IT Reshoring News

July 26, 2014

America Stumbles on STEM Job Opportunities

If America has risen to the challenge of providing quality STEM education, what has it done about providing those newly-minted STEM workers with jobs? The outlook here is disappointingly bad.
Last month we wondered about whether the U.S. was taking steps to rebuild its IT workforce as a result of two decades of offshoring.

We asked two questions:
  1. Do we have the STEM education to train a strong enough workforce?
  2. Do we have the jobs for the STEM workforce we do train?
Last month we determined that the answer to #1 is definitely Yes.  But while the U.S. is well-equipped to train STEM workers, its outlook on STEM job opportunities is grim.

A report from the Center of Immigration Studies has the following facts about the “STEM Shortage”:
  • Only one-third of native-born Americans with an undergraduate STEM degree holding a job actually work in a STEM occupation.
  • Despite the economic downturn, Census Bureau data show that, between 2007 and 2012, about 700,000 new immigrants who have STEM degrees were allowed to settle in the country, yet at the same time, total STEM employment grew by only about 500,000.
  • Using the most common definition of STEM jobs, total STEM employment in 2012 was 5.3 million workers (immigrant and native), but there are 12.1 million STEM degree holders (immigrant and native).
There isn’t a shortage of STEM workers; what we have is a shortage of STEM jobs!

Michael Teitelbaum, a Senior Research Associate at the Harvard Law School, wrote a book called "Falling Behind" which documents his studies on STEM talent vs. job openings.  According to a Forbes article discussing the STEM worker situation, America "produces far more science and engineering graduates annually than there are S&E job openings—the only disagreement is whether it is 100 percent or 200 percent more."

Why do we have this discrepancy?  As our previous Reshoring News pieces have argued, there are two primary reasons:
  1. The H1B Trend
  2. Outsourcing STEM-related jobs to overseas firms
We've commented on these reasons a few times: in August (Critics Railing Against Tech Giants’ H1B Lobbying) and September (Is the "tech skills gap" due to lack to talent...or are employers too picky?) of last year.

Meanwhile offshoring continues.  And the H1B Trend continues full-force, despite a growing backlash ("Backlash stirs in US against foreign worker H-1B visas" – Mercury News, June 7, 2014).  Businesses import guest workers to replace skilled U.S. STEM workers at much lower wages.

A perfect example of this is happening now – Microsoft is laying off 18,000 people, while continuing to press for more H1B visas.  Most of the laid-off employees will come from recently-acquired Nokia, but over 5,000 of the cuts will come from U.S. departments like software testing.

The problem is not that we’re training too many young people in STEM.  It’s that the businesses who could use them are not hiring them.