

          If we want to bring in foreign workers, we should bring them in on a free-market, open-borders non-discriminatory basis. And I should be able to go to those same countries and work under the same terms.

          But right now I'm tethered to the U.S., other workers can come in and compete with me, and I can't go to their countries to get the opportunities of their employment. (And free universities; I'd like to get that.)

          Under the present system of bad compromises, I'd rather have fewer H1-Bs. If the corporations need STEM workers, let them pay taxes to improve the school system (from kindergarden to grad school) and grow their own STEM workers. Let them give good salaries, education benefits and in-house training, and job security.

      • by nbauman (624611)

        There will always be winners and losers, not everyone gets a blue ribbon. The only question is how do you want the winner to be determined - free market competition or back room dealmaking?

        There's a third choice -- democracy. People can make decisions based on open debate and the democratic process. They can say, "We have to provide every citizen with the best education that they're capable of, whether they can afford to pay for it or not."

        In some countries, there are rich people who say, "I've done very well for myself, so I'm willing to give something back to society in taxes." Rather than have a few billionaires make decisions for us, all of us can decide among ourselves what's good for us

    • while nobody sees this as yet another failure of capitalism to magically optimize everything for everyone like some kind of wonder fairy.

      C'mon, only somebody with a preconceived axe to grind against capitalism would take an example of a central-planning failure and wonder why nobody sees it as an example of capitalism failing.

      • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @11:40AM (#44731093)

        Horseshit. Capitalism is a tool, not a religion. Socialism too. Idiots make religions of economic systems, which is sort of like worshiping your computer (No offense to long time Mac users). Both systems have strengths and weaknesses. Anyone who works in IT and has had their rational decisions overridden by ignorant high-level managers knows that capitalism fails at certain scales. Central planning works no better when done by someone who sits on the board of GE and viacom than it did when it was done by someone at the Politboro.

        Heterogeneous small scale capitalism, where corporate size was controlled through taxation worked well in the 50s, 60s and 70s before the congress was sufficiently purchased in order to change the laws (Anti-trust, glass-steagal) that prevented our currentl slide into the logical end of unfettered capitalism (e.g. Mexico, Kazakhstan, Russia).

  • by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:06AM (#44730209)
    When companies stop blowing me off because they think "Well he's an expert in C++ really well but has only done C# for a year or two so obviously he's useless in that." (From what I'm seeing most of what they do isn't that hard and what I do know about C++ does transfer over rapidly to C#. Hey, have I ever mentioned the grammar of C# (and Java for that matter) was done that way so us C++ guys could rapidly switch over to it?) You know, at time the vibe I get from companies is that they want what I call a desert island developer. That's a developer that's so good you could literally put him on a desert island. You'd air drop coding specs, food, beer, and women to him every day. Then he'd code it up by writing it up in the sand on the beach(Which the next airdrop plane would photograph) and that code in the sand would work perfectly once it was scanned in.
  • by QilessQi (2044624) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:06AM (#44730215)

    I have been interviewing IT candidates for years. We don't have a shortage of applicants. We do have a shortage of good applicants. I am increasingly dismayed by the number of individuals who profess ten or even twenty years of IT experience on their resumes, yet who cannot solve the most basic design problem or answer questions about the fundamentals of the language they use daily.

    This goes for both native-born U.S. workers and those from outside, by the way.

    I suspect that many people become software developers because they believe it to be a lucrative -- or, at least, employable -- field. But being a developer is like being a novelist or an athlete or a professional chess player: it requires a certain amount of discipline, above and beyond just showing up and doing the work assigned to you. Where I work we can't afford to have bad coders, so it's very hard to make the cut.

    • by professionalfurryele (877225) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:51AM (#44730411)

      You do not have a shortage of good applicants, such a shortage is impossible in a market system like we have. What you have is too low a price point. Quadrupedal the offered pay rate and you will find plenty of such applicants, because you will be able to poach them from other companies for a start. I cant help but feel that any employer who ever mentions the word 'shortage' in relation to labour should be immediately required to increase the pay they give the relevant employees by 20% and handed a leaflet explaining exactly how market economies work.

      • > Quadrupedal the offered pay rate


    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 01, 2013 @10:14AM (#44730561)

      I am increasingly dismayed by the number of individuals who profess ten or even twenty years of IT experience on their resumes, yet who cannot solve the most basic design problem or answer questions about the fundamentals of the language they use daily.

