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Do We Really Have a Shortage of STEM Workers? 491

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the only-if-you're-cheap dept.
New pweidema writes "Michael Teitelbaum, a senior research associate in the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School who has been writing a book on the subject of the current state of employment in science and technology fields, recently spoke at an Education Writers Association Conference about the 'STEM Worker Shortage: Does It Exist and Is Education to Blame?' The National Science Board's biennial book, Science and Engineering Indicators , consistently finds that the U.S. produces many more STEM graduates than the workforce can absorb. Meanwhile, employers say managers are struggling to find qualified workers in STEM fields. What explains these apparently contradictory trends? And as the shortage debate rages, what do we know about the pipeline of STEM-talented students from kindergarten to college, and what happens to them in the job market? An article LA Times summarizes his findings of his findings on the STEM hype: '...some of it comes from the country’s longtime cycle of waxing and waning interest in science; attention seems to focus on science every 10 to 15 years before slacking off. The only forces pushing the idea of STEM doom, he said, are those that have something to gain from it. Mostly those are STEM employers ... that want to pack the labor force with people to suppress wages ... Joining the chorus are universities that want more funding for science programs...'"
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Do We Really Have a Shortage of STEM Workers?

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  • by hubang (692671) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @09:56AM (#46344959)
    No. We do not have a shortage. The US has been shedding STEM jobs, not gaining unfilled ones. For almost 3 decades at this point.

    There is a vested interest in driving down wages for those few jobs that remain however.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:03AM (#46345027)

      Mod parent up!

      This is exactly what is going on. There isn't a shortage of STEM workers at all. There is a shortage of STEM workers willing to work for minimum wage. What companies want is H1-B factories. Cheap foreign labor. I don't know who will buy their products when nobody has a high enough paying job to afford them though.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:15AM (#46345125)

        What companies want is H1-B factories. Cheap foreign labor.

        Yes, that is what they want, but what they don't realize is that they actually get if they got what they ask for.
        If I import cheap labor that is exactly what I get, cheap labor.
        Expensive labor exists overseas too. It is expensive because they know what they are doing and are worth the extra cost. What you get when you import cheap labor is the ones who aren't competitive in their native market.

        • With 100+ immigrant class of Visas H1-B is a drop in the bucket.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        • by FacePlant (19134) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @11:15AM (#46345763)

          You didn't say anything about this explicitly, so I'll add it.
          The people who study balance sheets, and decide whether tr not to risk their money on your company (either in the form of equity or loans), have apparently all decided that cheap labor is a universal good, and profits that come at the expense of squeezing them out of your labor employees, rather than from increased sales, are also markers of good management.

          The effects of hiring the cheap labor (and the overall lesser skill levels that come with it) are not felt for several quarters, and since everything is all about this quarter, hiring twice the labor for two thirds the cost looks good on the current balance sheet. Plus they get to inflate their work force numbers. Since the goal of every manager is to grow head count and budget, and since nobody can objectively judge how efficiently you ran your department, more head count is better. Especially when you can't grow your budget, and especially when you can shrink you budget at the same time.

          The a couple of years later, when your company starts to implode, you get your golden parachute, and the company becomes somebody else's short term problem.

        • by Drethon (1445051) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:24PM (#46347373)
          Yep, I spent a few years of my career fixing stuff that came back from over seas. Cheap labor has been pretty good job security for me.
      • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:49AM (#46345441)

        This is exactly what is going on.

        Except that it is not. There are currently about two million practicing engineers in the USA, and that number is growing by about 70,000 per year. So we are not "shedding" STEM jobs. The unemployment rate for computer professionals and engineers is about 3% [bls.gov] compared to an overall rate of over 7%.

        I apologize for interrupting this whine-fest with actual facts.

        • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @12:24PM (#46346683)

          If you provide specific data, why not cite it? Here are the numbers pulled from the total January 2014 unemployment rate column of your link:
          - Overall unemployment is 7.0% exactly, which you got right
          - The closest category I could find to science professions has a 3.1% unemployment rate
          - Computer and mathematical professionals have a 2.3% unemployment rate
          - Engineers have a 3.8% unemployment rate; the 3% you cited was for a much broader class of professions

          All of those rates are lower than they were last year, suggesting that demand is picking up.

          The NSPE indicates that the number of licensed engineers is around 450,000 [nspe.org] as of 2010, and that only about 20% of graduates in relevant majors actually go on to become licensed engineers. Their rough estimates are that there are currently about 2.2 million people in the workforce who graduated with a relevant degree, but by no means would all 2.2 million of those people be considered practicing engineers. In fact, the link indicates that 80% of them never got licensed and have likely moved on to another field.

          You also only cited numbers for the E in STEM, then made generalizations about STEM as a whole, which is a bit hand-wavey of you. The article I linked did the reverse of that (as have I, inasmuch as I referenced information from the article), since they talked about T and E when they lumped computer science in with engineering for the 2.2 million number, but then used that number to make specific claims about the number of licensed engineers, despite the fact that P.E. licensure isn't relevant to the vast majority of computer science graduates.

