Join 3,523 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The STEM Crisis is a Myth
September 2, 2013 2:59 PM   Subscribe

Forget the dire predictions of a looming shortfall of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians
posted by double block and bleed (68 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Maybe I should have studied history or literature like I wanted to in the first place.
posted by double block and bleed at 3:04 PM on September 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


Well, *duh*. There's so not-a-shortage that this degreed-and-licensed-professional engineer is working as a fuckin' brake mechanic.
posted by notsnot at 3:04 PM on September 2, 2013 [23 favorites]


Our nation's news media may understand STEM sells, but does a large enough percentage of our nation's youth understand stem cells? One reporter says 'no.'
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:06 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Don't worry, federal budget cuts will free up lots of scientists and engineers.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 3:10 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The real cure here is to make sure our youth have less ambition, less hope for their future. That way they won't seek out fulfilling jobs and be crushed when they aren't part of the 30% that actually get them.
posted by Halogenhat at 3:21 PM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Maybe I should have studied history or literature like I wanted to in the first place" got me thinking as a follow up to a dinner conversation I just had with friends. So where do Ph.D.'s (History)go when they leave academe? Probably not tenure track, or even academe, but not as grim as one might expect if you do not plan on being a historian,
posted by rmhsinc at 3:30 PM on September 2, 2013


I generally take the "shortage of people in ____________ field" pronouncements with a big grain of salt. I remember hearing about the looming shortage of people in my field when I graduated with my undergrad nearly 2 decades ago (and my graduate degree a few years later). I managed to get the good solid position I have now through willingness to move far away from my family to a region that's considered geographically undesirable, and taking part time and/or temporary contracts for several years. Nowadays, even doing those things is no guarantee a young person will eventually end up with a good career-related position. I feel very lucky, even though I did face some tough periods, and I had to make some choices that weren't ideal. At least I am financially secure and have a job I like that is related to my education and career goals. And there is still the very real possibility I'll be laid off in the future, before I'm in a position to retire.

We keep hearing about the looming shortage of workers in all sorts of fields, but the jobs just don't seem to be there--there are more people graduating with degrees and professional qualifications or training, and there are fewer positions. Also, more people are staying in their positions past 65 (my province got rid of mandatory retirement age a few years ago, and many people have kept working for financial reasons).

What are young people supposed to do?
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:38 PM on September 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


But lo and behold, we are terribly short on poststructuralist literary critics!
posted by spitbull at 3:42 PM on September 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


Join raiding parties and loot hikers?
posted by The Whelk at 3:42 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm finding great work in the field of welding spikes to dune buggies!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:46 PM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


People in most professions are smart enough to know that "shortage" means "you're overpaid and have too much job security." I was listening to a show on NPR recently where a doctor, asked about a shortage of MDs, deflected the question and started talking about how the real shortage was in nursing; his nurse co-panelist countered by changing the subject altogether. A software engineer probably would have said, "Why yes, there is a shortage of people with my smarts and skills, and the few of us that there are make serious money. I bet you wish you'd gone to prom with me now."
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:49 PM on September 2, 2013 [27 favorites]


Dean Baker has been talking about this forever. There's not a shortage of STEM workers. There's a shortage of STEM workers willing to work for the wages that companies want to pay them.
posted by cthuljew at 3:53 PM on September 2, 2013 [47 favorites]


"STEM" is too broad a category to usefully say anything about a shortage or lack thereof.

It does seem like right now there is a shortage of well-trained computer scientists who enjoy programming. And a surplus of just about every other category. There's also (as cthuljew notes) a surplus of employers with unreasonable demands who want to pay less than the prevailing wage. In this regard, I'd like to point out that I have both a unicorn shortage and a sailboat shortage.
posted by pmb at 3:54 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was thinking about posting this. Spectrum is such a great magazine, it's fantastic they have it up on the web now for non-IEEE members to read. It's some of the best science reporting around.

