Tuesday, August 02, 2011

"STEM Shortage"? Nope.

Now and then we mention Norm Matloff, a professor of Comp Sci and Stats at UC-Davis.

We mention him because he usually demonstrates that what you hear about science/technology/engineering/math "shortages" in this country is pure horsehockey. There IS no "shortage" of STEM graduates in the US. Here he quotes Prof. Salzmann who spoke at a recent conference:

..international testing that shows students in Shanghai at the top
of the world...[an influential report] finds the deterioration of
America's competitiveness so severe that it is likened to a Category
5 hurricane...It reinforces a common worry over American students'
lackluster international standing compared with those in several
Asian nations and in a handful of small European nations.

We believe that those concerns are overstating and misidentifying
America's challenges in science and engineering, and that they are
missing the real opportunities for improving the nation's education
and work force.

And here's a reminder of the reality at the more practical level:

Our recent analysis of Department of Education data for three decades
followed students from high school to the job market. We found little
in the way of overall change in students' pursuit of science-and-
engineering studies or their entry into those careers over the past
30 years. We found that while a steady proportion of college students
graduated in science and engineering, no more than half of them landed
jobs in a formally defined core science or engineering occupation.

So, given a steady supply, why do companies report difficulty in
finding ideal workers?


(And that begs the question: why, again, is Jeff Immelt moving X-Ray to China?)

The REAL reason for importing STEM graduates is very simple:

As I say in virtually every posting to this e-newsletter, the core of
the H-1B issue is age. Engineers over age 35 are considered too
expensive by employers, both in terms of wages and benefits. While
it's true that H-1B also saves employers in labor expense by enabling
them to hire young H-1Bs more cheaply than young Americans, they reap
even bigger savings by hiring young H-1Bs instead of older Americans.

I cannot overemphasize this point. I've written extensively about it,
but for a couple of quick sound bites, let me cite two concerning Intel:
1. Intel's Craig Barrett, the firm's former CEO who by the way is in
the vanguard of those saying the U.S. doesn't produce enough STEM grads,
once said "the half life of an engineer is only a few years," graphically
illustrating the throwaway nature of labor in the industry. 2.
According to the book Inside Intel, a management consultant hired by
Intel to reduce costs recommended getting rid of older engineers.

Gee, what a shock. /sarcasm

You can find Matloff's work on the issue here: http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/archive

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