Survey Highlights Shortage of Job Applicants With a STEM Background

Chalkboard--Facts-And-Myths-50156069By Alyssa Morones for Education Week

The latest edition of an annual survey on science education is titled: “U.S. STEM Workforce Shortage—Myth or Reality?” The answer, the survey concludes, is it’s reality, with American companies reporting a lack of candidates with STEM qualifications to fill a growing number of jobs in the area.

Bayer’s Facts of Science Education survey, conducted since 1995, gauges public opinion each year on a different topic related to U.S. science education. The latest survey is focused on the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workforce. The survey asked 150 talent recruiters from Fortune 1000 Companies to determine if a shortage does, in fact, exist.

The survey found that more STEM jobs are being created today than non-STEM jobs, regardless of whether the company has a STEM focus or not. The predictions for job creation 10 years from now anticipate this trend will continue. Additionally, Fortune 1000 companies prefer to hire STEM degree graduates, even for those jobs traditionally considered non-STEM.

Despite STEM job creation, only half the companies polled said they are able to find adequate numbers of qualified job candidates. Unfilled jobs have negative effects on company business and revenue, according to respondents.

The survey comes at a time when many leaders in business, education, and politics have stressed the need to better prepare young people for careers in the STEM fields, and to take steps to get a more diverse group of students excited about the field.

The survey results will be discussed at an Oct. 22 panel discussion in downtown co-sponsored by Change the Equation, a coalition of business executives working to improve STEM improve STEM learning. The event will feature keynote speaker Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the world’s first African-American female astronaut. The discussion will incorporate a wide variety of panelists, working in everything from manufacturing to economics to human resources, in order to get a 360 degree perspective of the issue and survey results.

And perspective is important, since the question of whether the United States lacks STEM-qualified job candidates has sparked some debate. A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute suggests that the shortage is a myth. But Linda Rosen, the chief executive officer of Change the Equation made the case in an article for the Huffington Post for why this shortage is no myth.

In 2011, the Bayer survey focused on female student preparedness for STEM studies when entering college. The 2010 survey asked female and minority chemists and chemical engineers to speak about diversity and underrepresentation in STEM, finding that K-12 schools failed to adequately engage and nurture these groups’ pursuit of careers in STEM fields.

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