As for the meat of the article, part of the issue is that inherent to working in STEM is specialization, sometimes to an insane degree. So you can both thousands of unfilled jobs and thousands of unemployed people at the same time because there's a mismatch in the details.

Part of the problem is definitely that employers are cheap - raise wages and you'd induce people to get the appropriate training. Or better yet, actually train people. But neither of those two issues is unique to STEM - employers lave jobs unfilled, complain to the government to subsidize training at taxpayer expense and simultaneously expect productivity increases from the rest of their staff.

For my part I look forward to the next 8 years of my career in software, until I turn 50... at which point I don't expect to get treated much better than a piece of shit. Not sure exactly what my plan to deal with that is going to be.
posted by GuyZero at 3:59 PM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


The fact that there are no qualified professionals available at the prices you would prefer to pay does not mean that there is a shortage, not even a little.
posted by mhoye at 4:08 PM on September 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


I am a MSc biochemist with 4 years of protein purification and molecular biology experience during the course of both undergraduate and graduate independent research (thesis work).

I cannot find a job that is willing to pay much more than $40k a year and I'm seeing my CS and IT friends walk into $50k jobs out of uni.

There's a STEM crisis alright, a crisis of management and unrealistic expectations.
posted by Slackermagee at 4:12 PM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


That, and undergraduates in all the science disciplines are being churned out at an alarming rate given the market, sequestration, the Big Crunch, and general downsizing.
posted by Slackermagee at 4:13 PM on September 2, 2013


Slackermagee Programming is the hot, sexy thing right now. If you can write code (and, in general, if you can show it with a bunch of GitHub contributions), you can get a job writing code for any of thousands of seed-funded startup companies. The bubble's probably going to burst on that inside of a decade, though.
posted by SansPoint at 4:18 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is the most important thing in the article: "Rather than spending our scarce resources on ending a mythical STEM shortage, we should figure out how to make all children literate in the sciences, technology, and the arts to give them the best foundation to pursue a career and then transition to new ones." And also to make them better citizens.
posted by monotreme at 4:19 PM on September 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


The article doesn't really touch on what I've always suspected is the root of the apparent perpetual STEM shortage / STEM surplus paradox, which is demographics. Companies want to employ people with between (WAG) 2 and 10 years of experience. Less than that, and the engineer probably doesn't know what they're doing yet; more than that, and they start asking for higher pay, stable careers, a 40-hour work week, and so on. In terms of skill, a typical large employer wants a large base of people with just enough skill and enthusiasm to take direction, and a much, much smaller number of people with enough knowledge and experience to give direction.

Of course, that's not a sustainable distribution. You'll end up with employers perpetually grumbling about the lack of new hires, and a huge number of people outside of the desired band either unemployed or moving to other fields.

This theory doesn't have any numbers behind it; I was hoping the Spectrum article would dig more into demographics and I could see whether it holds water.
posted by hattifattener at 4:22 PM on September 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


Dean Baker has been talking about this forever.

I don't know how any layperson filters out economic propaganda for the wealthy w/out reading Baker's Beat The Press blog.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 4:33 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Dean Baker has been talking about this forever.

Baker actually used to be uncharacteristically uninformed on this issue, writing about how "doctors, lawyers and engineers" didn't have to worry about the global competition that was driving down the wages of manufacturing workers. He seems to have gotten a clue recently.

For my part I look forward to the next 8 years of my career in software, until I turn 50... at which point I don't expect to get treated much better than a piece of shit.

I think a lot of the hype is programmers saying, "I'm making this much already, and I'm only 22!" They never complete the thought: "By the time I'm 50, I'll be making as much as, um, as much as...?"
posted by Ralston McTodd at 4:39 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, when people can't find qualified workers at any price, there's a shortage. Otherwise, there's just a need to pay more.
posted by Ickster at 4:40 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Y'all bring up another point, which I've found in my interviews (and "pre-interviews"). There are a lot of places that want ten years' general experience, and two or three years doing the exact thing that the position entails...but want to pay less than I made fresh out of college.

