Monday, July 28, 2014

Is STEM Worker Shortage Based on a Lie and a Scam

The debate over STEM education and an "alleged STEM-worker shortage" received another critical voice this week as Ron Hira and friends took to the pages of USA Today to challenge and expose "Bill Gates' Tech Worker Fantasy." Gates and his monolithic Gates Foundation have been the driving forces behind the obsessive focus on increasing math and science oriented students to fuel the tech sector's supposed need for workers. Proponents of STEM-education argue that the new technology-driven era will create an ever-growing demand for computer scientists and engineers to fuel the the economy ... and to fill the bankrolls of tech companies like Microsoft. However, critics like Hira challenge these absolutes and point to evidence of a "STEM-shortage myth" in light of the fact that many college-educated STEM grads are currently out of work or working in non-STEM fields. This revelation is bolstered by news of Microsoft's recent announcement of plans to lay off 18,000 workers. Stagnant wage growth in STEM fields and collusion by tech companies to suppress wages in the field also expose the problems of STEM-only focus in education.

Criticism of the need for STEM workers has been building for years, as many researchers indicate the economy may have twice as many STEM workers as it needs, leading to wage decline and unemployment. The STEM push had been used by tech companies to increase the ease and availability for hiring foreign workers. But again, much of the propaganda for increasing STEM numbers appears to be based on myth and misinformation. Of course, there is validity to the need for STEM workers. And the argument that a shortage of technologically skilled workers is real and growing has plenty of support. No one would dispute that the world and the economy are becoming increasingly tech-linked. So it stands to reason that workers with backgrounds in the kind of math, science, technology, and engineering used to support that economy should be in regular demand. And STEM proponents argue that critics don't fully understand the numbers.

The problem, of course, is that no one seems to have a definitive answer that is not in some way driven by an agenda. Even the "experts" don't know if the shortage is real. But from "A Teacher's View," the impact on education is serious and significant, and it's worrisome that the push for students to learn is simply based on the premise of getting a good paying engineering job. For, what of the social-emotional side to society and the economy? What of the artists and creators and poets and writers and thinkers? What of the dancers?

Certainly, STEM is a need and a reasonable focus for education. But it can't be the only one.


Norm Matloff said...

Hi, Teacher, Norm Matloff here, one of the authors of the USA Today op ed you cite.

You should really investigate on your own whether the "STEM labor shortage" claims are valid. It's not hard to do at all, provided you dig deep into the issue and keep a sharp eye out for hidden (sometimes not so hidden) agendas.

I suggest starting with some points that all sides of the argument agree on. That will give you excellent perspective for going further.

1. First, all sides agree that salaries have been flat in the computer field, the one the industry says has the most acute shortage. You then, either by consulting economist friends or simply using common sense, will see that there is just no way to reconcile the shortage claims with the flat wages.

2. Second, ANY economist, and again plain common sense, will tell you that immobile workers tend to make less than mobile workers of the same quality. Since the H-1B work visa holders are immobile (need an asterisk here), it then follows that all sides agree that the H-1Bs are paid less than their market worth. You will then have a hard time taking the industry's "shortage" claims seriously.

By these two simple "thought" experiments, you'll already be way ahead of the game. You can then delve into details (such as the asterisk above, too complex for me to deal with here).

You may wish to admonish your students to always consider the source. You yourself should have questioned what Linda Rosen's credentials are for writing the column you cite, and even more importantly, looked into who is funding her.

My 10-minute overview of the H-1B issue is at

mmazenko said...

Thanks, Norm.

I appreciate the feedback, and I am certainly in agreement with your op-ed. In fact, my original blog title was stated as fact, but in the interest of fairness, I re-phrased it as a question and sought a few counter-arguments as links. That said, I think my position is pretty clear that I support the claims and argument you and your colleagues have made - and, as a result, I think your tone and advice on how to research and evaluate a source is a bit ... much, to say the least. You could probably lighten up a bit there, Norm.

I'll stand by my post, and I hope I've done my part to promote awareness of the "STEM-shortage myth" by linking to your op-ed.

You're welcome.

Unknown said...

Now it's time for a Mother to step in. Our world has come to focus on the $$ which is creating a world of greed, fraud and corruption.

I have never supported the idea of the need to push for more STEM students because:
1. We have always had a good share of engineers and scientists who got us to the moon and created the world of machinery we have been using which in watching a video on how they are made and what they do - is amazing - you see part of what I see as the money monkey Gates doing is working at shutting down our children's exploring minds especially since he was so willing to give our kids the junk math of Common Core that Russia rejected as junk over 50 years ago. How is a math that takes 3-4 times longer to complete a problem than the math we had before advancing anything?

2. The idea Microsoft needs more workers because the world has become a computer hide-out where families go to restaurants and everyone is on their phones, no one talking and the mindset you HAVE to have the newest phones or your social status will be ruined especially if you are under 18 is a world of indoctrination that I do not appreciate fed by Gates and his multi-millions.

3. The STEM shortage is as much of a myth as the junk information and lies fed by people like Gates and his buddy Gore on Global Cooling. These people seem to forget there are still plenty of us out here who were educated prior to their meddling in the process of dumbing down America and flustrating our children into believing socialism and a New World Order will be a better world.

Go sell your junk science to Cuba and take your Social-emotional learning gunk with you and leave our children to learn not be indoctrinated, but to grow up to be good citizens and parents along with believing in God and family. We are well aware of Gates backroom antics to bring this country down.

Unknown said...

And Norm Matloff - your H-1B game is part of the problem in this country. You want us all to believe we are short in this country of students smart enough to be engineers, scientists, when you support the monster Gates and his aid in making our children idiots through the junk education of Common Core. Of course, you aren't going to get plenty of brains graduating when you dump a horrible education program on them in the middle of their education (you could at least have set the CCSS to start up in the 1st grade every year for several years but that would not have gotten you lower grades and standards. WE are aware of Gates objectives for our children and have read his agreement with Russia. Not everyone in America has been dumbed down to Gates level.