Blog: The Educated Reporter

Thursday STEM Express

Stem News and Opinion

STEM degrees may not mean more jobs–“Nevertheless, the glut of workers in some STEM areas (resulting in flat wages, and STEM grads forced to take jobs in non-STEM fields) directly contradicts the widely held view that the United States — and Florida — suffer from a critical shortage of qualified STEM graduates. The truth, many experts say, is more complicated.

Some studies, meanwhile, have challenged the notion of an overall STEM worker shortage — instead finding that the United States is producing vastly more STEM graduates than there are STEM jobs awaiting them. As science organizations and corporations continue to sound the STEM shortage alarm, critics charge that these groups are motivated by self-interest — tech companies, for example, have claimed a shortage of trained workers even as they laid off thousands of U.S. employees, and moved those jobs to low-wage developing countries.” (The Miami Herald, Michael Vasquez)

Context: A panel set up by Florida Gov. Rick Scott has encouraged universities to drive university students toward STEM degrees, going as far as proposing state institutions raise tuition on students who pursue certain degrees in the humanities, arts and social sciences—subjects that are perceived to lead to lower salaries than those in STEM.

‘STEM’ jobs up 14 percent in Florida–“If you’re a Florida student and unsure what to study in college, look at this:

The number of online job openings in STEM-related — sciences, technology, engineering, and math — fields in Florida has increased by 14 percent since last year, the state said Wednesday.” (Marcia Heroux Pounds, Sun Sentinel)

NEW: MA Expands STEM Programs to Support Workforce Development–“Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray announced on Thursday that five designated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs will expand across the state to support the Commonwealth’s goals of improving workforce development and increasing student retention among college graduates in Massachusetts.

Murray, Chair of the STEM Advisory Council, also announced that in addition to approximately $428,000 awarded through the state’s STEM Pipeline Fund, these expanded programs have identified matching funds at the targeted 3:1 ratio totaling more than $1.3 million from participating corporations, private foundations, and federal government sources to enhance state assistance.” (Staff, GoLocal24)

Gov. McDonnell to call for teacher pay raise, STEM-H incentives–Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is pitching the state legislature to adopt a bill that would make it easier to dismiss low performing teachers and extend the probationary period for new ones in exchange for teacher pay increases.

The governor says the money would not be affected by federal actions to address the fiscal cliff.

From the Governor’s office:

“I will propose in my budget amendments a 2 percent pay increase for all of Virginia’s teachers. In addition, I will be asking the General Assembly to approve a total of $808,000 in incentive money to recruit and retain teachers in STEM-H subjects in middle and high school. Coupled with proposals to advance professional development and continue our focus on excellent teaching, these measures will further elevate the teaching profession in Virginia and help ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn from the best possible teachers.” (WSLS 10)

State Invests $1.85 million in West Tennessee STEM Network–“STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. In the last three years, Tennessee has invested $16 million in the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network. Knoxville and Nashville were the first to join. Johnson City, Chattanooga and Cookeville came on this year. Memphis, the sixth and final hub, brings 20 West Tennessee counties into the fold.

The idea is to create STEM zones, starting in schools and pushing out across the state where experts say some 100,000 STEM employees will be needed by 2018. The grant expires in 18 months. By that time, the West Tennessee hub is expected to have enough partners on board to sustain the effort.” (Jane Roberts, The Commercial Appeal)

Calling All Geek Girls: Join Our STEM Mentorship Program–“Here at The Huffington Post, we believe a more diverse group of scientists in STEM is necessary for our nation to stay competitive, and push the boundaries of innovation. That’s why we want to extend a digital helping hand to the future female leaders of STEM.

Join us in our new STEM mentorship initiative, in which we connect high-school- and college-age girls with an interest in science and engineering to female leaders in these fields.” (The Geek Girls of HuffPost)

STEM Gap Widens for Minorities–“Currently, whites account for 73 percent of the STEM workforce–those in fields reliant on science, technology, engineering, and math. Blacks and Latinos account for a mere 7 percent, despite constituting nearly 28 percent of the U.S. population.

Echoing other studies, the survey showed that Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders account for nearly 17 percent of the STEM workforce.

(Editor’s note: the figures are based on a survey by job search firm Monster Worldwide)

The report comes days after Senate Democrats blocked consideration of a bill passed by the Republican-controlled House to increase immigration for super-skilled immigrant workers.” (Rosa Ramirez, National Journal)

Granting Green Cards to Entrepreneur Immigrants Would Create Jobs a… (OPINION)–“Today, arbitrary immigration caps force roughly 20,000 American-educated degree holders in science, technology, engineering, and math to leave our country ever year. Indeed, the percentage of immigrant-founded startups in Silicon Valley has dropped from 52.4 percent to 43.9 percent in the last seven years. After earning degrees from Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, and MIT—sometimes with subsidies from U.S. taxpayers—we send talented graduates to Singapore, Germany, China, India, and Canada where public policy reforms in those countries are making it more attractive for immigrants. Facebook nearly relocated a key project offshore until the company obtained a H-1b visa for a Stanford graduate from Spain.” (Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, U.S. News & World Report)

Time to Make Computer Science Part of Schools’ Core Curricula (OPINION)–There is a critical shortage of qualified job seekers in the computer science field. Yes, even in this time of high unemployment, thousands of jobs, many of them right here in Houston, go unfilled simply because not enough individuals with the skill set companies need exist to fill these positions.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students participating in computer science training has decreased from 25 percent to 19 percent over the last 20 years. And those who do show an interest in the field find that most public schools simply do not offer an up-to-date, rigorous computer science curriculum.

While STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education is a hot topic in education circles these days, only math and science courses are required for graduation from high school. The few computer science courses that are offered are categorized as electives, not as core courses students need to graduate, so they do not receive the same emphasis as their higher profile STEM counterparts. (Paula Harris and Ruthe Farmer, The Houston Chronicle)