One place I've interviewed at, they've hired and let go three different people since I first interviewed. Each time I talk to the HR lady, she tries to recall why they didn't look closer at me the last time. They want a Professional Engineer stamp at Costco (not knocking Costco - for what it is, i.e. not engineering) wages.
posted by notsnot at 4:41 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


The STEM crisis is that employees in the field aren't organized like doctors or lawyers and they're ripe for having their pay slashed, with the help of H1-B visas and the like.

Every professional engineering organization should be principally dedicated to figuring out ways for its members to avoid a wage race to the bottom.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 4:42 PM on September 2, 2013 [16 favorites]


Oh, and I know there's a difference between and relative and an absolute shortage, but that's the exact kind of mistake the headlines are making when they write about the need to graduate a gazillion more STEM majors.
posted by Ickster at 4:45 PM on September 2, 2013


Also, the often missed connection with higher ed is important.

Instead of companies investing in skilled labor by sinking cost in the early years of a person's career and then benefiting from the productive asset on the back end, this responsibility has been outsourced to individuals who double down on expensive debt and hope they've bought into the right career.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 4:47 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Aren't these unemployed types supposed to go into the garage and invent stuff and get rich? Like the guys who founded Gray Matter?
posted by IndigoJones at 4:51 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, when people can't find qualified workers at any price, there's a shortage. Otherwise, there's just a need to pay more.

I've made a lot of job offers over my career (semiconductor and materials industry in Silicon Valley) and I have NEVER had an offer rejected because somebody chose to remain unemployed rather than take the offer. If an offer I made was too low, it was because the candidate had another offer that was higher.

I think the real problem here is specialization. I find it hard to hire certain types of scientist, but it's because I'm searching inside a vast filed for a very narrow specialization. Is there a shortage of 'scientists', maybe not, but definitely a shortage of the particular micro-flavor I'm looking for. As it mentions in the article, the hot specializations move change rapidly, it is very easy to miss the bus. So you can absolutely be unable to find a qualified worker at any price, while there's still a lot of other folks unemployed, because that word "qualified" is pretty specific.
posted by Long Way To Go at 4:56 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The STEM crisis is that employees in the field aren't organized like doctors or lawyers and they're ripe for having their pay slashed, with the help of H1-B visas and the like.

A lot of STEM people (especially Engineers, but I've seen it elsewhere) are pretty much convinced that their specific skills equal general (and irreplaceable) competence. This gets in the way of organizing because there's a lot of sense that a failure to get a job is the fault of the job-seeker and not a rigged market. They don't see outsourcing asaproblem because they believe they are irreplaceable and have trouble with the idea that management would cripple a healthy company for one quarter's windfall. So, I fear that, by the time organizing looks good to engineers, it will be far too late.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:59 PM on September 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


I have NEVER had an offer rejected because somebody chose to remain unemployed rather than take the offer.

Probably you're not making offers at the margins in the semiconductor and materials industry in Silicon Valley. Or maybe you are and your prospective employees lied to you in order to signal that your offer should've been higher.

I know people who've turned down an engineering position and decided to continue with their job search b/c an offer was too low. This is not a unicorn.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 5:05 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Long Way To Go: " while there's still a lot of other folks unemployed, because that word "qualified" is pretty specific."

Well, in my world, (which admittedly, is pretty low level on the technical scale), when the number one criterium for "qualified" is "minimum 2000 hours experience" on a program that's been out six months, you kinda lose faith that anyone is qualified for anything.
posted by notsnot at 5:06 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I touched on this in a thread earlier this week, but it's pretty simple. If the labor pool were desperately short, then wages wouldn't be fucking stagnant.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:06 PM on September 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


There is obviously a CEO shortage.
posted by humanfont at 5:15 PM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


I won't argue, but this feels a little like the "What was the point? There was no Millennium Bug issue" argument.
//Hint: There would have been, had no one did anything about it.

