Brookings Study: STEM Jobs Really ARE Harder to Fill25 Jul 2014
A new study from a respected Washington think tank, the nonpartisan Brookings Institution, corroborates the longstanding claims of American high-tech industries: that positions requiring advanced skills in science, technology, engineering, and math – the STEM fields – actually are much harder to fill than non-STEM job vacancies. The study also documents the extent to which the supply of STEM workers is currently outstripped by labor market demand. [See Still Searching: Job Vacancies and STEM Skills, by Jonathan Rothwell, Brookings Institution, Jul.2014.]
Many critics have rightfully called for the creation of a more robust STEM curriculum, to get more American students into the pipeline for high-value STEM jobs in the future. In the meantime, however, U.S. tech companies need more STEM grads than the system can supply, and often turn to foreign-born H1B and L-1 workers to fill the gap. The Brookings study shows why, based on an analysis of the skill requirements and advertising duration for millions of vacancy announcements. Among the key findings:
- “Job openings for STEM positions take longer to fill than openings in other fields” – in fact, the median advertising duration is more than twice as long for STEM positions, compared to non-STEM jobs. Brookings concludes: “These indicators signal that STEM skills are in short supply in the labor market, relative to demand.”
- “Specific high-value skills requested by employers and common to STEM occupations are particularly scarce relative to demand and yet particularly valuable to employers.” IT workers are in especially high demand, the study finds.
- “The regional supply of workers in a given occupation affects the length of vacancy advertisements.” If the local rate of unemployment is low, vacancies will be advertised longer, indicating labor market scarcity for the skills in question. Professional STEM openings took longest to fill in the West Coast technology corridor, the study finds.
- “Computer occupations at the bachelor’s level – with software developers being the most common – advertise 43 days, as do various STEM positions including engineering managers, computer managers, and industrial, financial, and loss-prevention managers.”
- “At the master’s level, STEM jobs in engineering advertise the longest (61 days), followed by education (54), science (50), computers (48), health care (47), and management (41).”
According to the Brookings study, among the hardest IT jobs to fill are those requiring programming and software expertise in Mathematica, PIF, Apache Hadoop, OpenGL, NoSQL, Python, R, C++, Android, iOS, Biostatistics, Ruby on Rails, and PERL: they note that “ads with these skills linger on company websites for an average of 50 days.”
It’s a thought-provoking study, and a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate about how to deal with America’s STEM shortage – and it does a good job explaining the labor market dynamics that make the H1B and L-1 visa programs so important to the high-tech sector, and to our economy as a whole.
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