Is there a US STEM gap?

There has been a lot of discussion about potential science, technology, engineering and mathematics labor shortages, but a controversial report from the Economic Policy Institute found there are more than enough of these workers in the U.S. 

In the past decade, a greater number of students have pursued STEM degrees, which appears to be in response to the increase of employment opportunities. However, the EPI report found only half of STEM graduates are hired into a job in their intended field, particularly in computer and information science and engineering. A strong surge of students pursued computer science degrees in the late 1990s because of the jump in Internet startups, but much of the hiring momentum has since cooled. Many IT workers may have entered the field in other ways. The research revealed only 24 percent of IT employees have a computer-related degree.

However, human resource experts are questioning the new data. The EPI research focused primarily on information technology, which is only a minor portion of STEM employment, Human Resource Executive Online stated. In addition, graduating with a STEM degree does not automatically make someone employable, the source added.

"Having a STEM degree doesn't make them a good hire," Dave DeLong, an independent researcher with a fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, told Human Resource Executive Online. "Hiring managers have to take into account technical expertise, teamwork and critical thinking ability and leadership skills."

In addition to the desirable skills in communication, problem-solving and teamwork  for STEM employment, DeLong said companies want to hire workers who will stick around. Many graduates are constantly looking out for their next opportunity right after taking a position. While STEM jobs are often highly paid, some qualified employees seek more lucrative careers in industries like finance.

Skills gaps or hiring difficulties?
Although there are a sufficient number of STEM graduates, many firms have trouble finding top talent. Engineering graduates apply to many jobs right after college, and they may end up accepting an offer outside of their field. The first positions in a graduate's career often determine what he or she will do in the long run. Job seekers who take non-engineering jobs may never have a position based of their degrees because they will not have the experience to advance, Human Resource Executive Online stated. This can leave a void for employers.

Qualified STEM workers are out there, but it can be difficult for firms to locate these candidates on their own. Hiring managers can consult electrical engineering recruiters to fill open positions with skilled applicants.