More people will be using more technology (tech builds on tech) - ergo, the demand may not have started yet.

Someone I'm hoping someone (xkcd?) may do a "What if we've become more tech-savvy and was there is no need?" cartoon
posted by Dub at 5:42 PM on September 2, 2013


Aside from all the "duh wages would be higher if there was a real shortage", I think this part of TFA is really important:
There is indeed a shortage—a STEM knowledge shortage. To fill that shortage, you don’t necessarily need a college or university degree in a STEM discipline, but you do need to learn those subjects, and learn them well, from childhood until you head off to college or get a job. Improving everyone’s STEM skills would clearly be good for the workforce and for people’s employment prospects, for public policy debates, and for everyday tasks like balancing checkbooks and calculating risks. And, of course, when science, math, and engineering are taught well, they engage students’ intellectual curiosity about the world and how it works.
posted by RedOrGreen at 5:55 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, are there any fields that need people aside from programming? So far Metafilter, personal experience, and documentaries have told me we don't need more of:

Library Sciences
Engineers
Chemists
Anything to do with the liberal arts (English, History, etc)
Lawyers
Possibly doctors and nurses
Physics majors
Trades (Well we do need them, but it is impossible to get an apprenticeship these days as all the companies would rather higher from overseas then spend money training)

What we do need (But won't for much longer if people keep going into it):
Computer programmers (Hey, when we get enough of these does it mean we can go back to real programming, instead of hacking web stuff onto the desktop?)
PhD in economics (if some blog article I read is true)

I've got to say, I don't think that we need as many programmers as we have surplus in EVERYTHING ELSE. I mean, its like, nothing needs people, except for some fields that are obviously in a boom right now, and are known for working people to their limit (I don't know if it is true in all fields, but I keep hearing about people programming for equity, or for terrible pay and doing 60 hour weeks and such).

I wonder if this is a result of us trying to make things more efficient by removing as many jobs as possible: I mean, there are basically no secretaries anymore, when everyone used to have a secretary pool plus a bunch of private secretaries. No middle class households have maids or servants anymore.
Also, from what I understand, and I could be wrong, we've got a higher precentage of people involved in non-household, non-farming jobs.
I'm wondering if this is a temporary thing while we sort out what to do with all these extra people, or if we just have more people now than work for them to do?
posted by Canageek at 5:59 PM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


So, are there any fields that need people aside from programming?

Skilled sales reps. Skilled project managers.

Develop a reputation for excellence (or even competence) in either of those fields and employers will be beating down your door.
posted by 256 at 6:08 PM on September 2, 2013


What we do need, US-centric edition: nurses and personal aides to take care of the aging boomer population.
posted by RedOrGreen at 6:08 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Grandma Got STEM
posted by homunculus at 6:13 PM on September 2, 2013


I'd go into geriatric sports medicine if I had to do it all again
posted by thelonius at 6:13 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The absolute shortage of doctors is arguable, but the shortage of primary care doctors in rural areas is a healthcare crisis. Yes, it is in part because loans for medical school cause new doctors to feel pressured to specialize, but it is also because the sort of people who are able to go to medical school are not the sort of people who desire to move to rural Georgia and be primary practice doctors.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:22 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Couldn't possibly have anything to do with the absolutely mindless Kafkaesque soul destroying and random residency process, nope. Lets make everybody train in NYC because that's where the residency programs are, and then wail and rend our flesh when graduates don't immediately pack up and move across the country for what could be the fourth time in a decade.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 6:52 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


A lot of STEM people (especially Engineers, but I've seen it elsewhere) are pretty much convinced that their specific skills equal general (and irreplaceable) competence.

