There’s no question that engineering and other STEM jobs are at the center of a country’s success. In recent years, the US job market has seen growth in many engineering sectors, with only one problem, where are all the engineers?
Engineers are crucial in pushing forward this country’s innovation, as well as sustaining ongoing development. There are plenty of engineering jobs out there, but there are a decreasing number of US-based engineers willing or even ready to fill them. This is obviously good for the engineer trying to find a job, but it is detrimental to the overall state of the industry. Based on research compiled by Adecco, nationally there are 3.6 unemployed individuals per 1 job listing. When it comes to STEM, however, there is 1 qualified individual per 1.9 job listings. This shortage is obviously coming from somewhere. It could be the cultural drive away from math and science, or it could be that the modern population is generally disinterested in becoming engineers. Let’s take a look.
75 percent of all of the fastest growing occupations across the globe are based in science and math, particularly some form of engineering. Below, you can see where the US ranks compared to other countries in the number of engineers we are producing.
While we are number 2 globally, we are far behind Russia in the number of engineers we produce. Even though 237 thousand American engineers graduated in 2015, many of these graduates are foreign nationals studying on visas or individuals who don’t end up working in their respective fields by choice. With that said, there continues to be an increase in STEM graduates as well as STEM jobs. However, there is still a hiring gap coming from somewhere. The US continues to fall in national rankings in science and math. Something has to be done.
Let’s look at what isn’t wrong before we get to the root of the issue. The lack of engineers certainly isn’t due to decreased wages. Engineers can expect to make at least 20 percent more in annual income than their non-engineering counterparts, if not more.
The next logical thought is that there simply aren’t enough engineering graduates. In 2015 271,000 people graduated with engineering degrees, and 277,000 new engineering jobs were offered, based on conservative numbers. US News projects the graduation/hiring gap as being much wider. According to their numbers, there were “30,835 additional STEM graduates and 230,246 additional STEM jobs from 2014-2015.” This is a staggering percentage of unfilled jobs when looking at the overall market.
So, the problem does lie in our graduation numbers, as you may have suspected. Based on current estimates, if something isn’t done about our lack of engineers, there will be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs by 2018. This deficiency will gravely hurt the US economy.
So, what can we do to stop the shortage of engineers?
Within the engineering fields, there are a few things that can be done to attract more students and keep them in their fields. For one, there is an abysmal gender gap in engineering. According to the National Math and Science Initiative, the average US workforce is 48 percent women, but in STEM degrees women make up only 24 percent. Attracting more women into the engineering fields will prove crucial in increasing the number of graduates. Addressing this problem won’t solve everything, though. Increasing educational initiatives for minorities and improving the state of our high school STEM teachers are 2 key steps in improving engineer production. Two-thirds of all teachers across the US who teach science, math, or physics didn’t major in their respective field. This unfortunate lack of qualified STEM teachers means that many students aren’t learning everything that STEM has to offer.
They are, in essence, failing to see STEM as a viable career path either due to misunderstanding or disinterest.
There’s a significant lack of engineers in the US, and we have to take positive steps to increase the number of STEM graduates. Improving school systems and nurturing students through technical degrees are keys to achieving these improvements. It has been proven time and time again that countries with a strong engineering populous maintain stronger economies. This is ultimately what skyrocketed the USA into a superpower position, and is, unfortunately, one of the reasons the US is currently falling behind educationally. Keep innovating, keep teaching, keep learning. These are the ways to produce more engineers.