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Science and Engineering Workforce Has Stalled In the US

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the reality-tv-workforce-booming dept.

Businesses 433

dcblogs writes "The science and engineering workforce in the U.S. has flatlined, according to the Population Reference Bureau. As a percentage of the total labor force, S&E workers accounted for 4.9% of the workforce in 2010, a slight decline from the three previous years when these workers accounted for 5% of the workforce. That percentage has been essentially flat for the past decade. In 2000, it stood at 5.3%. The reasons for this trend aren't clear, but one factor may be retirements. S&E workers who are 55 and older accounted for 13% of this workforce in 2005; they accounted for 18% in 2010. 'This might imply that there aren't enough young people entering the S&E labor force,' said one research analyst."

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reasons are very clear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39221647)

2000: Y2K temp laborforce
present day: workforce is rather flat, like the economy as a whole

Re:reasons are very clear (2)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221723)

The other thing that happened since 2000 was 9/11 and all our immigration hysteria. I'd wager that fewer foreign tech students stick around after graduation. I know at my company work visas and green cards are harder to come by than they were in the 90s.

Re:reasons are very clear (4, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222107)

I think it's a little more complex than that. The immigration hysteria has mostly been about illegal immigrants, i.e. people from south of the border with no skills at all besides picking fruit and who don't speak English, not people from Asia with college degrees and tech skills who speak good English.

Instead, more important factors are that a lot of industry is going to Asia (China and India specifically, plus other countries like Thailand) where these foreign students come from. Where industry goes, so do the engineers, and since these kids come from there anyway, it makes perfect sense they'd want to go back there.

Put yourself in their shoes: suppose we're in an alternate universe and the USA (presuming that's where you're from) was a 3rd-world country all along, but you were smart and you went to China (a giant world power and leader in technology) to get an education as an engineer. When you're done, perhaps you even work there for a few years to get experience. But China's moving all their manufacturing to the USA because the labor there is so cheap, and the US economy is rising dramatically as a result, while China's is stagnating badly. So do you want to stay in China, where you don't speak the language that well, you're an outsider, and you're living in an alien culture, making very good money but the cost of living is high? Or would you rather move back home, get a job paying half as much, but because of the low cost-of-living this much money lets you live like a king, with a servant or two, and you're in your own culture around your own countrymen you grew up with? I think the answer is obvious. The only reason these people were coming here was because of jobs and money. As the job opportunities got much better back home, they just went back there.

First Post (-1, Offtopic)

NicknameAvailable (2581237) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221653)

For the coveted /. achievement.

Re:First Post (0)

Relayman (1068986) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221793)

Sorry, you missed it by one minute. Anyway, first post doesn't count unless you say something meaningful.

Re:First Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39221871)

Sorry, you missed it by one minute. Anyway, first post doesn't count unless you say something meaningful.

And if you DO get first post with something meaningful, you're probably a shill and don't count anyway. Enjoy your accomplishment when you get it!

H1b propaganda (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39221663)

Arrr, a shit storms a brewin!

Re:H1b propaganda (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222065)

Batten down the hatches! *buttons pajama butt flap*

Not another guest worker fraud thread... (4, Insightful)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221665)

The more that business sends that kind of work offshore, the less interested people will be in having the rug pulled out from under them in the Holy and Unquestionable name of Global Competitiveness.

You want to get people interested in science & engineering? Kill all the guest worker programs, prioritize citizens over internationals for university slots, and start working with business to guarantee long-term work to attract people back.

Re:Not another guest worker fraud thread... (2)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221737)

No doubt. And as things are today, "intellectual property" is just about all the US has left and with fewer in the science and engineering side contributing to the pool of new ideas, we are left with patent trolls with nearly expired patents trying to milk the world for all they can.

Complicated. (5, Interesting)

MYakus (1625537) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222015)

We are educating kids to be users of technology, but not developers or inventors. Every time I've taken a computer or a disk drive or other electronics apart for a demonstration to the Scouts or just kids, they are always amazed. They are never taught beyond a mouse click. A lot of kids coming out of college are no better these days. Another problem is that in our zeal to bring girls into higher education, we are losing boys - those who would be most interested in engineering ( see Carpe Diem website archives for all the graphs and tables on subject preferences, Prof J does a great job of laying that argument out from high school on ).

Re:Not another guest worker fraud thread... (5, Insightful)

OldGunner (2576825) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221741)

Even if someone decides to enter S&E career fields, there are very few real jobs offered by real employers -- it is much easier to use "this gun is for hire" contractors that you can REALLY abuse and dump with few consequences.

Re:Not another guest worker fraud thread... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222169)

Well, sure. Science isn't really wanted in the US. Science, and education in general, tend to empower people. Why do you think the government panders to and favors the religious anti-science crowd? A populace of believers who want black and white simple answers and which rewards those who give them without regard to the truth is far less trouble than a populace that actually has critical thinking skills.