That's been my experience. I taught hundreds of engineers (engineering ethics) for several years when I was a graduate student at Ohio State. Almost every student had taken a required economics class, but not a single one had been introduced to the idea that H1-B visas might depress incomes in their field. They mostly thought as you say, and I believe their ignorance is partially an educational failure.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 7:01 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


What we do need, US-centric edition: nurses and personal aides to take care of the aging boomer population.

NB: the work of medical paraprofessionals like CNAs is arduous and poorly compensated. It's like working as a minimum wage shelf stocker at a supermarket, except you get to deal with bodily fluids and heave around people with mobility issues.
posted by Nomyte at 7:03 PM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


That's been my experience. I taught hundreds of engineers...

There may not be an enormous amount of value in judging a profession's knowledge by its undergrads. For what it's worth I was a professional engineer for over ten years before moving in to programming, and everyone I am in contact with is keenly aware that outsourcing and our local equivalent of H1-Bs are affecting wages.

That said, I do always tremendously enjoy reading broad-brushed opinions of engineers on metafilter.
posted by markr at 7:24 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, pro tip, most of the "nurses" you see in a doctor's office or, let's be honest, a lot of hospitals, are not licensed nurses. They're getting a smidge over minimum wage and may not have any education past high school and a six week for-profit online program run by Kaplan.

/insert America, Fuck Yeah theme song
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 7:25 PM on September 2, 2013


I think the real problem here is specialization. I find it hard to hire certain types of scientist, but it's because I'm searching inside a vast filed for a very narrow specialization. Is there a shortage of 'scientists', maybe not, but definitely a shortage of the particular micro-flavor I'm looking for. As it mentions in the article, the hot specializations move change rapidly, it is very easy to miss the bus. So you can absolutely be unable to find a qualified worker at any price, while there's still a lot of other folks unemployed, because that word "qualified" is pretty specific.

but you're just saying: "my industry isn't structured to train people to get the skills we need. we want someone else to train our potential employees and then we will cherry pick the ones we want at the price we want. "
posted by ennui.bz at 8:26 PM on September 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Whatever, you can have years of experience coding in C# but they'll throw the "not qualified enough" around anyway.
posted by hellojed at 8:28 PM on September 2, 2013


but you're just saying: "my industry isn't structured to train people to get the skills we need. we want someone else to train our potential employees and then we will cherry pick the ones we want at the price we want. "

But this is pretty much true of every employment sector in America these days.
posted by GuyZero at 8:35 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the real problem here is specialization. I find it hard to hire certain types of scientist, but it's because I'm searching inside a vast filed for a very narrow specialization. Is there a shortage of 'scientists', maybe not, but definitely a shortage of the particular micro-flavor I'm looking for. As it mentions in the article, the hot specializations move change rapidly, it is very easy to miss the bus. So you can absolutely be unable to find a qualified worker at any price, while there's still a lot of other folks unemployed, because that word "qualified" is pretty specific.

but you're just saying: "my industry isn't structured to train people to get the skills we need. we want someone else to train our potential employees and then we will cherry pick the ones we want at the price we want. "


One of the really weird things about doing an industry job search as a PhD scientist -- which my husband is in the middle of at the moment -- is that coming from an academic environment you are used to the general assumption that if there is a skill you need to finish your experiment, well, you'll just learn it. Whereas industry jobs seem to be working from the opposite assumption, that if you've been doing HPLC for the last five years but with a different company's software it will just be, like, impossibly overwhelmingly difficult for you to learn to analyze their data.
posted by gerstle at 9:10 PM on September 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm wondering if this is a temporary thing while we sort out what to do with all these extra people, or if we just have more people now than work for them to do?

That's pretty much it: technology has eliminated a LOT of jobs and humans continue to have sex without birth control. Unfortunately, we haven't been working on the "start colonies in space" problem, so we're fucked with tons of surplus people and not enough jobs.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:19 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


As an employer I completely fail to understand why it's my responsibility to train you. As an Engineer I never felt entitled to training from my employer - which is not to say I didn't take full advantage if any was available.