          All in all, the numbers from all of these sources--flawed as they are--seem to suggest that demand for STEM field practitioners is far outstripping the available supply (as indicated by extremely low unemployment rates and extremely low rates of new supply becoming available). As such, while we may not be shedding jobs, we do appear to have a shortage. I make no claims about whether we're shedding jobs or not, since no one in this thread has provided sufficient facts to make their case, though if we are shedding jobs, we must also be shedding new supply at an even faster rate, given that unemployment rates have gone down for all STEM fields over the course of the last year.

          • All of those rates are lower than they were last year, suggesting that demand is picking up.

            It may be suggested, but a closer look tells a different story. Those numbers are based on unemployment rolls. Congress ended the EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) on December 31, so that took about 5 million people off the list. Many other long-term unemployed people either gave up looking or exhausted regular benefits (which is all that's left). So the real story is not that there are more jobs, but less people looking.

    • Not just in the US (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's interesting that in the Netherlands, tech companies have been telling the government that there is a shortage of about 30.000 IT workers. However, if you're actually looking for a job and trawl the internet for vacancies, you'll quickly conclude that there are about 500 vacancies tops.
      There are plenty of qualified, motivated and intelligent IT professionals. If companies have such a big shortage of IT workers, they should just publish the vacancies, hire the best who apply and shut the fuck up.

      • It's interesting that in the Netherlands, tech companies have been telling the government that there is a shortage of about 30.000 IT workers. However, if you're actually looking for a job and trawl the internet for vacancies, you'll quickly conclude that there are about 500 vacancies tops.

        That's because cheap foreign laborers are lazy and only possess 1/60 the productivity of a Dutch person.[/sarcasm]

      • Like most things, telling the truth would not let them lower the prevailing wages.

        So they do what they do best and lie and lie some more.

        As seen in the film "The Corporation" it often acts like a sociopath/psychopath,
        and one of those traits is lying alot, much like politicians, lawyers, and bank$ters.

    • Until they can get the average pay as low as the plutocrats want it lying will be
      ONE of the tools they use to get the pay lowered for all jobs.

      Allowing millions of illegal immigrants in is another way, and the 100+ different types
      of immigrant Visa is another, the H1-B gets a lot of coverage, but the L1 has NO LIMIT...

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • by Wansu (846)

      No. We do not have a shortage. The US has been shedding STEM jobs, not gaining unfilled ones. For almost 3 decades at this point.

      We do not have a shortage and really never have had a shortage. But this is never going to be "settled" because it's all about cheap labor and always has been.

    • Endless books one picks up will state, like that fraudster Barry Lynn at (Pew and Peterson Foundation supported) New America Foundation, that "Jack Welch finally began to offshore jobs in the late 1990s, suggesting that Welch, while he was transforming GE into a hedge fund and private equity firm, hadn't begun the trend of offshoring engineering, programming, and scientific R&D (along with manufacturing) jobs in the early and mid 1980s.

      Just take a look at pp. 139-140 of The Billionaire's Apprentice,
  • No (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @09:57AM (#46344971)

    We have a shortage of employers willing to pay market rates.

  • by epiphani (254981) <epiphani.dal@net> on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @09:58AM (#46344981)

    There's no conspiracy to push down wages - these are real complaints. The same problem exists in many fields - there's a difference between good people and qualified people. As a hiring manager, when I complain about finding qualified people, I mean people that can show, in an interview, that they're open to and reasonably good at learning. I've hired highschool dropouts (and am one myself) and PhD grads.

    We need people that are in STEM because they WANT to be in STEM. Trying to get more people educated in a field by saying "we need more people with STEM degrees!" is like saying I need more people who know how to run. I don't want someone who knows how to run, I want someone who loves running.

    • I WANT to be in STEM, but that doesn't seem to do me any good.
    • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:15AM (#46345121)

      Raising how much you pay is a great way to get people who want to work for you.

      • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:50AM (#46345465)

        and not treating them like 'resources' to be laid off the very moment the financials look less rosy, THAT will also keep engineers working for you and loyal.

        I just recently went thru a major layoff and it was cold and cruel. they fired most of the american workers (silicon valley area) and every single asian and indian worker was left untouched. also, all the ones let go were of 'older age'.

        stop treating us like disposables and maybe you'll find it easier to retain people. instead, its a revolving door where you bring people in, refuse to train them and then walk them out the moment things get hard, business-wise.

        oh, and right after we fired 1/3 of our staff, they hired another person. yes, indian. I rest my case.

    • I see two problems with your statement. The first is that you seem to be defining "qualified" in a way that is not quantifiable, which means that no one else can ever discover whether or not a particular person meets your definition of "qualified". As a result of that, we have to take your assertion that you cannot find someone who is qualified and need to bring in an immigrant to do the job (who just happens to be willing to work for less than a U.S. citizen with similar quantifiable qualifications). The s
      • by lgw (121541)

        Another possibility is that you need to hire people and train them yourself so that they have the qualifications you need.

        Did you read his post? Like every company I've ever worked for, he's looking for people who are "smart and willing to learn".

        In software development, for entry level positions, you already have to give up the notion that a new hire will have any useful technical skills. You look for people who demonstrate that they can code at all and who seem interested in the work and eager to learn.

