I was a member of the Jacksonville FL STEM Task Force during 2012. To launch the effort, we were given some high-level government generated handout material which included Dept. of Commerce STEM Introduction July 2011
Not willing to just accept the briefing material at face value, I checked the claims it made. They didn’t add up. Ironically, it appeared the text writers either never read the included numerical material, OR, ironically, weren’t able to understand it. The irony, of course, is that someone was given the responsibility to write a “summary” to create strong national support for STEM who were not, themselves, STEM proficient. If they were, they would have understood that the conclusions drawn by the statistics DO NOT support the major push for STEM we are seeing. In fact, the statistics suggest pulling back. You can understand how hard it was for me to accept this conclusion being a “rocket scientist” grad from MIT ( 1969 ), using STEM all my life, and being a founder of the first “all medical high school” in the U.S. What’s really going on here?
Someone stands to make a lot of money off of this. So, if we follow the money, where does it go? The military-industrial-academic complex! The military-industrial complex is pushing this to reduce wages. The academic push is obvious – more grants; more students. This is clearly what is happening in Florida at USF. In the past, this kind of talk was always followed by a plea to Congress to increase foreign student visas for Military contractors and government agencies like DOT – and they always got it!
So, here are my conclusions for Florida. I took the information provided for the U.S. analysis and tracked down the related data for Florida.
· STEM jobs account for only a very small proportion of Jobs, both in Florida and across the U.S. – about 4%
· While STEM jobs are expected to be the “fastest growth RATE” sector over the next 6 years ( 17% ), because of their small percentage (4%), they won’t really create a large absolute number of jobs ( 17% X 4% = 0.7% of all jobs ). That is, the total number of STEM jobs will grow from 4% to 4.7%.
· The total current STEM employment in Florida is 385,000. The reports expect that to grow to 411,000 by 2018. While 411,000 is a big number, the reports tragically fail to remember that 385,000 of those jobs are ALREADY FILLED! So, the REAL opportunity is not 411,000, it’s only filling the growth ( 26,000 ). Of course, we need to add to that any expected retirements over the next 6 years. The result is a TOTAL of 75,000 new jobs. But remember, that’s over 6 years. So, the total number of NEW STEM openings for ALL of Florida is 12,500 per year.
· Now, add in another factor. These 12,500 openings will NOT all be at the entry level. In fact, a Task Force attendee from a STEM placement company said MOST employers are looking for “experienced” workers. So, the placement opportunities for new STEM college graduates in Florida is more like ONLY 300 – 400 per year!
· This is a big shocker! Why? Because assuming Florida’s current high school graduates go on to college and then go looking for jobs, Florida ALREADY graduates about 36,800 students per year with STEM curriculum profiles at both the high school and college level. That’s already 100 TIMES as many as industry needs! So, what’s the justification for increasing this number?
· Some argue that maybe industry won’t be able to find experienced STEM workers. Where are those 12,000 experienced STEM job applicants per year going to come from? The statistics in both the national and state data also answer that question, and in a very discouraging way for STEM. It turns out that the U.S. ALREADY graduates 9.262M students each year with STEM degrees and has been doing so for a long time. Guess what? Of these graduates, 5.935M don’t go into STEM related employment. Why? Because they can’t find STEM JOBS! Right! 64% already capable can’t find jobs! Again, this has been going on for years. So, there is a HUGE backlog of workers ready and able to fill the jobs. So, how can there be a shortage?
If anyone reads the references right on the Workforce Florida STEM webpages and in the STEM Index, pieces of this discrepancy between rhetoric and statistics repeat over and over again. YET, the people writing the introductory summaries still don’t get it. They don’t understand it. The U.S. does NOT have a STEM shortage. The STEM push is just a big cover-up for failings of political policies and misuse of STEM employees by business. I’m not the first to spot this. Mike Vasquez of the Miami Herald has been writing about it for years: Miami Herald Article on the STEM scam