Engineers live in a fast paced world, technology changes. Essentially all the technology I learned in school has been obsolete for decades. All through my career I've had to learn new skills - frankly this is one of the best reasons to be an engineer - it never gets old. I'm not special - this is just what good engineers do if they want to stay relevant and employable.

So when I hear whining that employers have a responsibility to train - all I hear is laziness and entitlement.
posted by Long Way To Go at 9:58 PM on September 2, 2013


Here's the thing with training. As an employer you either pay for it with increased salary thus off setting the cost of the employee's education or you can hire someone cheaper and give them some of that training on the job.

Now I realize the system has gone all topsy turvy and employers want to have their cake and eat it too, but you can't expect a system to continue to work where getting a 40-50k job takes over 100k in education. At some point that system will correct itself, although many various forces are putting the brakes on that inevitable correction. On the job training can really be a steal for employers if they do it right. Take someone bright, but not particularly skilled and give them highly specialized training designed exactly for your needs. You'll likely keep them for years longer than their educated counterparts and at a lower salary. They'll be heavily invested in the company, thus less likely to leave and because they have such specialized skills, they will have fewer options at other companies. Sure it isn't fool proof, you'll get a lot of idiots who won't be a fit. It takes time and money to train people, but I bet in a lot of industries it would really pay off.
posted by whoaali at 10:13 PM on September 2, 2013


The real elephant in the room is global capitalism (as it exists currently). Marx understood these consequences; the socioeconomic structures that are created result in the over-specialization and overemphasis on technicality, the risk-averse/short-term corporate demographics, the outsourcing and the sketchy visas, and so on. Things got this way because of a feedback loop. The STEM industries are one part of it, and although scientific and technological progress and development have specific characteristics, they are not exempt from these systemic deficiencies.

If the goal is to have a more balanced and productive economy, what we need are leaders—at all levels—who understand this wider view of the problem, so as to help build better structures and policies. And so for example, starting with (but by no means limited to) education reform, as argued in the article. And people who argue otherwise, who continue to insist on the status quo, are just wrong.
posted by polymodus at 10:28 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


As an employer I completely fail to understand why it's my responsibility to train you.

It depends how specialized you are. It sounds to me like you're in an industry with fairly fluid skill sets that don't take years to learn. On the other hand, while I could take someone with skills on one set of HPLC software to another vendor's, I would be hard pressed to make a mass spectral analyst into an nmr tech without months of little productivity and probably a few years before they were really up to speed. We just passed on a free (to us) tech because training him from being a laser jock to a (good) GC/MS guy would have taken years.

As a second example, we just ran an ad for a highly-specialized kind of GC/MS person. We got one or two people who were right on the mark, and about 3 others who were close, but would need a fair bit of training (weeks to months). This out of 130 or so applicants with post-graduate chemistry degrees (these are the months to years folks).

Realistically, we have to train, unless we get lucky and find a perfect fit, as we just did. For every new hire, I budget a three to six month down time before I start assigning them to major projects. In the mean time, they have to learn my corner of the trade, take seminars, do performance tests, validate their methods, become accredited analysts. All of this takes time, before they're really useful.
posted by bonehead at 11:15 PM on September 2, 2013


...fluid skill sets that don't take years to learn.

I should amplify this by adding that these skills also don't likely require million dollar+ set-ups to practice on. State-of-the-art labs are hard to come by if someone is out of work and needs to reskill in most hard and life sciences.

Increasingly, I'm seeing people come on as "volunteers", unpaid interns essentially, to get lab skills, to help find a job. This is not a solution which scales well. It's going to really hurt the post-doc circuit.
posted by bonehead at 11:28 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"It's going to really hurt the post-doc circuit."

Going to?
posted by Pinback at 1:20 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whereas industry jobs seem to be working from the opposite assumption, that if you've been doing HPLC for the last five years but with a different company's software it will just be, like, impossibly overwhelmingly difficult for you to learn to analyze their data.