      I've been programming for a long time as a hobby. I've been at my current job for 10 years now. I write webapps (mostly as a cowboy coder), do some administration work on enterprise systems and basically I'm the guy in my division they call when any project gets stuck on a technical issue.

      I see interview questions for SQL and Java which I've used a lot of in the past 10 years, some of them I can solve, some I cant. I really wonder what kind of hell I'd have to go through to get another job. Half the time I think "I'd just google that if I had to do it and figure out the best methodology from there". I've really come to the conclusion that my best skill set is that I read documentation, I can find answers quickly on google, I can come up with creative solutions to business process issues, and I've been doing IT for so long that I can deduce what an issue is fairly quickly just from experience. I really don't know how you figure those things out in an interview, or how you communicate them to a potential employer. Furthermore, employers seem more interested in you knowing some nuance of a programming language, or something that just doesn't apply to day to day programming.

    • by Shavano (2541114)
      Two questions: 1. How long does it take you to find a GOOD programmer? 2. How long would it take you to train one in the top third of those you interview to be a GOOD programmer? If the answer to #1 is greater than the answer to #2, you're doing it wrong.
      • Depends on what you define as a 'good' programmer.

        Allow me to voice an annoyance, as a .Net programmer (C#): The .Net Framework is huge. It's gigantic. And it's constantly growing. You can be extremely well-versed in the nuances of one part, while having zero understanding of another part of it; and, this is the good part, you can spend much of your time doing more 'advanced' things in it, such that you gloss over the more simple, or frankly, 'do not care / never will' parts of it....which happen to be aske

      • by nbauman (624611)

        Two questions:

        1. How long does it take you to find a GOOD programmer?
        2. How long would it take you to train one in the top third of those you interview to be a GOOD programmer?

        If the answer to #1 is greater than the answer to #2, you're doing it wrong.

        Which is one of the points that the IEEE Spectrum article made. American companies don't hire people for the long term, give them job security, education benefits, and in-house training, the way they used to do under the Eastman Kodak model (which was adopted by most Fortune 500 companies), until the 1970s.

        Big surprise. If you downsize by firing your staff all the time, in a few years you'll turn around and won't be able to find the people you need to do the job.

    • by Guppy06 (410832)

      We do have a shortage of good applicants.

      For the pay that you're offering.

    • by evilviper (135110) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @01:31PM (#44731667) Journal

      I have been interviewing IT candidates for years. We don't have a shortage of applicants. We do have a shortage of good applicants.

      So some idiot fooled you into believing a programmer in your area will work for $X. Then you find out $X gets you the bottom of the barrel, but you don't even consider that $X is too low, and attribute the poor pool of candidates to everything else but your own mistakes...

      I am increasingly dismayed by the number of individuals who profess ten or even twenty years of IT experience on their resumes, yet who cannot solve the most basic design problem or answer questions about the fundamentals of the language they use daily.

      When you insist on the qualifications a top-level expert might not even have, but you're paying entry-level wages, the only people you'll get are people who lie on their resume... []

      If you're only willing to pay entry-level wages, then remove the "lies on their resume" requirements, and you MIGHT well find a few people that are quite capable, but only just got into the IT job market.

  • We had a research project, funded by a major, national science research agency, focused on STEM education. Early on, we needed to formally define STEM disciplines. It turns out there are as many definitions of STEM as there are organizations studying STEM issues. The two main perspectives are education and occupation. Both use their own codes (SOC for occupations and CIP for education). There are crosswalks, but they are not 100%. In the end, we needed CIP codes and collected many CIP code classificat
  • A few flaws here.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pla (258480) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:24AM (#44730271) Journal
    We have a few problems with just crunching the numbers in this case.

    First of all - Not everyone who manages to 2.0 their way through a STEM degree will do well at it, or even like doing it for that matter.

    Second - A STEM degree (even with a 2.0) carries the prestige of "this guy knows something". For all the require-a-degree-but-not-really jobs out there, having a "real" major rather than Wymins' Studies will go a loooong way toward getting you in the top half of the pile of applicants.

