It’s Brookings’ Turn to Measure the STEM Workforce
Posted at 9:14 a.m. on July 1, 2014
The past several weeks have brought a couple of reports on STEM workers, and in the ongoing debate over whether there’s a shortage of qualified people to work in the science, tech, engineering and math fields, the Brookings Institution has weighed in.
The report by senior research associate and associate fellow Jonathan Rothwell says there indeed is a shortage. In addition to other sources, the study, released Tuesday, used a database from the company Burning Glass of job postings advertised on company websites.
Among its findings: The median number of days a STEM vacancy was advertised (11 days) was more than twice the median number of days that non-STEM jobs were advertised (5 days) in the first quarter of 2013.
When looking at the average number of days jobs were advertised, STEM openings were advertised for 39 days while non-STEM jobs were advertised for 33 days during that time period.
Again, when assessing the average number of days jobs vacancies were advertised, the report also found that STEM jobs requiring an associate’s or high school-level degree were posted for more days (40 days) than non-STEM jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree (37 days).
“These results suggest that the supply-demand imbalances at the middle education levels are very different for those with STEM skills than those without,” the report states. “At these education levels, those with STEM skills are at a distinct advantage over their non-STEM counterparts.”
The principle finding is that there is a relative shortage of U.S. workers with STEM skills. In other words, STEM skills are in high demand relative to supply, and the problem is especially acute in certain metropolitan areas, where the average vacancy for STEM workers takes months to fill. As a result, workers with STEM knowledge tend to readily find job opportunities, even as large categories of workers with little education or STEM skills compete over a relatively small number of jobs.
The extent to which there is an absolute shortage of STEM skills is harder to determine.
But even with a relative shortage, that means the “already sizable long-term gap in lifetime earnings and unemployment rates between STEM and non-STEM workers” will grow, absent “major changes in training or education policy and practice,” the report states. And that will exacerbate “income inequality generally and inequality across racial/ethnic groups and gender more specifically,” according to the report.