By Angie Argabrite, Monday, October 17, 2011, at 9:49 am.
A Major Upheaval
U.S. college students are encouraged to major in STEM fields to fill empty positions and rev the economy
When it comes to the American job market, or lack thereof, there are some troubling incongruities. For instance: Why, with 14 million people pounding the pavement looking for work, do 52 percent of U.S. employers report difficulty in filling critical positions within their organizations? It may be because too few workers are trained to do the jobs that most badly need doing—in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), reportedly due to too many U.S. students choosing majors in the social sciences rather than STEM because they believe the workload will be lighter. As a result, the gap between the jobs prospective workers are prepared for and the ones for which they’re most needed continues to widen. In response, some politicians are lobbying to downsize university social-science departments in order to limit the number of psychology and anthropology majors. It’s a controversial stance, but a number of college students seem to be getting the message. The University of Tennessee just reported a 28 percent increase in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees since 2005, while Florida Gulf Coast University has doubled its number of STEM graduates in the past two years. Paradoxically, one of the very things college students are being pressed to major in—technology—may be stealthily eliminating large quantities of jobs. By ratcheting up productivity in a big way, technology has made it possible for commodity workers to produce more and more units of output but be paid less and less for each item. Talk about bad business.