Then kill the contractor abuse. (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222177)

Raise the benefit & liability requirements to the same level as FTE. Once all parties except the worker share liability and benefit costs for temporary work, multiplied over the number of middlemen as well as being inversely proportional to the length of the work (with the option to reward lower skill level entry)** one can then kill that abuse.

** - i.e. it would reward people who go on directly hired, lifetime employment with one or a few employers over being a one-night-stand contractor.

Re:Not another guest worker fraud thread... (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222197)

I disagree. For many software fields, there's tons of jobs out there. I have tons of recruiters chasing after me every day for my skills.

The problem is that these jobs are very trendy. The skills that everyone's screaming to hire more employees for now, may be obsolete in 5 years as some other trend takes over. It's not that easy to stay current and stay with the in-vogue trends. Why go into a career field like that, when you can go into business or finance where you're not expected to be an expert on some tiny niche product?

Re:Not another guest worker fraud thread... (4, Insightful)

Raisey-raison (850922) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222243)

There is also another reason why more people are not in the S&E field - the pay sucks! It has fallen in real terms since 2000 (and started falling before this recession). If you get a BS in math, chemistry, physics, bio or biochem you are lucky to start on more than 35K. Some lucky few might start on 40K. Even computer and chemical engineers have seen their pay dropping (yes of course they start on a lot more). I know a Chem E who had to take 50K in a high cost city.

S&E are very hard degrees. I bet if starting salaries were 60K for science and 90K for engineering lots of people would 'suddenly discover' that they loved science. And yes corporate America could afford to pay them. Since 2000 productivity has increased significantly and profits are at record highs.

When I hear people saying we need to encourage more people to do STEM - I am incredulous. The solution is very simple - raise salaries and people will run to it. [It's also why top MIT PhDs go into Wall Street - why make 90K with a PhD in science when you can make 350K on Wall Street.]

Re:Not another guest worker fraud thread... (4, Insightful)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221883)

Or how about turning it upside down, and offshore the most expensive and at the same time most generic workforce: top and middle management.

Of course, that would never happen. The system is rigged, by and for corporate psychopaths.

Re:Not another guest worker fraud thread... (0)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222101)

By allowing government to take over function that it was never authorised to do, people have given the government the power to destroy, and the most lucrative thing to destroy is competition, while helping the monopolies. When there are only monopolies left, they will do as they please, and there can't be competition.

Re:Not another guest worker fraud thread... (2)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222305)

By allowing government to take over function that it was never authorised to do,

I don't follow. Offshoring exploits differences in the cost of living and is presumably an example of where the government isn't doing anything, since they don't prevent it.

When there are only monopolies left, they will do as they please, and there can't be competition.

Monopolies happen every so often without any government intervention. When they do, the only thing stopping them doing as they please is, in fact, government intervention.

Re:Not another guest worker fraud thread... (1)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222307)

Don't call everything a conspiracy without looking for more reasonable explanations first. Middle managers have to manage people, as in interacting with them, supervising them. It's not a job that you can reasonably do remotely. Similarly, top level management have to be trusted. You can't just hand the task over to the lowest bidder. You have to give the job to somebody who has some long term incentive to respect the organisation if you want it done well.

Re:Not another guest worker fraud thread... (0)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222005)

You want to get people interested in science & engineering? Kill all the guest worker programs, prioritize citizens over internationals for university slots, and start working with business to guarantee long-term work to attract people back.

- and like all other government regulations aimed at destruction of competitiveness, you will only achieve the opposite of your goal - more jobs will leave US for other locations.

Re:Not another guest worker fraud thread... (1)

t4ng* (1092951) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222297)

and like all other government regulations aimed at destruction of competitiveness, you will only achieve the opposite of your goal - more jobs will leave US for other locations.

Yeah, because that's the way it was before globalization became the economic policy de jure. Oh wait. No, that's when the US had a strong labor market, a higher standard of living, lower unemployment, and less severe economic recessions.

Re:Not another guest worker fraud thread... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222353)

Unfortunately, time travel hasn't been invented yet, so we can't just rewind the clock to before the time of globalization

Globalization is the reality of today. So what worked before will not work now, as the conditions are different.

Re:Not another guest worker fraud thread... (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222311)

Not if all other avenues are closed to employers. What excuses the current employer-side interference anyway?

Young people. (5, Insightful)

saintlupus (227599) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221671)

So, after a lifetime of watching older members of the science and engineering community get outsourced, downsized, run ragged, and generally mistreated by their employers, young people don't want to sign up for the same thing?

Good for them. Maybe the kids today are smarter than we thought.