Gods, yes. I spent a couple of months on the bench this year (but still being paid, fortunately) because a) too many people making hiring decisions have no clue what a test coordinator does and b) think that because they need a test analyst, a coordinator is useless. Also that a lot of companies seem to think Scrum is an impossibly difficult method of working to pick up because it requires reading a whole sixteen page guide and that's clearly beyond the capabilities of anybody without fifteen years Scrum experience.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:09 AM on September 3, 2013


As an employer I completely fail to understand why it's my responsibility to train you.

And that attitude is why everybody complains about the shortage of skilled candidates, but nobody does anything about it.

You can either pay the salary needed to get a fully trained, productive within a week expert to work for you, or you can get cheaper people who need the training first, or you can whinge and do neither, but in the latter case, you are part of the problem you want solving.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:12 AM on September 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've actually never heard that we had a shortage of STEM graduates. For the last few years all I've heard about is STEM graduates not being able to find work.
posted by empath at 2:16 AM on September 3, 2013


So when I hear whining that employers have a responsibility to train - all I hear is laziness and entitlement.

Really? What I hear from "job creators" is endless schemes to push the costs of doing business (except, weirdly, health care) onto the public while keeping all the profits (and whining about taxes). It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this is a disaster in the making, but the owners seem to think that they will be able to get theirs and get out before the collapse.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:55 AM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


That said, I do always tremendously enjoy reading broad-brushed opinions of engineers on metafilter.

Eh, I work with a lot of engineering students and faculty. I see a lot of failure to even think about the larger picture much less take steps toward organization, which is the only thing that will give them the strength to deal on parity with management. Sadly, many engineers (and other STEM people) seem to see themselves as entrepreneurs rather than workers, so their general instinct is to sympathize with management rather than other workers.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:02 AM on September 3, 2013


So, are there any fields that need people aside from programming?

Forensic pathology
Forensic nursing
Forensic investigation

...if death investigation is something you might enjoy, and you have a strong stomach.
posted by Renoroc at 4:39 AM on September 3, 2013


...the world needs ditch diggers, too.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:54 AM on September 3, 2013


So when I hear whining that employers have a responsibility to train - all I hear is laziness and entitlement.

Isn't it laziness and entitlement to have a huge pool of a talented workforce and then whine that they don't have the very narrow specific skillset that they need to have learned on their own, demanding that the government allow them to expand the available visas to fulfill it?

One of the most valuable lessons I learned was from my first post-college employer, wondering why they were putting me on a project where I did not actually have the skills in the specific programming language they were using. The answer was, "we hired you because you are smart enough to figure it out."

And until very recently, I worked in both the government and government contracting field, where not only was American citizenship required, but in many cases a very expensive security clearance process was necessary. Finding an H-1B was legally not an option, and when a project came up in a new field, it was ineffective to try to hire someone with the specific skillset and THEN get them clearance. And if you laid off the people whose skillset was no longer relevant to the current projects, you lost their institutional knowledge. So the only option was to build in the expectation of on-the-job training and skills development.
posted by deanc at 5:13 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


So when I hear whining that employers have a responsibility to train - all I hear is laziness and entitlement.

What about when the president of a university say it?

Universities should educate – employers should train
posted by GuyZero at 10:52 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not sure if this is behind a paywall, but there was a Nature column about this a couple of months ago, Driving students into science is a fool’s errand:
If business people want to harness that enthusiasm, all they have to do is put their hands in their pockets and pay and train newly graduated scientists and engineers properly. It is much easier, of course, for the US National Association of Manufacturers and the British Confederation of British Industry to keep bleating that the state-run school- and university-education systems are ‘failing’.
posted by caek at 3:41 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


« Older A child's happiness is priceless especially on a b...  |  Noted science fiction author, ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments