According to a new Brookings report Still Searching: Job vacancies and STEM Skills by Jonathon Rothwell, the need for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) workers exceeds the supply. Utilizing workplace skill and educational requirement data as well as advertising duration from millions of job openings, the report highlights the shortage of U.S. workers with STEM skills and its detrimental effects.
Rothwell explains STEM skills are in relatively high demand, however, in certain metropolitan areas the demand is even greater due to shortage. The report emphasizes the “consequences” such as income inequality, long-term gap in lifetime earnings, and unemployment rates among STEM workers and non-STEM workers. Other consequences include inequality among racial and gender groups.
The report found job openings for STEM positions take longer to fill compared to non-STEM positions due to the lack of qualified candidates. STEM job openings requiring a Ph.D. or other professional degree lasted an average of 50 days, compared to 33 days for non-STEM vacancies. The extended duration of advertising these openings creates high costs for companies, including overworked staff, lower output, and product delays.
As the economy continues to recover and job opportunities increase, skills common to STEM occupations will be even more highly sought after by employers. Because there is a wide variety of STEM jobs—accountants, actuaries, civil engineers, nurses, school psychologists, computer programmers—the skills required for computer, health care, and management jobs will have some variance. The report indicates computer skills are associated with the highest salaries.
Rothwell hopes continued research and reports such as this will help create awareness and eventually lead to the improvement of education and training practices. Labor market data can be very important when evaluating policy. Rothwell suggests without “major changes” in the training of the U.S. workforce, the shortage will continue to increase.