Maybe Smart, But Also Circumstance (5, Interesting)

mx+b (2078162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221929)

I typically get the feeling the young are stuck between a rock and a hard place for STEM careers. On the one hand we are told over and over that these are important jobs. But then when you go to apply for them, you are told you are too young and need more experience and can't hire you. "Well, can you train me?" "No, you just have to get experience, or go back to school." So you go back to school, and they tell you "Well we don't do job training, our focus is how to *think* and learn the principles needed. Go get a job if you want experience." And so you end up in a bizarre catch-22 where everyone expects you to know everything at a young age, but no one is willing to provide the training you need to get there. It's as if they think scientists grow on trees and you just wait for them to ripen and apply for a job, with their analytical skills and knowledge fully formed. Maybe that was possible in some sense during the baby boom, when it was also more patriotic to go into a STEM field to fight the commies, but today you have to work for it and provide incentives. There are less people for each job, not more.

Either these are important jobs employers need to support more (with leniency on the expectations of youth, pair them up with an older mentor, on-job training, etc), or they aren't. Suck it up and pay for it instead of whining. But I am tired of the limbo these fields leave many younger people floating in.

Re:Maybe Smart, But Also Circumstance (3, Interesting)

w_dragon (1802458) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222061)

This is true of most jobs, and STEM aren't the worst off. Talk to someone trying to break into journalism, or acting, or anything else that you would associate with unpaid internships. Getting your first job in almost any professional field is difficult, unless there is a serious shortage of people in that field.

Re:Young people. (3, Interesting)

dpilot (134227) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222011)

Unfortunately you're right, but it's really an indictment of those at the very top, because this situation is unsustainable.

First US business' HQ moved the manufacturing overseas, saving a bunch of cost.
Next US business' HQ moved the development overseas, saving a bunch of cost.
More recently US business' HQ has been moving research overseas, again presumably saving a bunch of cost.

Every step of the way, some of those cost savings have gone to the customer and some to US business' HQ. Even as the pay scale of remaining US staff has been flat since 2000, US business' HQ pay scale has been on something approaching 10% CGR.

At this point there's a lot of money to be saved buy simply ditching US business HQ, moving HQ overseas where all of the work, development, and research are. Plus for some time now, US business' HQ has been largely a one-trick pony, cutting costs by moving jobs overseas. Not a lot of innovation there, not much value-add.

There are a few notable exceptions of course, Steve Jobs having been one, no matter what kind of prick he might have been, personally. I believe Elon Musk is another, but that also might be because he's making one of my pet wishes (affordable access to space) real.

Re:Young people. (3, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222363)

Interestingly the two examples you picked are more what businesses should be about (i.e. doing business).

Neither Apple nor SpaceX seem to give a rats ass for quaterly profit figures. They have their gaze set on the medium to long term, rather than parachuting in a CEO to trash the company for a brief increase in profits in order to get huge bonuses before it tanks.

Why? (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221673)

Why would young people enter science and engineering when they can go into management and finance? Then they can take the credit and pay that would have been taken from them if they had gone into STEM.

Re:Why? (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221763)

Why would they go into management and finance when they can slap on a can of spray tan and chug a brew to get on a reality TV series?

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222039)

Because there are more management and finance jobs than there are "spray tan" jobs on TV.

Re:Why? (1)

AarghVark (772183) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221797)

Funny, I make about double what my manager does. It is nearly impossible to find folks in my particular specialization.

Make supply and demand work to your advantage. Just like a business has to sell what is in demand to succeed you need to make yourself into a product which is in demand.

Re:Why? (1)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221811)

Out of curiosity, what's your specialization?

Re:Why? (3, Interesting)

dpilot (134227) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222103)

For my job, I'm doing something unique in the world. When I started on this particular path, just over 10 years ago, most of the players in this particular field said that they were going to do it. I've done it, as far as I can tell, everyone else has dropped back to Plan B and are working that way.

There were several of us gathered a month or two back, one of them is a small businessman, another used to work for the same employer as me, and was laid off years ago. The small businessman was telling me that I should express to my employer how unique and valuable my work is, and I should be receiving better compensation.

The guy who used to work for the same employer said simply, "They don't care." I agreed.

Re:Why? (2)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221831)

Agreed. Part of the reason for the doctor shortage in the US is because people who have the talent and ability to become great doctors aren't going into medicine, they're going into finance. Same with engineering.

What needs to happen is that the "market" needs to correct itself, and realize that these finance jackasses aren't worth anywhere near what they're paid.

Actually, it is too expensive to be a doctor. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222089)

Malpractice insurance goes for upwards 100,000 per year. The New Yorker reported it (2006) at 265,000 per year.

Re:Actually, it is too expensive to be a doctor. (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222207)

The solution is to make finance professionals accountable for malpractice too.

Re:Why? (-1, Offtopic)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222131)

The fundamental reason behind this is government destroying the money - the only money that is left to be made is the fake money, and you must make it by the ton for it to make sense to spend time. Who can make money by the ton in a system that has the banks as the government?

Re:Why? (1)

Shag (3737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222127)

Well, of course, even at an observatory, you've got managers and finance people (and secretaries, HR people, librarians, janitors, auto mechanics, sysadmins, programmers, etc etc etc).

Re:Why? (4, Interesting)

Brannoncyll (894648) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222287)

Why would young people enter science and engineering when they can go into management and finance? Then they can take the credit and pay that would have been taken from them if they had gone into STEM.

Fortunately not everyone is motivated by money, or else there would be nobody sticking around with a science or engineering career. If you want my 2 cents, I believe the issue is that the current American culture celebrates the wealthy and looks down upon the educated, unless they are using that education to gain wealth. Its hardly surprising then that in my group (theoretical physics at a big Ivy league university) something like 90% of the PhD students are non-Americans, and of the few American PhD students I have known, most have left physics to work in the finance sector after completing their studies.

The causes are obvious... (5, Insightful)

composer777 (175489) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221679)

What they should say is that there aren't enough people willing to work very hard for a an ever shrinking piece of the pie. What do they expect researchers to do when they keep cutting basic science funding? The numbers are terrible right now. Something like 10% of those with new Phd's that apply for a grant actually get it. Who in their right mind would get a Phd for a 10% chance of getting funding? They apparently expect Phd's to be happy to work indefinitely as a post-doc for 30K a year. This trend is very similar for recent engineering graduates.

Re:The causes are obvious... (-1, Troll)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222051)

Can't have public science funding, and it's an oxymoron anyway. There is nothing that 'public' produces, individuals produce and 'public' taxes them, and that's how 'public' gets its money.

Once the 'public' destroyed all incentives to produce and created all incentives to move savings, investment, jobs overseas, that's what is going to happen and then 'public' will not be able to fund anything at all.

Re:The causes are obvious... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222203)

What is the string of nonsense from you? Of course you can have public science funding: the government gives grants to science researchers. It is how the majority of basic science gets funded.

Who's surprised? (1)

robinsonne (952701) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221681)

Could it be that there's more money and less stress in going into a different career than science/engineering? Who would have thought?

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39221685)

Who wants to go into science and engineering these days after 25%-30% of the manufacturing-related jobs migrated offshore in the past decade?

Why would today's youngsters want to go into yet another field that will eventually be outsourced to India, China, Vietnam, etc.?

Incentive (3, Insightful)

LatencyIsTooDamnHigh (2574249) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221689)

Maybe if donations to universities went to beefing up outdated science & engineering departments instead of athletes, it might "trickle up" to the real world. But that's just crazy.

Re:Incentive (2, Insightful)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221855)

Athletic departments usually sustain themselves. And in the vast majority of schools, there's a pretty big wall between funding for the school, and funding for the athletic programs.

I would like to courtesly disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222175)

Or perhaps I should just say BULLSHIT. First, the pool of donors is the same for STEM and Athletics at a university, the alumni. Second; facilities, staff, pensions, health care, and maintenance almost always fall under the general University budget, of which STEM is apportioned out of. The Athletic department usually pays a sweet lease for the space, advertising, and the salaries for the highest level staff.

Re:Incentive (2)

Wilf_Brim (919371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222113)

The students aren't going into hard science departments because the facilities are outdated. They aren't going into them for the reasons above: the wages are stagnant, mass layoffs are commonplace, the managment views them as a commodity, and H2B workers are brought in to ensure the above stays as it is.

Re:Incentive (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222271)

I don't know that that's really a problem. Most athletics programs (esp. football) are self-supporting from what I hear, or in fact actually bring a lot of money into the university, either from ticket sales or from alumni donations. When I went to engineering school in the 90s, I don't recall funding being much of a problem, or being stuck with obsolete technology; you're not there to learn the latest trends anyway, but the fundamentals and concepts that you'll need to learn anything you need in industry. If you want to learn the latest technologies, go to DeVry or some other trade school, not a university.

The problem is what happens when you graduate. You're stuck with $100k in student loans (as university tuitions have skyrocketed in the last 20 years, much of it to pay for university presidents' salaries of $500k+ and other administrative costs), and you're in a career where everything is being sent overseas, your salary will cap out within 10 years, and you'll be unemployable by age 40, while being expected to work 60+ hours a week or more.

Its the employer's fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39221695)

I majored in a hard science and apart from a brief job that ran out I can't find anything in my field for my experience.

Everyone wants these non existent fuckers with 15 years experience or whatever but everyone is retiring. So its not the fault of young people, its shitty employers who arent hiring new blood and training them.

Re:Its the employer's fault (2)

gmanterry (1141623) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222049)

The kids today are experiencing an uphill battle. I remember 20 years ago having a discussion with the guys I worked for about the total lack of young workers in our workplace. I was doing communications install and maintenance for a large electrical utility company. The problem for the young workers, as we saw it, was the requirement for a very diverse experience background. Microwave radio, UHF, VHF radio, fiber optic, RTUs, computers, phone switches, DACs, mux, and much more. The employer wants to hire work ready people and are afraid that if they expend money to train a young worker the young worker will bail as soon as he finds a better offer. It's a trap. No experience, no job. No job, no experience.

S&E was only a trend (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39221699)

Show me any music or podcast that a iPod can't play easier than a PC Computer?

We don't need PC Computers and Internet anymore. Yall better get girlfriends.

Re:S&E was only a trend (1)

zill (1690130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221781)

Because iPod are designed by hippies instead of engineers, am I right?

I would love to see how you can load music and podcast onto an iPod without a computer or the internet.

No, you are not right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39221987)

All that perceived Apple counter-culture crap doesn't exist on the engineering side of the house.
The closer you get to a Chinese production line, the less 'hip' the process becomes.

Offshoring (2)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221715)


The data might not mean there is an outright shortage of S&E workers; it could indicate a combination of factors related to such things as the recession and offshoring.

This suprises anyone?

Re:Offshoring (3, Informative)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221809)


The data might not mean there is an outright shortage of S&E workers; it could indicate a combination of factors related to such things as the recession and offshoring.

This suprises anyone?

Given the high unemployment among S&E workers the conclusion is rather obvious: the qualified employees are there but the jobs aren't. Last year I interviewed three PhDs, one with 25 years experience running a research group with a dozen other PhDs under him, hoping to get a contractor position that required an associate's degree and paid accordingly. Also in the running for this one opening were ten people with less impressive but still solid backgrounds. Most had been in divisions of their previous companies that had been slashed in half or completely eliminated.

To repeat: we have a glut of talented, motivated S&E workers looking for jobs. We need more R&D positions created. We don't need to find ways to solve the imaginary problem of a paucity of scientists.

Re:Offshoring (2)

Phil06 (877749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221965)

I trained two people in India to do my job and then I got laid off. These two were great if you told them step by step exactly what to do but they were utterly incapable of figuring out what needed to be done. We have nothing to worry about with China and India. I got another engineering job before my severance ended because there is still demand here for people who can figure out what needs to be done.

the good and the bad (3, Interesting)

eagle1361 (2557464) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221735)

As a young engineer myself, the good part of the story is that there will be more promotion possibilities because the older workers are retiring. The bad part is that the reason for the decline is the loss of job security and pay that barely pays the school loans and isn't matching inflation most times makes S&E a somewhat risky career path.

Re:the good and the bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39221813)

When they retire, their positions will be elimiated.

Re:the good and the bad (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222007)

As a young engineer myself, the good part of the story is that there will be more promotion possibilities because the older workers are retiring.

Aww, an optimist! How adorable!

Seriously, though, the more likely circumstance is that, once those older engineers retire, their positions will be eliminated and their workload distributed among the remaining staff; that way, your employer can get more work out of you without having to cut into the boards bonus' by increase your pay grade.

Re:the good and the bad (1)

eagle1361 (2557464) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222165)

Obviously, that's also a possiblity, until the younger decide to leave for greener pastures, like panhandling or something similar.

Re:the good and the bad (1)

flink (18449) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222155)

When they retire, their positions will be filled in India or South Korea.

The Decline of Higher Learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39221755)

Isn't it due to many universities rapidly turning into high priced trade schools?

Funny responses (3, Interesting)

mrand (147739) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221759)

It's funny reading all the responses saying "It's obvious"... and then each response gives a different cause.

If I knew then what I know now, I would probably not have gone into electrical engineering out of fear of offshoring. Thus far it hasn't completed killed engineering in the USA, but it has certainly made a big dent. But I don't know that the majority of young engineers know to even fear that...


Re:Funny responses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39221873)

This is why I pursued an MBA instead of a masters in Electrical Engineering.

Now it is funny to hear the business side of things. The issue is the rising cost of engineers. If the number of engineers stay flat, they have to offshore to keep the engineers from earning too much money. If all engineers stayed at a low salary, this wouldn't be a problem.

Re:Funny responses (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222153)

> and then each response gives a different cause.

And from what I can see, every one of those different causes is true - each applies to a different circumstance. Add them all up and you make a very grim picture, driven by short-sightedness at the very top (and highest paid) echelons.

Re:Funny responses (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222171)

Well, information is free, now. Further, labor and goods are readily replaceable or transportable. At a world stage, we've entered a world where countries' standards and costs of living are "integrated".

One way to combat this would be to make it more difficult to cross borders with information and goods. Or, we could specialize in what is rare: identifying and utilizing *good knowledge*. See, the internet is a great thing. It will tell you anything and everything that you want to hear and don't want to hear. if you lack expertise, you'll never know which is which. But the skillful minds of our educated *can* identify worthwhile information.

All that we need is a way to market our expertise, and we'll see job growth where there's demand for correct knowledge.

Quants growing (1)

Relayman (1068986) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221821)

[sarcasm]Meanwhile, quants working on Wall Street to separate investors from their 401(k) funds have grown by 20%.[/sarcasm]

Seriously, look at the number of engineering grads going to work on Wall Street vs. actual engineering companies. You might be surprised.

Weird (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39221837)

This is odd from my perspective since 1/6 of new freshmen at my university declare mechanical engineering, never mind the other engineering majors available. And this is at a school where humanities and business are big.

Re:Weird (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39221935)

Don't look at the freshmen, look at the graduates. Engineering programs have a high washout rate.

Re:Weird (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39221937)

But how many of them finish?

No Jobs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39221875)

Why would people stay in a field with NO JOBS. I once met a Chem. Eng. working as a janitor at a Walmart. As far as S&E goes USA is a has been.

Education is leading students astray (1)

AarghVark (772183) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221893)

I blame education for this.

One one hand you tell students they will be sucessful if they get a college degree (any college degree).
On the other hand you have colleges marketing easy-and-fun degree programs with very low market demand for those degrees.

The net result is a crop of students with a pile of debt and a Masters degree in Basket-Weaving which isn't necessary in the real world.

Re:Education is leading students astray (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39221933)

Not necessary in the industry. Different thing, if only slightly.

Higher Technology = Fewer People (2)

dcollins (135727) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221899)

Isn't this inherently what happens with higher technology? As technology increases, you can get more done with fewer man-hours of labor (e.g., concentrating IT in cloud-like service centers and so forth). It's not like we're socialists who use this to give everyone a dividend in more pay, or less hours per week. Instead, we hire fewer people, and the business world considers that to be a good thing.

bizare... (5, Insightful)

pjr.cc (760528) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221941)

That is the most bizarre set of stats i've ever read....

I cant understand why they would think the PERCENTAGE of the workforce for s&e would be on the increase? That just baffles me.

Its like, checkout people, the number you have is dependent on the number of retail places around, which is dependant on the population, and hence its probably always going to be relatively fixed (as a percentage). At the moment, that might be on the decrease cause of automated human-less checkouts, but the driving force behind checkout people is the size of your population.

I cant think of anything in the last decade that would propel more ppl (as a percentage) to enter either science or engineering. Any factor that might cause it is probably going to be offset by something else, ultimately if everyone started getting into science and engineering, who's gunna be a doctor, a lawyer, a politician, etc etc.

How that even begins to relate to "less innovation" baffles me even more because 5% of the population is a considerable number of people and innovation itself tends to be sporadic and driven by individuals (and then implemented by large armies of kill robots). Ultimately even 5% is an ever increasing number of people (given population growth).

I keep looking at the clock wondering if its april 1st, cause I really cant understand how they think "Ideally, the S&E workforce -- it numbers more than 7.6 million workers -- would be expanding as a percentage of the labor force. That would mean U.S. companies are increasing their use of S&E workers." is a remotely valid assumption. Again, given population growth, "That would mean U.S. companies are increasing their use of S&E workers" that is actually happening if your holding at 5%.

Truly bizarre, its like someone misunderstood the different between what a percentage is and an absolute figure.

Entering the Workforce? (4, Interesting)

trongey (21550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221945)

It has nothing to do with the number of people entering these fields. It's the number of jobs that companies are removing from these fields. They cut staff and tell those remaining that they have to work another 20hrs/wk to cover the workload.

Related: Reliance on those skills on the uprise. (1)

RGautier (749908) | more than 2 years ago | (#39221973)

While the workforce stays flat, the demand continues to increase - with science and technology solutions providing more and more of the services and goods we require. So the actual effect of a flat workforce is enhanced by the increasing demand for such skills for even the most rudimentary jobs.

We're working on growing our own. (4, Interesting)

Shag (3737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222001)

My town is home to the base facilities for eight of the Mauna Kea Observatories [hawaii.edu] , and we're looking at the Thirty Meter Telescope [tmt.org] in the near future as well. Needless to say, there are pretty much always job openings [maunakeaas...myjobs.org] for engineers, technicians, and PhDs. The catch? We're on an island, and some people get tired of that.

So Science Education/Public Outreach (SE/PO) is a part of life here. Pushing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) as good ways to make a better-than-average living is a part of life here. The scientists take over the local mall one day every spring. In late January, we take over the University for a "science day" in honor of Space Shuttle Challenger astronaut Ellison Onizuka, for kids in grades 3-8, and NASA sends an astronaut each year. And around late February or early March, there's Journey Through The Universe [gemini.edu] .

I'm actually about to head to a nearby school to spend an hour talking about science careers to a classroom of 7th-graders, so I'm getting a real kick out of this article showing up right now. The other 9 classes I'm visiting over next Monday, Tuesday and Thursday are a bit younger - grades 1-3. The idea, though, is that from Kindergarten on, kids here are meeting real live people who work in science at observatories or other "famous science places" every year and are being encouraged to stay in school, take classes about STEM, look at college majors in STEM, and become qualified for those good jobs, so that we can hire people who are from here and would love to stay here.

Last year, I was told about one of the first success stories - a guy who was in 7th grade when they started visiting classes, and as a result of what he heard over the years, had picked a STEM major at the local university, and was now going to accompany a scientist to classes as a "community ambassador" sort of person.

There is no problem (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222045)

This is an excuse to open the doors to more immigration to bring in cheap technical labour.

There is no technical shortage. Just a shortage of highly-skilled qualified people willing to work for minimal wages.

I saw recently an article in one of the local newspapers that indicated that 4,000 engineering graduates were being produced per year in Canada, 10,000 engineers per year were being brought in via immigration and only 1,000 new engineering jobs created per year, thus 13,000 engineers per year are unhappy and either unemployed or employed/under-employed in jobs outside of the field.

Add in government grants that pay 50% of the salary for non-citizen visible minority engineers, why would anybody hire a Canadian educated engineer except for when they come straight out of school?

The constant mantra of the sky is falling because we have no engineers is an old story and is used to bring in more engineers via immigration and thus deflate the average income for engineers. The problem is that governments keep on falling for this ruse.

The basic issue is a disrespect for the skills of engineers and desire to turn them into a disposable cog in a company to maximize short-term profits.

I know dozens of highly qualified engineers with 20+ years of experience that are underemployed, or unemployed or working in other fields because they cannot even get an interview nevermind a job.

The media & governments fall for this ruse over and over.

My two-cents

is related to job offers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222053)

I would be nice to see if there is a lot of job offers for S&E or not. I mean, is this flattening due to lack of people entering those fields or because there is no more work positions to increase it? maybe there is graduates out there opening cupcake stores :P

What data do they consult? (2, Insightful)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222063)

Really? You think guys?

Then why is it that despite me having tons of technical work experience, a CS degree, and an extensive background in Graphic Design, I can't even land a simple UI designer job that pays enough to repay my student loans and pay rent at the same time? In a big-10 college town with a pretty big tech industry?

Perhaps it's because instead of R&D and progress, we're focused on blowing up brown people and stealing their oil? Perhaps the same reasons why NASA is woefully underfunded, and yet the DOD has a few billion to throw at missile research?

FUCK this country. It used to be great, now it's just a slowly-fermenting pile of excrement.

Re:What data do they consult? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222281)

Whenever I hear a hard-luck story about having tons of experience, a relevant degree, and skills, but still can't get a job, I always come to the simplest conclusion that explains the situation. Perhaps you simply suck at it.

Well, I saw this comming... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222067)

When I was in high school, I was one of the few students that had any deeper interest in science, technology, biology, life, the universe in general...

The rest of the students were social political fashion models... they enjoyed gossiping about each other, doing gross amounts of drugs, playing sports, creating cliches and cults to give themselves the illusion of importance.

What you are seeing in the U.S. is a large cult forming... a cult of idiots, who will ultimately destroy themselves on behalf of their ignorance, hate, and delusion.

Less than surprising (5, Insightful)

ErichTheRed (39327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222111)

The article says the reasons aren't certain, but my experience doing technical interviews for my employer seems to point to a possible cause -- perceived lack of stable career prospects.

My background: I work for a medium to large IT company doing systems integration -- code for "troubleshooter, lab rat, make-stuff-work-in-the-face-of-no-documentation person." For a person with the right temperament and skills, it's a very fun job. However, whenever we go out looking for new team members, we get back lots of less-than-qualified people. I'm not talking about qualities like "experts in 4 different operating platforms, genius-level coding skills, etc." -- I'm talking more along the lines of "communicates well, writes clear documentation, and has logical thinking skills." Everything else is trainable in my mind, but if you don't have the engineer/tinkerer/figure-it-out-without-help mindset, you can't do this job well. And oh yes, the pay is decent, and the job is stable if you're good at it and contributing excellent work.

The only problem is that we're in the NYC area, and so is the finance industry. Anecdotal evidence from my colleagues in finance states that any new college grad who is remotely good at science, math and engineering is going into finance or business. Unfortunately for us, that's probably a rational choice given the current employment climate. When you turn 21 or so and are faced with constant talk of outsourcing/offshoring, companies living with a skeleton crew because they don't want to hire and add to costs on one side, and see in finance/business an easy and very lucrative job market, what would you pick? Go back a couple of years before that...and compare the STEM students working in the lab/studying all the time with the business/psychology/communications majors partying 24/7 and coming out ahead of the game in terms of compensation and ease of work. Then, you really start to see what's wrong.

One other problem is the outsourcing/offshoring of routine IT work. Some of the jobs that us IT veterans got our start in are way less accessible than before. I started in tech support/help desk, and it was the best training for dealing with angry users and calmly troubleshooting a problem without changing 100 things. Now, those help desk jobs are overseas or at one of three or four huge IT service providers. So, strike two -- uncertain future employment/compensation prospects, lack of entry-level positions to learn the business...what else is stacked against us?

Personally, I still see a need for *good, competent* engineering talent. Even though most companies and products now are just marketing, flash and repackaging of old technology, someone has to come up with the next neat thing. (Or in my case, someone has to make the 45 neat new things that all got mashed into our software/systems work together.) The problem is that business hs to either start signaling that they really do want and pay for talent, or we won't have replacements for all the people who are slated to retire soon.