        And it is hard to find people (which may or may not indicate a shortage): a software-related degree is only marginally pre

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:21AM (#46345159)

      The main problem we have is that HR keeps adding stupid bullshit to out want-ads. We submit something with "Must be familiar with principles of scientific computer and numerical analysis in Matlab. May include some C/C++, java, fortran, and/or ada." And they translate it to 5 years experience in each of those fields. No. We don;t need you to be able to write programs in those language on day 1, but might need you to tweak a function or filter or maybe move stuff from fortran (legacy) to matlab. It's not weird fortran. It's loops and math. The kind of shit anyone who is familiar with any procedural language can figure out. But HR has their own bullshit going on (mostly justification for their existence) and so, actively perverts our job postings. Hell, we wanted to hire a writer/editor to help fix our reports and they bumped the requirement to include a BS in EE simply because our division is binned as an engineering one. WTF? I've talked to people from other businesses around here and it seems to be universal.

      THE POINT IS:
      We do not have a shortage of good people in the country. What we have is an excess of stupidity in the system to link people who want $X with people who can provide $X.

    • by Amtiskaw (591171) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:37AM (#46345311)

      Nonsense. You can easily hire top people, you just have to be willing to pay them enough. Whatever you're offering, keep doubling it and see if you're still not getting great candidates walking in the door. This is what Netflix do: They routinely offer salaries at significantly above market rate, and they have far less trouble hiring software engineers than the other Silicon Valley firms who complain about a lack of talent.

      Now, you may say, "but we can't afford to offer salaries that high!" and maybe that's true, but it means that the candidates you want are out of your price range, not that they're not out there. For companies that can't pay, the solution is obvious: Encourage as many people as possible to enter STEM fields, thus increasing the pool of candidates, which in turn increases the smaller pool of elite candidates. Greater supply and equal demand causes a drop in price, and companies an now hire better talent for mediocre wages.

      This equation is the only reason by tech companies have been attaching themselves to these ludicrous campaigns to teach everybody to code. Not because they really believe their some social benefit to every school kid being able to make their own smartphone app, but because they want to increase their profits by lowering their wage bill. This is hardly wild speculation, given we know for a fact that tech CEOs spent most of the 2000s illegally conspiring to lower wages via mutal non-recruitment agreements: http://pando.com/2014/01/23/th... [pando.com]

    • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:50AM (#46345461)

      There's no conspiracy to push down wages - these are real complaints. The same problem exists in many fields - there's a difference between good people and qualified people. As a hiring manager, when I complain about finding qualified people, I mean people that can show, in an interview, that they're open to and reasonably good at learning.

      (Emphasis mine.)

      Firstly -- and I'm not trying to be sarcastic or snarky here -- do you want qualified people that are "open to and reasonably good at learning," or people "that can show, in an interview, that they're open to and reasonably good at learning"? Because these aren't necessarily the same thing. You're looking for someone who interviews well, probably because you don't have that many other good methods of readily determining his qualifications. But that can be a problem, because a good interviewee isn't necessarily a good on the job learner. A worst-case scenario is hiring a guy that sounds good but is just a great salesman while overlooking a guy who would do a great job but doesn't present himself as well as the other guy.

      Now one can certainly respond that candidates for jobs should be able to present themselves well. Being able to "sell" oneself obviously works. But that's solving a different problem. It's solving the "I didn't get hired" problem from the candidate's POV, not the "I can't find a good candidate" problem that HR has.

      Also, you say you're not trying to push down wages. But of course you are. Not maliciously. You just don't want to spend more than you have to, do you? I don't go to the grocery store looking to needlessly spend more than I have to on fruit. But on the other hand, you're not usually gonna get top quality produce at bargain prices. You pay your money and make your choice.

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @11:07AM (#46345639)

      I'm a postdoc, which puts me about as far down the narrow end of the qualifications wedge as you can get. I'm still competing with about 10 other postdocs (and never you mind all the underqualified noise) for every position I go for, corporate or academic. That is not a ratio that speaks of a shortage of employable candidates.

      Believe me, anyone who reaches this stage really, really wants to be in STEM. The jobs just aren't there, unless you want to go into quantitative analysis at a bank. They just never stop hiring.

      • I'm genuinely curious: What position are you looking for? Are you trying to continue to do research?

        When I spent time at a university it was a common complaint that a lot of really really intelligent advanced degree holders couldn't find positions in academia or the corporate side of things. Maybe it was just my field but I observed that there are a lot more jobs for Computer Engineers with B.S. and M.S. degrees than there are for Computer Engineers with Eng.D or Ph.Ds. It actually seemed easier to get a
    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @11:16AM (#46345785) Homepage Journal

      " I don't want someone who knows how to run, I want someone who loves running."
      code for "I want people to work a bunch of hours for free and then toss them as soon as they have a person priority."

    • by nomadic (141991)
      "Trying to get more people educated in a field by saying "we need more people with STEM degrees!" is like saying I need more people who know how to run. I don't want someone who knows how to run, I want someone who loves running." And I want a billion dollars, a private island, and a private masseuse. I'm not going to complain when I don't get it, though. What you should reasonably expect when you hire is someone who will do the job you pay them reasonably well and be a net asset to your company; most pe
  • Yeah, there are some unqualified people out there, but I find it hard to believe that the vast majority of job seekers in STEM can't be "re-trained" in similar sub fields of STEM. For example, why can't someone who has solid SQL knowledge be trained as a DBA or a Java programmer?
    • by sandytaru (1158959) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:04AM (#46345037) Journal
      Because nobody wants to do on the job training any more. And chances are if a company is hiring a DBA, it's because they are short a DBA. If there is anyone else on the database team, they're going to be struggling to do the work of two people and won't have time to train anyone else.

      Companies want someone who has already been trained to do the job they are hiring for. They want someone who can hit the ground running.
      • by YahoKa (577942)
        There is some truth to that, but that's not the whole story. There are many good people out there, but you will see people from CS or Computer Eng backgrounds that understand surprisingly little about any part of a computer or software (even from good schools ... sometimes I can't fathom how they passed). And at least 80% of the time someone writes that they know SQL or Unix on their resume, they can't name even a few basic commands.
        • But I feel that is true in any field.

          I would also contend that you're looking in all the wrong places. Posting on Monster or Dice will get you all kinds of people.

        • I hired in "computer graphics" for many years. The post-interview test (50% weed out based on interview) was "transform this program that draws an empty box to draw a sine wave." 90% failure rate. I hired some of the failures and used them for other things with great success. I "helped" some of the near misses and gave them a trial run at a job that needed graphics programming skills - that was always a mistake.

      • by DudeTheMath (522264) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:12AM (#46345091) Homepage

        This (no mod points today). I'm a dynamite C programmer, some small experience in JS & C#, and I know how to design an rdb schema and write a stored procedure, but I don't have "4 years experience with jdb and Netbeans". Whatevs: give me three weeks with actual stuff to do, and you probably couldn't tell the difference, but it's darned hard to get hired.

      • Because nobody wants to do on the job training any more.

        and

        Companies want someone who has already been trained to do the job they are hiring for. They want someone who can hit the ground running.

        But then, companies can't complain that there are "no qualified candidates." Saying that you don't offer any training, are a victim of poor planning and that there are no unqualified candidates are two contradictory statements.

  • by Anarchy24 (964386) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @09:59AM (#46344993) Homepage
    Colleges teach high-level theories and models and UMLs and chess board Java CS projects - useless to 99.9% of tech employers. So many compsci students I see come into class half-asleep, barely pay attention in class, and don't seem to think much about it once they leave the classroom. They think they're going to make a ton of money as .NET developers by using drag-and-drop software like Visual Studio. I am looking to hire 3 student programmers right now, and even amongst our best candidates, they can't write a simple 4-line script to output a file to screen. They are very, very smart students, but they don't have any skills! Employers need workers with practical experience, and in general WANT workers who have lots of experience with specific software. Colleges don't teach software suites, they teach theories. Programming and information technology should be taught as vocations... high-paying, of course.
    • Perhaps you should try using it some time, unless you think Microsoft have written an application that can automatically generate all the business logic for every single organisation that will ever exist.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      Why aren't you hiring students and allowing them to gain some practical experience before they graduate? This was a pretty common practice when I was going to school. Did this somehow go out of style due to shifting corporate culture?

      Are students no longer doing internships? Are corporations no longer offering them?

    • Colleges don't teach software suites, they teach theories. Programming and information technology should be taught as vocations... high-paying, of course.

      I can't teach your employees how to work in your company. I don't work in your industry or with your tools.

      Universities are not outsourced training programs for private companies. They are places of education. If you want trained employees, train them yourself you cheapskate. The most we can do is make them more trainable.

  • by YahoKa (577942) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @09:59AM (#46344997)
    I've you've ever hired for a stem job, you will know: there are plenty of people with the right degree out there. Finding one with a degree who understands even half of what they learned is another.
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @11:31AM (#46345971)

      After a while, I simply started to ignore degrees. Especially because I need people with a very specific skill set that is hardly, if at all, taught at schools.

      My solution today is to post short "problems" with our job description. Your degree doesn't matter too much, your previous experience matters a little, your answer to my problem is what really matters, though. Of course there are always the wise guys that solve it with Google, but usually the phone interview already takes care of that (because that's where you get your next problem tossed at you).

      With this strategy I now have assembled a small but very good team of people, most of whom don't have any kind of university degree at all. But they're good at what they're doing.

      That's what matters to me. Not what sheet of paper decorates their walls.

  • by johnlcallaway (165670) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:06AM (#46345051)

    ... is the word 'qualified'. I've never interviewed so many stupid smart people ever in my life the last 10 years. People who just got out of college and expect to pull down 6 figure salaries for work they've never done before and have no proof of how good they could be. And people that think they are much better than they really are, but couldn't code their way out of a paper bag. My prior job hired a self-described 'Java programmer' that wrote some of the most horrid code I've ever seen, it didn't even come close to working. Yet he sold himself as a Java expert to the company owner (who had no IT skills), and somehow convinced him to hire him. The only thing it appeared he knew how to do was talk a good talk and use SSIS. Shortly after I left, he managed to completely obliterate a very important production database. That they had to contract with me to recover.

    I now work with some really good developers because the company is choosy about who they hire. But time and time again, they lament about a shortage out there of really good developers. They get plenty of resumes, just no one worth hiring.

    And attitudes ... such a bunch of spoiled babies. It's not just skills either, it's a good work ethic. Sorry .. we do have a dress code where we work. If someone can't manage to wear clean clothes that include long pants and a collared shirt every day because it's a little too restraining, they can't work here. We pay enough, I know they can afford it If someone can't manage to understand that we have standards and security requirements and they can't just write whatever they want and shove it into production, they can't work here.

    So I guess if someone wants mediocrity or less, there is plenty to choose from.

    • My employer simply has a six-month training wage (with a 50% raise to "normal" after the training period). Either you get what we do in those six months, or you really never will, but he has absolutely no problem with on-the-job training.

    • by wayne_t (668999) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:27AM (#46345237)

      Having been on both sides, interviewer and interviewee in the past few years there are problems on both sides. And, it also depends on what you mean by qualified.

      For example, NFL teams complain that there is a lack of qualified people who can throw a football even though every college team in the country has 3 or 4 on the roster. However, there is only one Peyton, Brady, or Brees. There is a reason they get paid an insane amount of money and it's because once you've narrowed the field to the best 32 guys in the country, there is still a big difference in quality.

      However, the difference between superstar programmer and basically competent programmer is probably on the range of 5 to 10K at most on average. What companies mean when they say "qualified" is frequently superstar. They want 10+ years of experience in 10 different technologies and would prefer that you be under 30 and fairly cheap. They don't want to pay the equivalent of Brady or Brees salary (relatively not literally). They want people who do it because they "love" it or have passion for it.

      Where I work, for programmers and engineers (P.E. types), not only do you need to be better than minimally competent in your technical field you also need to be able to manage people and do business development. How many people do you know who are average to above in a technical area, management, and marketing? And yes, we complain we can't find "qualified" people. I keep pointing out that every company would like to have the people we want and there just isn't that many to go around. In the end, coaching or management is taking a group of guys and leading them to perform such that the team is greater than the sum of the parts. It's easier if you have all stars at every position, but that is almost never going to happen.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @11:24AM (#46345887)

      You get what you pay for. Seriously. The beef I have with some requirements is that they want the engineering equivalent of star lawyers and Donald-Trump-level managers, but pay in the lower 5 digits. That's not going to meet up.

      Of course there are unreasonable expectations on both sides of the fence, where some college drop out wants 6 figures and a car on company expense because he knows how to spell TCP/IP without too many errors, but in my experience the unreasonable expectations are rather on the company's side than on the employee's.

      The main problem I've encountered is that companies want university level programmers and pay them like unskilled labor. And that's simply not going to work out. My budget per programmer was (in the beginning) somewhere around 40k a year. Do you think you can get highly skilled programmers with a very specific subset of skills (in this case security, which by itself is already hard to find and right now is near impossible to find) for that? I don't.

      We're now closer to double that and we still have troubles finding good people. Oh, we could get all sorts of code monkeys who will of course write code that works (with security holes to shove planets through, of course), who have no idea of QA or even the simplest kind of security protocol and who think procedures only exist as part of their code. No problem, for a fraction of even the 40k. But I simply don't need them!

      I need good people, and it took a while to get the upper ones to finally understand that money does the talking here. Yes, of course I want people who also "love" their work. Seriously, you don't get old in this kind of biz if you don't like what you do. But these people are highly skilled and highly sought after. And, bluntly, if you pay me 40k and someone else pays 75k to do the same thing, I really wish to hear your reason why I should take your job for 40k.

    • by geek (5680) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @12:21PM (#46346639)

      Sorry .. we do have a dress code where we work. If someone can't manage to wear clean clothes that include long pants and a collared shirt every day because it's a little too restraining, they can't work here.

      Fuck you and your dress code. I've dealt with shit bags like you for 20 years. I don't meet with customers. There is no reason why I cant wear shorts to work. You're a pretentious douche bag. Listen here, people don't like being fucking zombies, walking single file into their cubicle farm to be barked at by a fuckwad like you about fucking TPS reports. Assholes like you walk around the office looking like fucking peacocks stinking up the office with your god-awful cologne and hitting on every chick in the office until she quits and files a sexual harassment suit.

      I've done just fine for decades in my shorts and t-shirts when its 105 degrees outside. You want to wear a suit and tie in that kind of weather, be my fucking guest. Just don't sit next to me with your BO stink mixed with cheap cologne. I sincerely hope an employee slaps this piss out of you for being such an anal fucking douche bag. You would deserve it.

  • by mikeg22 (601691) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:13AM (#46345099)
    My company is looking for experienced developers in the Denver area without much luck. They may be out there but they seem to be behind a wall of recruiters or otherwise unavailable due to not wanting to jump from their current jobs. I think the unemployment rate for .net developers here is something like 2%.

    Yes, we need more. A common Slashdot response is that the employers aren't paying enough to attract the talent. Well, if the talent isn't worth the money in terms of bang for buck for the company, then I guess that's that, employer doesn't get a new employee and the employee doesn't get the job. Its unfortunate for both sides at that point, the economics just don't add up.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:20AM (#46345149)

      if you can't find the talent you're looking for at the price you want, then the problem is with you and your price - not the talent. if you're not getting enough "bang for your buck" then you have either grossly overestimated the "bang" you're going to find or you've grossly underestimated the "buck" that you're going to need to spend.

      i can't go car shopping and complain that no one will sell me a car for ten bucks, then say "oh well i guess i don't get a car and you don't get to sell me a car!"

      if the talent "isn't worth the money" then i guess you don't really need it.

      • by mikeg22 (601691)
        Well, you clearly missed the point.

        If I got shopping for a car because having a car will save me $10,000 a year, and only find cars on sale for $20,000, then I'm not going to buy a car.
    • by Njovich (553857) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:40AM (#46345331)

      "Well, if the talent isn't worth the money in terms of bang for buck for the company, then I guess that's that, employer doesn't get a new employee and the employee doesn't get the job. Its unfortunate for both sides at that point"

      Given that you said yourself that the employees are nearly universally employed already (for a salary they apparently accepted), I would say that from the side of the employee this is not an unfortunate situation at all.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @11:13AM (#46345731)

      An employee has to win the company more than he costs it. Else, the company is better off without him. That's a given. But otoh, the employee has to gain more than his expenses or taking the job would be a loss for him either.

      To take a job, I must first of all be able to afford it. I have to move there, I have to get an apartment there and I have to take into account my running costs. And all that has to be compensated by the wage I will receive or me moving there is simply not viable.

      If you cannot pay more, and workers can't survive on the wage you can offer, then you will not find a new worker. But saying that there is a shortage is simply not true in that case. Even if there were hundred times more workers looking for a job, if that job doesn't pay enough to sustain me, I cannot take it, and neither can anyone else.

      You, in turn, cannot pay more, I understand that. The worker has to get you more than he costs. But understand that the problem is not that there are too few people around, the problem is rather that the circumstances don't allow supply and demand to meet.

    • by Bigbutt (65939) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @11:38AM (#46346095) Homepage Journal

      Tough call. I work a bit north of Denver so I'm not in the south near the Tech Center. When looking for a job at the Tech Center 6 years ago (IBM sucks let me just say), where most of the technical jobs are, the offers were for around 75k. When I asked for a little wiggle room since I was making about 92k at the time plus a job at the Tech Center would mean having to drive through Denver to get to the job (or move of course), but the companies were pretty firm. I found a new job in my area for 95k am now making over 6 figures (haven't checked my W2 yet but around that). I'm pretty happy where I am even though I think I had 3 raises in the past 6 years, not even cost of living increases really.

      And just so you know, I don't mind driving. I commuted from Stafford VA to Columbia MD for a year to work at Johns Hopkins APL and lived in the DC metro area for over 30 years :)

      [John]

  • the real shortage (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kcmastrpc (2818817) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:15AM (#46345119)
    are the budgets. if x company wants to hire qualified developers, they could - at a premium. instead, they bargain shop in an effort to save 20-30k a year per developer, and as a result bring on board sub-par developers that wreck their product and leave them in worse condition had they just spent the money to begin with.

    the cycle is somewhat humorous to me, and I laugh at every job posting I see looking for `rockstars` at 55-65k a year when other companies in the area are offering up 65-85k for the same job. (caveat, I don't work in the valley or in NY - so wages aren't on par with those markets)
  • They (employers) want people with a STEM degree and paid experience to go along with it, but they only want to pay those people wages commensurate with someone who's fresh out of college.

  • Fake job bro (Score:5, Informative)

    by fastgriz (1052034) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:26AM (#46345223)
    I work in a small town with a very small number of high tech employers. The place across town posted a job with extremely specific job requirements that happened to align perfectly with my resume... I applied for the job and immediately received a back channel request to withdraw my application because the job opening was posted for a temporary foreign worker they had who had to be given a permanent position or go home... Apparently they were required to post the job and could only hire her if there were no qualified applicants who were US citizens... It's a small town, I didn't want to burn bridges, and already had a good job so I withdrew but I wonder how often this happens where the applicant for the fake job does not get a heads up and has his time wasted interviewing for a fake job opening...
  • I have noted a significant shortage in management who understand the work they oversee.

    But be that as it may, even with good management at the mid level, accountants & asshole finance guys run the show and will do anything to their staff to save money on next quarter's balance sheet.

    American business has bought into the hype game 100%....until we take a flamethrower to all that bullshit we will see problems like this....this is a **symptom** of a problem

  • The summary frames this as a false conundrum.

    ...consistently finds that the U.S. produces many more STEM graduates than the workforce can absorb. Meanwhile, employers say managers are struggling to find qualified workers in STEM fields. What explains these apparently contradictory trends?

    There is no contradiction between those two statements. Perhaps reading comprehension is what we are lacking. Let's remove the politics by replacing STEM graduates with oranges and see what happens:

    1. The US produces more oranges than the citizens can eat.
    2. Citizens are struggling to find quality oranges.
    Conclusion: We produce lots of poor quality oranges.

    Now, this is not to say that we don't really need more good quality oranges. But if you forcibly increas

  • by IgnorantMotherFucker (3394481) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:29AM (#46345255) Homepage

    What they teach in a Computer Science degree are some of the more common or interesting algorithms, algorithm analysis and design, some operating system theory, say how to write a mouse driver as did my friend at UC Santa Cruz.

    So you get out on the workforce looking for your first job, and you see that the craigslist "sof / qa / dba" section wants someone who knows PHP, Javascript and MySQL.

    So you buy some books and learn those, maybe you get the job, but eventually you go looking for another job. They want C# .Net, Microsoft Internet Information Server and SQL Server.

    I now have a vast number of technical books, and a hard time getting a job because I've never written an Android App.

    How about on-the-job training? There were at least at one time some companies that did it. That's how I learned Java, Python, Smalltalk, Postscript and UNIX Sysadmin. But on the job training is very uncommon these days, because employers want "someone who can hit the ground running".

    If you paid your new hire to spend his or her first week reading an O'Reilly book, then the next month paired up with a more experienced coder, you'd find that there is no shortage of workers, rather there is a surplus.

  • by philip.levis (1997004) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:29AM (#46345261)
    STEM covers a wide range of fields; while there is a shortage of computer scientists and engineers (mostly due to the fact that many non-CS engineers go into software), there is an oversupply of biologists and other sciences. http://csl.stanford.edu/~pal/e... [stanford.edu]
  • Class Wars (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jim Sadler (3430529) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:31AM (#46345277)
    Good employees are almost always available if an employer is really willing to pay. Whether it is an IT professional or a feild worker picking oranges it distills down to the same issue. If farmers paid enough there would be American laborers who would instantly leap to picking oranges. And if technology oriented companies are really willing to pay then the best workers will stand in line to get hired. Two issues exist. The first is a class warfare type of situation where the bosses feel that they are superior and employees are just convenient dirt to be misued at will. Only a shallow pretence of caring about employees is made. The second issue is that many businesses have no reason to exist and actually simply can not pay good wages for quality workers. In my area restaurants are a huge example. We have far too many restaurants that stand almost elbow to elbow, Most go broke or survive on a thread. They get by on the hope that one day they will become popular and capture the market. Employees is such businesses only do well by accident and in fact the owners may become enraged to find that a worler does well while they dread their businesses survival odds. Politics enters in when borders are allowed to be easy to cross or work permits for foreigners are common. And the tax payer is the chump who pays for it all. Picture an American who can not survive on wages picking fruit being replaced by an illegal immigrant. The American ends up on unemployment, or disability or welfare. the farmer hires the illegal worker for one third the pay and the tax payer pays for the American worker who is idled.
  • I've been asked this same question in interviews twice:

    write a C function to reverse a C-string in place.

    I expect most slashbots can supply a correct answer, but a good friend of mine who has many years of experience as a visual basic coder, and who does know some basic C, is unable to answer the question.

    When I supplied my answer, the company owner said "I see you have an eye for efficiency". I found that puzzling. Perhaps that's why I got the job.

    I've interviewed with google a few times. I won't tell y

    • Very true indeed.

      But what I noticed is that degrees mean jack when it comes to basic things like this. I've had people with degrees in CS and whatnot who were great in theory. But when it came to coating that theory in code, most suddenly drew a blank.

      Likewise, when I was working at a company that deals with malware analysis, we were looking for programmers with at least a bit of an ASM background. What we got were mostly people with a lot of experience in, say, VB and JS. Eventually I designed a simple que

  • by slapout (93640)

    "the U.S. produces many more STEM graduates than the workforce can absorb. Meanwhile, employers say managers are struggling to find qualified workers in STEM fields"

    Perhaps the graduates are unable to do the work.

  • The reason is simply that it pays better to move into BA. Seriously, take a look at your earning opportunities with a STEM degree, then compare to what a BA can make. And finally compare the workload.

    Even I had to move away from my beloved engineering and into management because it was just effin' impossible to get ahead otherwise. I now make a lot more money with a lot less work on my shoulders. If I had a BA degree instead of a STEM one, maybe I would've gotten here 10 years ago.

  • by Bugler412 (2610815) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:47AM (#46345419)
    I tend to believe that the problem is that using "STEM" as a definition is far too broad to have meaningful discussion. Many of the out of work STEM people are victims of changing technology or simply dumb luck in choosing a field that went dry when new tech appeared, studying the wrong tools or languages or techniques and not adapting to a market shift. The schools are partially to blame for sometimes teaching out of date material, also to blame would be the inevitable market overshoot of a "boom" field attracting more workers than it can absorb resulting in a glut of talent in that field for some period of time.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:54AM (#46345499) Homepage

    If 500 seniors graduate in CS from a typical state university system in a year, but only 100 can actually function as an intern or junior developer upon graduation then you have 400 people who should probably have never made it past year two of their program. In my alma mater's case, we were weighted heavily toward testing because the alternative was that only about 30% of our CS students would graduate. Our valedictorian, an excellent test taker, couldn't even teach herself Python when she had a whole week or two to learn it and write up a presentation on it. Yet with a 2.5 GPA I managed to do Smalltalk. Go figure...

