A debate is raging over whether or not the US is producing enough science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) talent to fill the jobs needed in the country. Findings in the latest Bayer Facts of Science Education survey – 'The US Stem Workforce Shortage: Myth or Reality?' – indicate that more new Stem jobs are being created at present than new non-Stem jobs. 

The survey polled 150 talent recruiters from some of the largest companies within the US that hire both Stem and non-Stem employees. Some 89% of the recruiters reported that competition is fierce to fill open Stem jobs with four-year Stem degree holders. In addition, 79% of respondents indicated that new hires with two-year and four-year STEM degrees are “as” or “more in demand” for non-Stem jobs than new hires without Stem degrees who have traditionally filled those jobs.

Advertisement

Overall, 55% of the companies said they can find in a timely manner adequate numbers of qualified job candidates. Only 50% can find qualified four-year degree holders in a timely manner.

At least 90% of the talent recruiters surveyed indicated that companies struggling to fill Stem positions believe the problem is due to a shortage of qualified Stem degree candidates with two-year or four-year degrees. “But even for non-Stem jobs, recruiters indicate that it’s easier to teach an engineer how to write than an economist,” reported Jennifer McNelly, president of the Manufacturing Institute during a panel discussion. “Many are looking for Stem workers for those non-Stem jobs.”

Yet, the US education system does not have an adequate number of Stem workers in the pipeline at all levels to fill these jobs. Consequently, new hires with Stem degrees are difficult to find, demand is rising and competition is fierce. More so, unfulfilled Stem jobs are bad for business. “We need to let our children know that success is not just about getting a four-year degree,” stated Ms McNelly.

She said that interest in Stem subjects must begin at the primary school level and also be taught through community colleges. “The goal is to raise the quality of our entry-level workforce,” she added.

Locations in the US that have rapidly grown in popularity due to the shale gas expansion have been attracting an increasing level of Stem talent. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity for people who would have never thought of going to those regions,” said Laurel Rutledge, head of human resources at Bayer MaterialScience. Such demand also adds to the competition to attract Stem workers, however.