07 May 2013

Matching Problems

Center for Immigration Studies | David North | America Has More Trained STEM Graduates than STEM Job Openings It has become quite clear that America has more high-tech college graduates than needed to fill high-tech jobs now and, importantly, the nation will keep producing many more such graduates than job openings in the future — so why the shrill calls from the industry that there is a shortage?
The senior class at Analogy High School has 300 boys and 200 girls. Who's more likely to get asked to the homecoming dance by a senior boy: the 200th most attractive senior girl, or the single most attractive junior girl?

Do I really need to spell out why an employer would prefer the best foreign-born worker they can find to an American in the 33rd percentile?

Does it need to be said that STEM grads are not uniform round pegs and STEM jobs are not uniform round holes?


  1. I first saw this trope when I was working, and came across an internal staffing paper that forsaw that we would start to have shortages in certain areas as the older members of staff retired, but people with the same skills were not appearing. The management solution was that all engineers could do any sort of engineering job, so we would just re-assign excess EEs to do nuclear reactor thermal-hydraulic calculations or fuel/neutronics work.

    The idea had credence because we had a large population of inspectors who came from all sorts of backgrounds, and they tended to inspect all aspects of the power plant. I.e., if they could do these inspections, why could they also not review the underlying technical arguments for new reactor designs. I would bet that it is something the financial consultants are pushing, because they can point to all the management jobs that are done by generalists, and how anyone can become a financial or HR person - you don't even have to be able to do arithmetic.

    And of course they have the lawyers available to second guess the design when the inevitable accident occurs, and anyone can get a law degree - even fine arts graduates.

  2. I will add one other thought. In looking at affirmative action compliance, there are requirements that you have the right distribution of people in various job categories. One of those categories is "professional staff", which is pretty wide, and encompasses STEM people, medical, lawyers, and HR "professionals" (there are more). The ideal distribution is based on the numbers of these professionals (as one big group) in the entire US workforce, by race, gender, etc.

    If you have an organization with a lot of engineers, you will be hard-pressed to meet your quota(and it IS a quota) for engineers who are women,native-American, black or disabled. You will likely be over-represented with Asians. As a result, the organization as a whole has to over-hire female and black lawyers and HR people, and just pray that a native American professional shows up some time. This causes lots of problems because white and Asian engineers do not have the same culture as black female HR types, and when they have to interact there will be a LOT of disagreements...

    I must say, though, that I did get to hire one black female engineer away from a large company that I used to regulate (she came to us), and promote another over a white guy who was probably a better choice, but who did not interview well. Both of them turned out quite well, but they are quite rare.