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October 29, 2009
The Best Ones Aren't Over Here Any More?
Here's one to get your attention: there's been a lot of arguing (on this blog and others) about the continual talk of shortages of scientists and engineers. That's a little hard to take for the number of people who've been laid off from this industry over the last two or three years and who often are having trouble finding a new position.
A study from Rutgers and Georgetown now says, though, that there is no such shortage. Here's the PDF, so you can check it out for yourself. The intro:
A decline in both the quantity and quality of students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is widely noted in policy reports, the popular press, and by policymakers. Fears of increasing global competition compound the perception that there has been a drop in the supply of high-quality students moving up through the STEM pipeline in the United States. Yet, is there evidence of a long-term decline in the proportion of American students with the relevant training and qualifications to pursue STEM jobs?
In a previous paper, we found that universities in the United States actually graduate many more STEM students than are hired each year, and produce large numbers of top- performing science and math students. In this paper, we explore three major questions: (1) What is the “flow” or attrition rate of STEM students along the high school to career pathway? (2) How does this flow and this attrition rate change from earlier cohorts to current cohorts? (3) What are the changes in quality of STEM students who persist through the STEM pathway?
What they're finding is (again) that there's no shortage of graduates - in fact, quite th opposite, unfortunately for wages and employment. One worrisome thing, though, is that at some point in the mid-to-late 1990s the top-performing students at both the high school and college level began to jump ship from the science/engineering fields. There are several possible explanations, but the one that comes to mind is that students are looking ahead a bit and don't like the prospects that they see and/or are lured by other fields that seem more attractive.
More on this later - for now, here's some commentary over at Science which shows that the arguing has already begun.
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