The Lack of STEM candidates in the Workforce
Due To The Skills, Racial And Gender Gap
Today many policymakers and industry leaders have agreed that the U.S is in the midst of a high-tech talent crisis due to the growing skills, racial and gender gap in the workforce. The U.S is in a race to become a dominant high-tech country amongst other global powers in the international system; However there is a debate and question about whether the U.S will have enough future STEM candidates to propel the country into a global high-tech power. There is an issue of whether the U.S education system is adequately teaching the future generation of students the value of a STEM career and the skills needed to obtain one. Another major issue is the racial and gender opportunity gap within the STEM field which unfortunately begins at a young age; thus dissuading them from pursuing a STEM education. Many employers and educational professionals argue that introducing STEM at an earlier age and educating students about the numerous careers the STEM field has to offer are crucial in preparing them for the workforce. In order to narrow the skills, racial and gender gap there needs to be reforms within the STEM education system as well as an opportunity for making STEM more accessible for racial minorities and women which are both essential to the U.S becoming a thriving high-tech based economy.
According to the study, “Myths and Motives behind STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education and the STEM-Worker Shortage Narrative” researcher Heidi J. Stevenson claims that “the modern STEM crisis can be traced to the 1950s when there was a perceived threat to U.S economic and homeland security by the launch of Sputnik, and fear that the Soviet Union was annually producing almost twice as many more scientists and engineers than the United States.” Thus there has been a “cycle of alarm, boom and bust,” in which “someone or some group sounds the alarm that there is a critical crisis of insufficient numbers of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians and as a result the country is in jeopardy of either national security risk or falling behind economically.”
In order for the U.S to combat the STEM shortage crisis and become a dominant global figure in the STEM industry, there needs to be STEM workplace and educational reforms that include an increase in racial diversity and inclusivity of women. According to the Pell Research Center poll, “Women and Men in STEM Often at Odds Over Workplace Equity,” researchers Cary Funk and Kim Parker concluded based on the results that “The field still remains dominated by white males: The representation of women in computer fields has declined since 1990, while black and Hispanic employees each make up less than 10% of the STEM workforce. Thus, the racial and gender opportunity gap is a significant contributing factor to the low number of racial minorities and women being interested and pursuing STEM careers.
In addition the poll found that “only about 25% of Americans surveyed feel that K-12 STEM education is above average compared to other advanced countries, and only 13% of people with a postgraduate degree in a STEM field feel that it excels.” Furthermore, 55% of Americans surveyed said that “STEM teachers spent too much time meeting state standards and 53% said they spent too little time emphasizing practical applications. Hence, there is a lot of work to be done not only in the STEM curriculum but also on how Americans, in particular racial minorities and women perceive STEM fields and education.
In order to get them more interested in pursuing STEM fields we need to start at an earlier age. According to the survey “2 in 5 Americans Believe the STEM Worker Shortage is at Crisis Levels,” Emerson- a Michigan based technology and engineering company shows that “fewer than 50% of parents say their daughters are encouraged to pursue STEM careers.” Furthermore, in the study “Stumbling on STEM: Why K-12 Education Must Align with the Digital Economy” conducted by Business Roundtable- an association composed of executive officers of American’s leading companies; “80% of U.S High School students are either uninterested or non-proficient in STEM subjects.” Thus, one of the main causes of the U.S STEM crisis is a shortage in talent. The lack of sufficient education in K-12 school systems as well as in universities informing the future generation of students about the value of pursuing STEM careers leads to the candidate pool suffering in quantity as well as quality. This additionally makes it harder for employers to hire STEM candidates with highly specialized skills. In addition it is important for the U.S education system to inform students of all the possible career opportunities STEM has to offer and fight the stigma associated with racial minorities and women working in the STEM field.
Another cause of the U.S STEM shortage crisis is the technical and soft skills gap in the workforce. There are not enough STEM candidates in the workforce that possess the technical and soft skills that employers demand. This ultimately drives companies to move their factories and jobs overseas because American STEM candidates don’t possess the skills required for jobs domestically. Thus the growing STEM skills gap is causing the outsourcing of high-paying technical jobs.
Lastly, due to the advancement of technology over time, there has also been a shift in labor demands. As industries shift towards more automated processes there has become an increasing demand for highly skilled technical labor along with soft skills. While automation will make certain jobs disappear, the need to implement technical and soft skills is essential to maintain automated systems which will thus create new opportunities for high-paying STEM careers if the next generation of STEM candidates learn and possess the skills needed to fill these vacancies. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case for STEM candidates which is shown in the study “Employers Must Redefine STEM to Attract Future Talent,” conducted by Randstad North America- an employment/recruitment agency for temporary and permanent staffing. According to the data released in 2016, “the U.S had roughly 3 million more STEM jobs than it had workers to fill these vacancies.”
Emerson’s 2018 Stem Survey Shows a Need for Stem Education: Emerson US. (2018, August). Retrieved April 3, 2020, from https://www.emerson.com/en-us/news/corporate/2018-stem-survey
Funk, C., & Parker, K. (2019, December 31). Women and Men in STEM Often at Odds Over Workplace Equity. Retrieved April 3, 2020, from https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/01/09/women-and-men-in-stem-often-at-odds-over-workplace-equity/
Ramos, D. (n.d.). employers must redefine STEM to attract future talent, according to new randstad US data. Retrieved April 3, 2020, from https://rlc.randstadusa.com/press-room/press-releases/employers-must-redefine-stem-to-attract-future-talent-according-to-new-randstad-us-data
Stevenson, H. J. (2014). Myths and Motives behind STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education and the STEM-Worker Shortage Narrative. Retrieved April 3, 2020, from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1045838.pdf