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More reasons for doubting the great American science shortage

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Opinion: Where are the jobs for the STEM college grads?
Opinion: Expert says the ones who profit from STEM shortage talk are companies, not job hunters

It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that more than 4 in 5 graduating college seniors this spring don’t have jobs lined up for after the commencement ceremony, according to a recent poll. A lot has been written about the difficulties faced by new college grads, many of whom aren’t working in jobs that are anything like what they had envisioned.

But eyebrows should be lifting over another statistic in the survey by a career networking website: Graduates in the supposedly hot fields of engineering, technology and math were faring no better than the pack.

For years, we have been hearing about the great American STEM shortage (science, technology, engineering, math). The federal government, along with states and local school districts, have been pouring untold millions into upping the number of STEM graduates.

Yet the evidence for a broad-based shortage of graduates in these fields doesn’t appear to exist. There are some narrow shortages, limited to very specific areas of specialization, in certain locations in the country.

I wrote about this in more detail in late February, after attending a talk by Harvard researcher Michael Teitelbaum. And in April, Teitelbaum, who recently published a book on the subject, penned an Op-Ed piece for The Times that more people should read before we swallow pronouncements by Bill Gates and the federal government that the path to a prosperous future lies in pushing more students toward STEM majors and careers. The people made more prosperous by this move appear to be the Gateses of the world — the companies that benefit by having an overabundance of qualified workers.

As I wrote in February:

“The only forces pushing the idea of STEM doom, [Teitelbaum] said, are those that have something to gain from it. Mostly those are STEM employers — the tech industry, for example — that want to pack the labor force with people to suppress wages, he said, as well as lobby for looser immigration laws so that they can bring in less-expensive overseas workers. Joining the chorus are universities that want more funding for science programs, as well as immigration lawyers who see the potential for handling large numbers of work visas.”

It’s not as though 83% of this spring’s college graduates will remain unemployed. Most will find jobs, though in general the unemployment rate for young adults is greater than for the population as a whole. But if the great STEM shortage existed, we should be seeing a significant difference in the hiring numbers for computer and engineering grads, who theoretically would be snapped up by hungry companies long before they don their caps and gowns.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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