    Finally, jobs that really do require a STEM background tend to favor younger people, both in terms of sharpness of mind and lack of experience to say "no" to regularly putting in 60+ hours a week, on salary. The core STEM workforce of the 90s and even the 00's has largely moved on to manage today's engineers - If they haven't gotten so sick of busting their ass that they dropped out and went on to a sleepy AP Entry Clerk position somewhere.

    So yes, we very much do have both a surplus and a shortage. We have a surplus because not all STEM grads can or want to work in STEM; we have a shortage because we don't have enough people good enough or naive enough to put up with actually doing a STEM job.
  • It's really simple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:30AM (#44730317)
    Money. Someone with a STEM degree can often make more money, in the short and long term, by working in a field that is not a "traditional" STEM field. The STEM "crisis" is the result of companies unwilling to compete on salary and benefits; in some cases they think their name alone should be enough to get job applicants lining up. I saw that as an MBA candidate; with major corporations crying they can't fill their interview slots. Well, guess what Sparky, if you offer 50%(or more) less than Wall Street and consulting firms you aren't very attractive. My class had a lot of recovering engineers such as myself; and none went to traditional STEM employers post grad school. Anecdotal information suggests a number didn't out of undergrad as well.
  • I have to say that STEM education in US is not good enough. For instance, kids start to use calculators too early. Using calculator is a great way to simplify many computation tasks. However, it deprives kids the opportunities to THINK and ESTIMATE. Both are crucial for STEM jobs.

    In universities, I have encountered engineering students who did not know what they should really know. Well, they eventually got their degrees. In my opinion, it is much better off for them to pursue jobs in areas other

  • Would you like parallelepiped potatoes with that?

  • by BonThomme (239873) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @10:16AM (#44730569) Homepage

    Companies that cannot hire H1-B's (defense contractors) are paying outsize salaries and lavish benefits to their engineers. At the moment, they can't seem to stop laying them off...

    • by deego (587575)

      >> Companies that cannot hire H1-B's (defense contractors) are paying outsize salaries and lavish benefits to their engineers. At the moment, they can't seem to stop laying them off...

      Side note: If you continue a sentence from your subject line, consider adding three ellipses to the beginning of the continuation. That is, "... Companies that". Otherwise, one might think you are saying quite the opposite of what you actually are.

  • to much push for degrees over other types of learning?

    In some areas like Tech / IT there is to much push for an degree over more hands on learning and the tech / trades schools out there are roped into the degree system. Also in some areas some 2 year tech / trades schools are very good but they get pushed back as they are not 4 year ones even when you can learn a lot more at one.

    For lots of IT / tech / coding jobs some of university are over loaded with theory and they trun out people who can't do the job.

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @04:51PM (#44732821) Homepage Journal

    This has been known for about a decade from studies by the Rand Institute and others. It gets ignored and will continue to get ignored.

    There are two reasons corporations complain about an alleged "shortage". First, a flooded field reduces the wages they have to pay. Second, they don't want to spend time and money on org-specific training, and the bigger the pool of STEM workers, the more likely there is be something close to an instant fit.

    They don't care if many STEMers have to fall by the wayside in their pursuit to flood the market, they just want what they want when they want it and don't want to pay much for it. Corporations are supposed to be selfish, no?

  • by OneAhead (1495535) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:38PM (#44734411)
    TFA presents some interesting data, but is a bit weak on the interpretation front. It's easy to say, "there are multiple times the workers available as there are positions, hence the shortage is a myth". It's much more difficult to answer the question: "then why is everyone making such a big deal out of it". TFA does attempt to give a number of answers (for the lazy readers, scroll down about 2/3 of the article to the paragraph starting with "Clearly, powerful forces"), but leaves me somewhat unconvinced. There must be more to it than that. Could it for instance be that a lot of these STEM graduates have assimilated the knowledge from their textbooks but lack the deep insight and creative talent to use it to excel in a real work situation? I know this is certainly a problem in my field, just like there are so many people who call themselves programmers but can't really program. (Just read Jeff Atwood, Joel Spolsky and co if you don't want to take my word for it.) Could it be that "the graduates get snatched by better-paying jobs in other sectors and the STEM industry doesn't want to raise wages" is also partially "the graduates were found to dull by the STEM industry and got employed in a different sector"?

Mathematics deals exclusively with the relations of concepts to each other without consideration of their relation to experience. -- Albert Einstein