Businesses Want More STEM Skills

November 7, 2013

New York state got an influx of high-tech jobs five years ago when its offer of more than $1 billion of incentives, including cash and tax breaks, persuaded Globalfoundries Inc. to set up a semiconductor plant in Malta, New York, about 25 miles north of Albany. There has been one hitch: Because it is hard to find enough people with the right technical skills in the area, about half of the 2,200 jobs at the plant were filled by people brought in from outside New York and 11 percent are foreigners, says the Wall Street Journal.

The shortage of highly skilled factory workers in Malta comes amid growing worries about a nationwide failure to produce enough strong graduates in science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM fields.

  • Bayer Corp., the U.S. arm of the German chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG, released a report showing that half of the recruiters from large U.S. companies surveyed couldn't find enough job candidates with four-year STEM degrees in a timely manner; some said that had led to more recruitment of foreigners.
  • The shortages were most acute in engineering and computer-related fields, the recruiters said.
  • About two-thirds of the recruiters surveyed said their companies were creating more STEM positions than other types of jobs.
  • In a recent survey of Indiana manufacturers commissioned by Katz, Sapper & Miller, an Indianapolis-based accounting firm, 24 percent of the respondents reported "serious deficiencies" in math skills among their current workforces.
  • Among respondents, 36 percent reported a serious shortage of skilled production workers.

Bayer is using more internships and scholarships in an effort to deal with what it sees as a shortage of engineering expertise. Globalfoundries is working with U.S. educators, notably the State University of New York, which encompasses 463,000 students on 63 campuses. One initiative is a mentoring program, funded by a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, that pairs graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with middle schoolers interested in STEM careers.

Source: James A. Hagerty, "More Businesses Want Workers With Math or Science Degrees," Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2013.

 

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