America Still Falls Short On Its STEM Workforce

By Samantha Finch, Parent Herald May 18, 05:00 am

The U.S. is putting a special focus on STEM education and encouraging students to take on STEM-related jobs. The nation, however, is still struggling when it comes to increasing its STEM workforce.

American STEM Workforce Not Developing

According to this year's U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index, the U.S. is seeing more college graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. But this is downplayed by the fact that those STEM degree holders are international students with temporary visas who can go back to their home countries anytime they want.

There were 30,835 additional U.S. graduates who have STEM degrees during the 2014-15 school year. There are, however, a total of 230,246 STEM jobs available in the country, the 2016 STEM Index report indicated.

Efforts Are Not Enough

The U.S. has put public and private investment into STEM education to fill jobs related to it in the future, the U.S. News & World Report wrote. The country should be attracting more children and women -- specifically African-Americans -- to be interested in STEM even though they're still young.

A survey from the National Science Foundation found that the number of graduates with masters and doctorate degrees in STEM increased by 6 percent last year. However, science and engineering graduates with U.S. passports and green cards have plummeted from 2008 to 2014.

Graduates with temporary student visas surged by 35 percent in the same period, with majority of them taking their skills to their homelands after graduating instead of practicing their craft in the U.S. It's no doubt that the U.S. is producing STEM graduates, whether the country is benefiting from it is the question.

The gap between whites and minorities is also seen in the STEM Index report. White students with STEM degrees increased by 15 percent in the last five years, but the number of their black counterparts plummeted by around the same percentage.

President Barack Obama, defense contractors, software companies and engineering firms have acknowledged the scarcity of qualified STEM graduates. The issue was blamed on the lack of aggressive STEM programs in poor schools, as well as the stereotype that server farms, wind tunnels and manufacturing laboratories are solely for white and Asian workers.

Women In STEM

The number of women entering the STEM workforce also fell since 2015, according to a separate report from the U.S. News & World Report. Education programs in the U.S. have launched programs designed to encourage young girls to pursue STEM-based careers. The Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame is doing this by introducing female students to successful women who made a mark in the field of STEM.

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