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The Shortage of STEM Workers: Where Have All The Engineers Gone?

Posted May 24, 2013 & filed under Uncategorized

The Shortage of STEM Workers: Where Have All The Engineers Gone?

STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) fields are a particular hot spot for young adults entering the workforce. Engineering positions in the civil, electrical, and industrial sectors are particularly booming. With the economy slowly on the rise and jobs opening up in multiple engineering industries one would assume that young adults entering college would be focused on these areas. The numbers clearly tell a different story.

The numbers

The 2012 report on labor statistics shows an 11% increase in the amount of engineering jobs that will open up from now until 2016. However, the Society of Human Resource Management highlights that in the 1980’s an average of 97,000 engineering majors were being competed by students, but as of 2009, only 84,636 bachelors were earned in the field.

With this many jobs opening up in multiple sectors the numbers are show that there will be a serious shortage of skilled workers to fill these positions. The 2012 report also shows that 88% of surveyed employers admitted that engineering positions were difficult to fill.

This may be good news for job seekers, who will not have to struggle against overwhelming odds to find work, but it is equally bad news for employers, who still struggle to find qualified individuals to fill crucial positions in their industry.

The remedy

The government is taking measures to try to train children in STEM fields so that they may fill future positions, but schools are still struggling to encourage children and young adults to take a vested interest in these fields. With recent numbers placing the United States in the 20’s and 30’s of nations ranked in math and science, there is clearly a cause for concern for future generations of engineers.
So how do we get children involved and excited about these projects? It ranges from parenting at home to schooling.

Start at home

With video games and the Internet absorbing up so much of a child’s life it is not hard to see why so many children are heading towards the Information Technology fields. Because software applications have become a major part of our lives it is easy to forget civil, mechanical, industrial, and electrical engineering.

Many households are ruled by their television sets. It can help every once and awhile to power down the many technological distractions in a child’s life and get them excited to play with any number of material objects. Something as simple as building a ramp and rolling a few ping pong balls down it can be a simple way to get children engaged in physics.

Toys like Legos and dominos are also great ways to demonstrate the basics of engineering principals in fun and entertaining ways. There are literally hundreds of at home projects that you can enjoy with your children while encouraging them to take an active interest in the fields of engineering.

See the full list here.

Then focus in schools

As parents you can only influence your children so much before you have to send them off to school, but schools have not been succeeding at encouraging students to take on STEM fields.

Educate to Innovate, the initiative enacted in 2009 by President Obama was meant to revamp the education system to focus on STEM jobs. By providing funding for science based programs as well as training 100,000 more STEM teachers, the program was meant to boost US children higher on international test rankings while creating more skilled professionals for fields such as engineering.

Although the program was a small step in the right direction it has yet to drastically revamp the attitude schools take towards science careers. It is clear that further steps need to be taken to convince students to take on STEM careers.

Where do we go from here?

Years ago students began to gravitate towards careers in the IT fields because of the large amounts of job opportunities the filed had to offer. Perhaps the same will happen with engineering over the next decade. The only thing that is certain is that there are still ways that people can rouse a child’s curiosity in STEM fields, and it all starts from the home.

By Kevin Withers

Read the full 2012 jobs report

Image courtesy of Matt. Create. (Roads Less Traveled) via Flickr