Another debunking of the U.S. Engineering Shortage

A recent study from the Center for Immigration Studies found that in each year from 2001-12, the U.S. added 105,000 jobs for people with an education or background in a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) discipline. (Here’s the full study.) Over that same span, U.S. colleges turned out an average of 115,000 graduates with STEM degrees. Sounds like a pretty good match between demand and supply, right? Not quite: The study also found that over those same years, the U.S. admitted 129,000 immigrants with STEM degrees. This accounts for some of the competition getting into those STEM slots, not to mention sluggish wage growth in those jobs and more than a whiff of age discrimination.

This study shoots a Gatling gun’s worth of holes in the corporate complaints of not being able to find enough U.S. engineers and tech workers. Here are some its conclusions:

  • “The large increases in STEM workers pushed by employers and many in Congress seem entirely divorced from what is actually going on in the U.S. labor market.”
     
  • “When formulating policy, elected representatives need to consider the actual conditions in the U.S. labor market, rather than simply responding to pressure from employers in industries that wish to hire large numbers of foreign STEM graduates.”
     
  • “By allowing in many more immigrants than the labor market has been able to absorb, Congress is almost certainly holding down wage growth and reducing the incentive for native-born Americans to undertake the challenging course work that is often necessary for STEM careers. While employers may find this situation desirable, it is difficult to argue this is the interest of American people as a whole.”

These finding should come as no surprise, and certainly not to engineers. The same findings were highlighted in papers from the Rand Corp., the Economic policy Institute, the National Research Council, the Urban Institute, and Georgetown University.

Regardless of the facts, Congress is pushing open the doors to more STEM-educated immigrants. The Senate recently passed an immigration amnesty bill that would double, possibly triple, the number of high-tech visas the U.S. issues annually. And a congressperson recently got a bill out of committee that could double the number of H-1B Visas, letting in even more foreign tech workers.

 

 

 

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

on Jul 24, 2014

Hmm....why don't these companies press for H-1B visas for foreign workers with business management education?

on Jul 24, 2014

We should accept ten H-1B lawyers for each STEM H1-B granted. It's been used for decades to depress engineering salaries. Companies put up ridiculously low salaries and then say they cant find workers. Half of STEM folks leave the industry in the first 20 years. Many companies will not hire engineers over 35 or any with disabilities. Hours are longer each year, engineers are discouraged from advance degrees and training because it interferes with overtime. Age, racial/ethnic, and disability bias is rampant and everyone looks the other way.

on Jul 25, 2014

This seems to be a bit of oversimplication. You mention new jobs, but what about replacement of STEM jobs to retiring labor force, what about the % of college STEM graduates that are foreign students and leave the country at graduation or stay & are also counted in the imigrant number. What about current STEM employees that leave a STEM job to start a business, or take on non stem job, (stockbroker, CEO, management, ...). I'm not convinced one way or the other, looks like the referenced article goes into this a bit deeper, but looks like there is plenty of room for debate on both sides.

on Aug 25, 2014

Congress would be wise to remember that H-1B Visa Engineers do not have the right to vote in this country. Thank goodness.

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Stephen Mraz

Steve serves as Senior Editor of Machine Design.  He has 23 years of service and has a B.S. Biomedical Engineering from CWRU. Steve was a E-2C Hawkeye Naval Flight Officer in the U.S. Navy. He...
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