IT needs apprenticeships (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222365)

Not 4 year CS or 4 Tech school.

No more like 1-3 year mixed school / apprenticeship.

To many people get turned down due lack of use less 4 year BA.

The social reason (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222145)

Keep on insulting smart people with nasty names like dork and nerd... and this will drop to 0% in no time...

Jobs for Young People? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222211)

Perhaps employers simply aren't admitting young people into the workforce. They complain about not finding quality candidates and are unwilling to train someone out of school.

Just another symptom.. (4, Interesting)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222217)

...of the fall of Rome. You better watch out though because the dying body of this beast is still going to kick and flail for another 20-50 years. You don't want to be in the way.

Improved Productivity Perhaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222231)

Maybe engineers are getting more productive at their jobs. I used to submit a job to our stress engineers and get a reply back in a few days. I would then iterate my design and try again. I now do several iterations of analysis myself in a day. When I submit my job to stress, it will go through with only minor changes or none at all. A large part of this is due to advances in software and computing hardware.

Some people think they are getting a bargain by outsourcing engineering. My peers might not be able to compete on price. But the evidence against outsourcing is written all over the problems and then corrections to those problems of the development of a certain large airplane. (I'm not permitted to speak freely by company policy.) My employer ended up buying companies outright and sending it's engineers overseas to get the suppliers straightened out.

I'd put myself and the people that sit near me up against any engineers in the world on a price/performance basis. I don't claim that we are cheap. We are effective. When the work has impact on a global scale, our efforts are essentially free. Manager would do well to understand this.

Marching Morons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222235)

Couple this with other news items about soaring tuition costs and increasing numbers of schools that have simply closed their engineering and computer science departments and one gets a picture of a society that is in decline. Somewhere between 'the crazy years' and 'marching morons'. Kind of explains US politics for the last few years as well. Not to worry, the Chinese are training their kids (in US universities) so there will be someone to design the next generation of TV sets. Too bad we will eventually not be able to afford them.

Science and Eng. workforce has stalled (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39222259)

This is a load of crap. There are no jobs out there!!! I graduated with a doctorate in chemistry several years ago, and I am still looking. Most of the short term jobs that I have had could be done by someone who has a community college degree. It has been my experience that when I applied to a number of colleges for an instructor position that they were hell-bent on hiring someone that can not speak English in the name of diversity. I would never recommend going into science or Engeneering if all they are going to get mental gymnastics out of it.

Outsourcing Sucks! (2)

jerryjnormandin (1942378) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222319)

First it was manufacturing, next IT, next Software Development, now science and engineering. The government wonders why the economy is in the shitter. It's called globalization. Outsourcing sucks. Corporations are cutting the domestic workforce, and they wonder why their products are not selling. We gotta take industry back and reward US companies that design, and build their products here. Screw this globalization shit.

Its the war on intelligence (1, Troll)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222321)

Nobody wants to go into these jobs because they require you to be able to think. And of course since the GOAL of Public Education for the last 20 years has been to prevent the student from thinking of course we are running low on young thinkers.

STEM majors not chosen or winnowed out (4, Informative)

TheSync (5291) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222325)

One issue is the large "winnowing out" of STEM majors in college [cnn.com] :

Among students who majored in liberal arts, business or other fields, 73% of white students and about 63% of black and Latino students finished their degrees in five years.

Forty-one percent of American students who start off majoring in science, math, engineering or technology fields graduate from those programs within six years.

The question is whether this "winnowing" is due to lack of preparation of the students before college, or simply a non-educational strategy of signaling that the students who "survive" are of high quality, in which case the institution should consider not calling itself a "higher learning" institution but a "better signaling" institution.

Students in general are choosing non-STEM majors [ed.gov] . Top US graduating majors are 1) Business 2) Social sciences and history 3) Health professions and related clinical sciences 4) Education 5) Psychology 6) Visual and performing arts.

I feel pretty bad for anyone who took out loans for majors #2 or #6 and think they can pay them back...#5 will have a rough time as well. Education doesn't pay well on day 1, but if you can stick it out for 10 years and sneak a graduate degree you can do OK, depending on your union contract.

One other issue is that while more women than men are now attending college (57% women/43% men), women are even more likely to choose non-STEM majors [newyorkfed.org] . In Business, the female/male ratio is nearly 50/50, but in the #2 top major group of Social Sciences, it is 64/36 in favor of women. In #3 Health, it is 76/24. In #4 Education, it is 77/23.

In CS the female/male ratio is 30/70, in Engineering it is 17/83.

Physical sciences are closer to even (47/53) while Math is slightly more female (58/48).

Transition (1)

CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39222327)

Its all part of the attitude in the U.S. towards S&E, leading to a transition from a design-and-manufacturing powerhouse to a fully dumbed-down service-oriented economy. Would you like fries with that?
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