Hearings address surplus of STEM workers in USA

There are official Senate hearings going on right now on the ways that large multinational corporations like Disney are firing relatively well-paid American tech workers and replacing them with workers overseas at much lower rates of compensation. In some cases they use a special visa program designed to hire foreign tech workers if there are no American workers available.

But anybody who claims – as do the heads of Microsoft and ALCOA – that there is a lack of highly-skilled American workers is simply lying. There are lots of highly-trained US STEM grads who cannot find jobs in the fields they were trained in.

Partly that’s because such American STEM grads expect to get paid a living American wage, with benefits and that’s not something that large multinational corporations are fond of paying for any more, except for a privileged few at the very top (like CEOs who make tens or hundreds of millions of dollars per year…).

Here is a quote from the Science magazine article:

At the hearing, titled “The Impact of High-Skilled Immigration on U.S. Workers,” subcommittee chair Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) kept the discussion focused on the moves by a number of U.S. companies to replace long-serving American workers with workers on H-1B skilled guest worker visas and to force the laid-off Americans to train their replacements. As Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) explained, “Congress intended the H-1B program to allow an employer to hire a skilled foreign worker in a specialized occupation when the employer could not find an American worker with needed skills and abilities,” and for many years the debate has focused on employers’ claims of a STEM skills shortage. But, Sessions said, “the sad reality is that not only is there not a shortage of exceptionally qualified U.S. workers, but across the country thousands of U.S. workers are being replaced by foreign labor.” As H-1B expert Ron Hira of Howard University in Washington, D.C., testified, “over the past year, in addition to the Southern California Edison case, a number of other cases—including Disney, Northeast Utilities, the Fossil Group, Catalina Marketing, New York Life, Hertz, Toys R Us, and I could keep going on—were highlighted by the press. But these were only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There are many more cases out there.” Testimony by labor force expert Hal Salzman of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, in New Jersey added that “all evidence and events suggest [that] the substitution of guest workers for U.S. workers is accelerating.”

Shortage of US STEM workers? High-Tech Companies Think Otherwise

In fact,

“Although employers often claim in public statements that shortages of domestic talent prevent them from finding workers, they tell a different story in filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Salzman noted. “Accenture states that restrictions on guest worker supply would result in ‘new or higher minimum salary requirements and increased costs.’ Another firm says they would have to ‘replace existing offshore resources with local resources, namely U.S. workers, at higher wages.’ That is, without the congressional discount for guest workers, the highly profitable IT industry would have to hire more U.S. workers and pay them more than guest workers.”

Read this article in the prestigious magazine Science:


Published in: on March 5, 2016 at 8:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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Is Math Necessary?

This is worth reading. It’s a fact that we do NOT have a shortage of trained STEM grads, and it’s also true that very, very few people will ever use any concepts from advanced math in their work or in their day to day lives.
(As a former math teacher, I rejoice when I find a way to use relatively advanced math, eg algebra 2 or above, in the real world – which shows you that it doesn’t happen every day, even for someone who’s actively looking for it.)
So why do we require every single HS grad to master whatever the current Algebra 2 curriculum consists of?
via Mike Simpson  (remove)
In his new book The Math Myth: And Other STEM Delusions, political scientist Andrew Hacker proposes replacing algebra II and calculus in the high schoo …
Published in: on March 3, 2016 at 3:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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Is there really a STEM shortage? And do we want to emulate China or Korea?

You have all heard the mantra that we don’t have enough young people studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and that is the reason that so many Americans are doing poorly.  If you agree with this call, this article in the New York Review of Books might make you think about the subject differently.

A few important points:

(1) The United States graduates way more engineers and scientists every year than can ever hope to get a job in their fields.

(2) As a result, large percentages of STEM graduates do not work in their chosen field

(3) As part of their profit-maximization strategy, tech giants like Microsoft nonetheless encourage this glut of STEM applicants while at the same time complaining that they need to hire foreigners on H1B visas, who earn on average about 57% of what a similarly-qualified American worker makes.

(4) While many, many American high school students fully plan to go into a STEM field in college, many are discouraged by poor teaching at the college level — even the instructors at elite STEM universities like CalTech get low marks from their students. And many of the instructors are, in fact, themselves temporary workers, neither full professors nor having any hope of tenure…

(5) The article also looks at Korean and Chinese school systems. It is true that they are producing tremendous test-takers and lots of engineers. But do we really want our children attending day and night classes every night until 10 pm, and what would we do with all of those unemployed future engineers anyway?

A few excerpts from the article, which reviews several books and documents:

“A 2014 study by the National Science Board found that of 19.5 million holders of degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, only 5.4 million were working in those fields, and a good question is what they do instead. The Center for Economic Policy and Research, tracing graduates from 2010 through 2014, discovered that 28 percent of engineers and 38 percent of computer scientists were either unemployed or holding jobs that did not need their training

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in its latest Occupational Outlook Handbook, forecasts that by 2022 the economy will have 22,700 nonacademic openings for physicists. Yet during the preceding decade 49,700 people will have graduated with physics degrees. The anomaly is that those urging students toward STEM studies are not pressing employers to ensure that the jobs will be there. And as we shall see, the employers often turn to foreign workers for the jobs they have to fill.

“Among the high school seniors who took the ACT and SAT tests last year, fully 23 percent said that they intended to major in mathematics, computer science, engineering, or a physical or natural science. And those contemplating programs related to health made up another 19 percent. But something evidently happens between their freshman and senior years. By graduation, the number of students who start in STEM fields falls by a third and in health by a half. In engineering, of every one hundred who start, only fifty-five make it to a degree.

Published in: on June 28, 2015 at 10:44 pm  Comments (3)  
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