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February 6, 2016

It’s Brookings’ Turn to Measure the STEM Workforce

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.”

Rothwell concludes:

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.

  • aniptofar

    ONE, that means that STEM graduate’s salaries are rising… AND THEY ARE NOT.

    TWO, STEM grads have higher requirements, therefore a longer period to hire makes PERFECT sense.

    THREE, if they are looking to hire foreigners rather than a qualified US citizen, it would also make sense as that process takes longer.

    IF this is a foundation study, it is built on quicksand. What a complete crock.

    • johnhaskell

      The explanation offered by the authors as to why wages are not increasing is rather weak; that it can take several years for wages to adjust:

      First, that’s rather ambiguous. Second, we’ve been hearing about the skills gap problem since 2011 when, even during a weak economic recovery, the number of firms reporting problems filling positions shot up:

      So, it’s been a few years and wages are not spiking.

      Also, on page 7 of the study, the author notes that “many job vacancies fill almost immediately,” with 44% of jobs ads coming down within 1 day, and 50% coming down within 1 week.

      • aniptofar

        I think it’s very obvious they had a goal in writing the study and tried to mold the “conclusions” to suit. It seems the entire beltway is pro immigration/pro amnesty. But i guess there’s a lot of big money pushing the idea and the beltway hasn’t cared about the rest of the country for decades.

        I take away two things from the manpower group graph. There is no way the US is that different from the rest of the world in variability. The method of measurements must be different. Two, it shows we have the same problem filling positions on avg as the rest of the world so importation shouldn’t make sense.

        What bothers me the most is the left and right wing orgs with these obviously faulty studies get press.

  • Paul McKelvey

    In the Austin, Texas, area there is a solid demand for STEM jobs. My volunteer work includes training mature unemployed people in Microsoft Office computer applications. Our happy problem is that our students are often hired before they can receive their certificate of accomplishment.

    As in years past, the floor for minimum competency continues to rise. Schools that recognize this and incorporate the minimum competencies in their classes will continue to have more successful students.

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