According to a recent study by Kelly Outsourcing and Consulting Group, the United States currently ranks 12th in the race for STEM jobs—those in science, technology, engineering, and math—globally. STEM workers in the United States are a part of an increasingly global economy of innovation, yet the number of qualified workers in these industries is still lacking. The demand for STEM jobs has risen astronomically, but the supply of good candidates in the United States is miniscule. There is a huge talent gap when it comes to STEM jobs.

Training is not necessarily on the decline

The lack of qualified candidates for these jobs is not due to a decline in the number of people who are obtaining STEM-type degrees; it’s because the demand is outstripping the supply.  From 2009-2011, many STEM workers turned to free agency by starting down a more entrepreneurial track, which made it harder for corporate America to compete. The perks and benefits of starting your own business sometimes cannot be matched by a larger Fortune 500 company.

Women and minorities are increasing in the workforce, but not in STEM job fields.

Women and minorities have made huge strides in the workforce in recent years. People of color currently make up a third of the workforce, a dramatic increase over the past decade, and women currently make up 47% of the workforce.

However, even with these increases, women and minorities still make up less than 25% of the STEM jobs. What does this mean for our economy? Is it an uneven playing field for women and minorities in STEM job fields, or are certain groups just not obtaining degrees in these fields?

The Chronicle states that the reason for the gender gap in STEM-related jobs is the lack of encouragement for women in these fields, and common misperceptions about these jobs. These fields are usually male-dominated, with only 0.3% of women who attend college intending to major in a STEM-related field.  Minorities have also not been encouraged strongly enough to go into these fields.

How to fix the problem.

Several factors play into the lack of qualified STEM talent. Often, men and women who are talented in these areas choose not to pursue STEM-related undergraduate degrees because they think the money is in high-tech. In order to fix the problem, STEM-related companies need to take a look at what draws graduates and professionals into high-demand fields such as high tech and make concessions in terms of the salaries and benefits they offer. Until they do, the supply of workers will remain stagnant while the demand continues to grow bigger and bigger, leaving the future of these fields in the U.S. in question.

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.

6 Comments

  • Avatar Matt says:

    I think everyone has heard that STEM employees’ shortage could be solved by attracting more foreign specialists. However it seems that Congress is still reluctant to increase the number of STEM visas for immigrants. I know it’s more desirable to cover this shortage by country’s own human resources, but this way or another the problem must be solved ASAP, otherwise we’ll get out of the competition.

  • Avatar Matt says:

    I think everyone has heard that the shortage of STEM employees could be solved by attracting more foreign specialists. However it seems that Congress is still reluctant to increase the number of STEM visas for immigrants. I know it’s more desirable to cover this shortage by country’s own human resources, but this way or another the problem must be solved ASAP, otherwise we’ll get out of the competition.

  • Avatar Peter says:

    Matt, I don’t think it’s a good idea to deal with shortage by means of immigration until we haven’t taken illegal immigration under control. I think there’s another solution – we have to teach our citizens to go for the education and degrees with high future employment opportunities. This way not only the shortage in some spheres can be covered but also unemployment issues solved.

  • Avatar Bob says:

    Why can’t our government stimulate STEM specialists by raising their salaries? I mean there’s always been a good demand for IT specialists and in order to attract them companies offer competitive salaries.

  • Avatar Clair says:

    I think that, in fact, this shortage is not real. The EPI report supports this idea and moreover states that there’s a STEM surplus. And I agree with the previous author if there was an actual shortage of STEM workers, demand would predict that the wages of STEM employees would be rising.

  • Avatar Jessica Miller-Merrell says:

    Just because there are candidates out there doesn’t mean that they are the best qualified. This is the challenge with most hiring issues. Not all candidates that look good on paper are fit for the company or the job that you are hiring for.

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