STEM education and jobs


Study: There may not be a shortage of American STEM graduates after all
By Jia Lynn Yang
Washington Post, 2013-04-25

If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on in Washington, it’s that the country has a woeful shortage of workers trained in science, technology, engineering and math — what’s referred to as STEM.

President Obama has said that improving STEM education is one of his top priorities. Chief executives regularly come through Washington complaining that they can’t find qualified American workers for openings at their firms that require a science background. And armed with this argument in the debate over immigration policy, lobbyists are pushing hard for more temporary work visas, known as H-1Bs, which they say are needed to make up for the lack of Americans with STEM skills.

But not everyone agrees. A study released Wednesday by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute reinforces what a number of researchers have come to believe: that the STEM worker shortage is a myth.

The EPI study found that the United States has “more than a sufficient supply of workers available to work in STEM occupations.” Basic dynamics of supply and demand would dictate that if there were a domestic labor shortage, wages should have risen. Instead, researchers found, they’ve been flat, with many Americans holding STEM degrees unable to enter the field and a sharply higher share of foreign workers taking jobs in the information technology industry. (IT jobs make up 59 percent of the STEM workforce, according to the study.)


International Students Are 70% of EE Grad Students in U.S.
by Stuart Anderson
Forbes.com, 2013-07-15

International students play an important role at U.S. universities and in the country as a whole, yet they are rarely discussed in the immigration debate. I recently gathered and analyzed data from the National Science Foundation on the number and percentage of international students by field and in individual universities, and also spoke with professors. (Find full National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) report here.)

The most important finding is not what I expected when I started the research. What I found is that graduate students, many of them international students, play a key role in supporting research at universities. And the research is important because it attracts and retains high quality professors at U.S. universities, which in turn helps U.S. students by keeping science and engineering programs at a high level.

And the research itself is important, since universities conduct more than half of all basic research conducted in the United States, according to government data, and that research not only benefits U.S. society and the economy but helps keep U.S. universities and America at the center of both education and innovation around the world.

One question raised by openness towards international students is whether such students “crowd out” Americans who wish to attend college. “The first priority is U.S. citizens, we get as many who qualify as we can,” said Ohio State Professor Stuart Cooper. “I don’t think there is crowding out. There is a lot of pressure to have more U.S. citizens. We try for that. The reality is there are not enough to go around.”

Economists Keith Maskus, Aaditya Mattoo, and Gnanaraj Chellaraj point to data over the last three decades that show: “The number of Ph.D.s granted to undergraduates of U.S. institutions, most of whom were U.S. citizens, did not change much during this period, while there was a substantial growth in the number of foreign bachelor’s graduates obtaining U.S. doctorates. Thus the change in proportion is mostly due to the expansion of Ph.D. programs, with a majority of the new slots being taken for foreign students rather than through substitution.”

Looking at U.S. graduate programs for the years 1982 through 1995, Mark Regets of the National Science Foundation found no evidence that international students displaced U.S. citizens in graduate programs. The data showed increases in international students in a graduate department were associated with increases, not decreases, in the enrollment of U.S. citizens and permanent residents (approximately one additional U.S. student for every three added international students). Rising enrollment for one group associated with enrollment increases for all groups is “a result inconsistent with displacement,” according to Regets.

Here are some of the key findings in the NFAP report: International students account for 70 percent of the full-time graduate students (master’s and Ph.D.s) in electrical engineering. In computer science, international students make up 63 percent of the full-time graduate students. In industrial engineering, economics, chemical engineering, materials engineering and mechanical engineering more than half the full-time graduate students are foreign nationals. The numbers are even higher at some individual colleges, depending on the field.

When companies go to individual campuses they find half to two-thirds or even more of the graduate students are international students. Would it make sense for U.S. companies to ignore such a large pool of talent if they want to compete globally? It is a reasonable question and I think most companies would say it would not make sense to ignore this talent pool. But it is likely the largest contribution international students make is to strengthen U.S. graduate school programs, which helps keep America at the center of research and innovation.

[It's the pipeline, stupid.
The efforts in our public schools have been, for the last few decades,
all about "helping girls to develop their potential"
and "closing the racial gap."
Evidently the potential of girls to be good EEs is less than their potential for the fields they have flocked into,
while those trying to close the racial gap might ask how many scientists has Africa produced,
and whether racism is really the cause of that lack.
Meanwhile, at, say, Fairfax County's Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, for example,
despite the impressive sounding name, math ability only counts for 30% in its admissions,
while its director of admissions is a black woman!!!!
One might wonder what her priorities are: getting women and blacks into the school,
or getting those with the most potential for advanced work in math, science, and technology,
irrespective of race and gender.

As to the problems that educator's emphasis on the needs of girls
have created for boys,
see either the 2001 or 2013 edition of
The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies are Harming Our Young Men
by Christina Hoff Sommers
(note: the 2001 edition had the word "Feminism" instead of "Policies" in the subtitle).
Is the "advantage" of
law and medical schools filled with flocks of young American women
worth the problem (in my view) that
the young American men who could have filled the engineering departments
have either been turned off by
an American educational system that focuses on women's needs
(see the Sommers book for examples of this),
or filtered out by selection criteria at the various levels of education
that focus, in effect, on political correctness rather than merit and
suitability for a scientific or technical career?]

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