    A similar thing is happening with managers. A lot of the PMPs I've worked with are no better or in fact worse than the non-PMP managers I've dealt with.

  • by Daniel Hoffmann (2902427) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:54AM (#46345503)

    Without the right amount of culture (a computer and incentive to try and create stuff with it) while still in infancy you most likely won't have a person that:
    A: Wants to program for a living.
    B: Is good at it.

    The same is true for many other areas, electrical engineers that dismantle radios as kids for example.

    So it is not enough to try to get high school kids into STEM bachelors, you need to have the right culture while growing up to make a good professional. That is one (of many) reasons why woman are underrepresented in STEM fields, they are not encouraged at a young age to do this type of activity.

  • Regional Crisis (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EXTomar (78739) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:56AM (#46345521)

    There is not a national STEM problem but there are places with very local and very acute problems with finding enough people for the work available. For multiple reasons and factors most of those STEM style jobs left for elsewhere but the need for scientists and engineers didn't from places like Idaho and Tennessee.

    I fully expect you can't walk through a crowed mall in Seattle or San Fransisco without bumping into someone who is STEM educated. I also fully expect that there are people who would do anything for another lab scientist or engineer on staff in a company located in Omaha, Nebraska.

  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @10:57AM (#46345535)

    The economist says there's never a shortage, just a shortage at a given price. E.g., Robert R. Prechter, Jr: "In a free market, shortages are impossible; there is only a price. Rubies and Picassos are scarce, but there's never a shortage of them. You can buy all you want any day of the week. Just pay the price." [mises.org] You can have all you want if you're willing to pay more.

  • S != T != E != M (Score:5, Insightful)

    by itamblyn (867415) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @11:06AM (#46345633) Homepage
    A large part of the problem stems (heh :) from the fact that the disciplines are not interchangeable. Policy makers typically do not have backgrounds in _any_ of the fields, so they see little distinction between a computer science student, software engineer, math, physics, etc. While we can all agree that those disciplines are technical in nature, the fact is you do not learn the same set of skills. When employers say then need more STEM grads, they aren't looking for a generic chemistry or biology student. They want a C++ coder, or they want someone that can build an antenna, or someone that can operate a mass spec. The learning outcomes from different STEM degrees are vastly different. Notwithstanding issues related to wages, H1-B etc, the acronym itself is a big part of the problem.
  • by kenh (9056) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @11:42AM (#46346145) Homepage Journal

    The National Science Board's biennial book, Science and Engineering Indicators , consistently finds that the U.S. produces many more STEM graduates than the workforce can absorb. Meanwhile, employers say managers are struggling to find qualified workers in STEM fields. What explains these apparently contradictory trends?

    Notice that word "qualified"?

    Merely possessing a STEM degree does not automatically mean one is prepared to step into a STEM job.

    In an effort to win federal and state money, colleges and universities (as well as public schools) are racing to implement ANYTHING that looks like STEM programs, lowering the criteria to participate, and building false hopes in these students that despite their remedial math and science classes, they were going to be "Engineers" when they graduate...

  • by hackus (159037) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @12:19PM (#46346607) Homepage

    Yes, we do have a shortage of STEM candidates in the country....

    However, what they are not telling you is, that the shortage is due to the fact nobody who has that sort of background wants to work for $24K a year with food stamp supplemental income, like WalMart employees.

    It is so hard to find those sorts of people.

  • by erp_consultant (2614861) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @03:07PM (#46348955)

    "Meanwhile, employers say managers are struggling to find qualified workers in STEM fields" - at the wages they are willing to pay and with the qualifications they require. This notion that we don't have enough STEM workers is ridiculous. The reason that Employers want more H1-B workers is that H1-B workers don't have the same employment protections that US Citizens have and will work for less money. Period.

    As I see it, here are the problems:

    1) Unrealistic expectations on the part of Employers - Have you seen some of these job postings? They want the applicant to know everything under the Sun and the starting salary is 50K. Good luck with that.
    2) Resume screening programs/HR people - Often, good candidates are excluded from even applying for a job unless they meet each and every requirement. Sometimes the rejection is done via software and sometimes it's someone in HR that simply doesn't understand what the requirements mean and their relative importance to the position. The whole system encourages lying and gaming in order to get the interview.
    3) The insistence that candidates have a 4 year degree - I'm not against higher education but I've been in the business long enough to know that lots of jobs in IT can be done by someone that does not have a 4 year degree, as long as they get the proper training and mentoring. Heck, even people with 4 year degrees need training and mentoring. This notion that people without 4 year degrees are incapable of learning IT skills is elitist and absurd.

    Start addressing some of these issues and the STEM "shortage" will disappear.

    Higher Ed, by the way, loves this idea of giving out more H1-B visas. Why? Because it will attract more foreign students to their schools if the Student can get a Green Card the day they graduate. And foreign students just happen to pay about double the tuition that an in-state, US Citizen would pay for exactly the same courses.

    One thing I have learned working with big Universities over the years - they love money as much as the greedy private sector capitalists that they love to deride.

    So Big Business and Big Education promote the idea of STEM shortage as a means to an end. The US STEM worker gets left out in the cold.

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