Attracting STEM Workers

This must be my day to be cynical. For example, when I read this article about a race for science and technology workers, I immediately began looking for the fine print. And it was easy enough to find:

The centerpiece of Thursday’s summit was the results of a four-month study on local STEM issues. Conducted by Accenture in 2014 at the request of GLBRA officials, it provided a statistical snapshot on STEM jobs and instruction, and recommended a variety of strategies to help create a “pipeline” for STEM-educated workers.

Michael Loiero, a consultant at Accenture, noted that the Great Lakes Bay Region has a STEM-driven economy, with more than $3 billion in GDP driven by manufacturing and healthcare in 2012, and added that the region has a higher concentration of many STEM careers than the national average.

There’s plenty of finessing going on here. Quoting the amount of GDP generated by manufacturing and healthcare without breaking them out may be misleading. Between a third and half of all healthcare spending is government subsidy. Of course there’s a demand for it. Consumers aren’t paying full price for it. When you cut the price paid by consumers for practically anything in half, demand for it will spike.

But there’s also this: “a consultant at Accenture”. Accenture is a major employer of H1B visa holders and one of the forces behind lobbying for an expansion of the program.

Here’s a wild idea: let wages for science and technology workers rise. Limit H1B visas to where they’re actually needed rather than to where they’ll lower wages the most. Shine more light on what jobs are being demanded and what they’re actually paying. We already have thousands of unemployed and underemployed science, technology, engineering, and math workers. In a tighter labor market wages will rise and you’ll get more students.

Of course, that does highlight another problem: how is the Great Lakes region going to attract talent? If you were a bright, young STEM worker, would you rather live in San Jose or Grand Rapids? I seem to recall that Accenture’s old parent company, Arthur Andersen, had some difficulty in finding a partner who was willing to live in GR.

The old “Rust Belt” states need to find some ways of attracting the future’s workers. The present strategy of higher taxes and deteriorating standard of living isn’t working out so well.

14 comments… add one
  • bob sykes Link

    There is, in fact, a surplus of STEM graduates. A substantial fraction of BS engineers never get work as engineers. A the graduate level, over half of all MS and PhD candidates are foregners, most of them East Asians. Nowadays, the foregners have to go home, but the proposed immigration changes would let them stay. This would crush stem salaries, which is, of course, the plan.

  • That engineers are not paid more in Grand Rapids or Detroit than they are in Redmond, Palo Alto, or San Jose suggests a market failure. You would expect wages to rise in areas that are less desireable to live in to attract more workers. That they are not doing so suggests there’s something else at work.

  • Unless wages have been adjusted for cost-of-living, the same salary in Grand Rapids is likely to go farther the same salary in San Jose, which is exorbitantly expensive due to housing costs, amongst other things.

    But it’s all about crushing salaries. About a couple of years back I caught a segment on Fox Business Channel in which a company exec stated they simply had to import mote aerospace engineers because they couldn’t find any in their location – St. Augustine, FL. No idea there was any kind of aerospace company there, but given that it is ~100 miles from the Kennedy Space Center, which was shedding experienced workers (including engineers), the company CEO’s claim was bullshit.

    Close the goddamned borders already until everyone that wants work has it and wages start rising substantially.

  • jan Link

    Close the goddamned borders already until everyone that wants work has it and wages start rising substantially.

    Email President Obama with that suggestion, ice.

  • ... Link

    jan, look at the WaPo article about Obama’s plan pushing Presidential authority into dangerous territory. And then read the comments. Hundreds and hundreds of Democrats cheering for the President to ignore Congress and the laws and do whatever the Hell he wants. The country is already lost. It’s only a matter of time now.

    Incidentally, I looked at OTB’s comment sections yesterday, which I rarely do. My favorite sadistic bullying old addict is now proclaiming that amnesty and open borders and the President ignoring Congress and the laws of the nation are moral imperatives, after proclaiming in the past that he’s really against open borders. (Of course, he always votes for the open borders candidates, so he’s lying on this topic as on most others, but what are you going to do? Expecting honesty from any Democrat is hopeless.)

    It’s just hopeless. The President is going to elect a new people, and at least a third of the “citizens” are going to go along with it. Utterly hopeless.

  • mike shupp Link

    What’s screechingly funny is that this horrid economy-threatening shortage of science and engineering graduates, which necessitates the immediate importation of foreign STEM workers, has been an article of faith among businessmen and politicians for over 50 years.

  • ... Link

    No, what has been an article of faith is that if they can crush the wages of their workers, they can keep more of the gains for themselves. They’ve been lying their asses off for decades.

  • jan Link

    And then read the comments. Hundreds and hundreds of Democrats cheering for the President to ignore Congress and the laws and do whatever the Hell he wants.


    I’ve seen the same thing regarding Dems cheering Obama onward in his immigration extravaganza. It’s mind-boggling, as well as discouraging what is going on with the political gamesmanship between our major two parties. It’s all about one-upping the other, with hardly a neuron being pressed as to considerations that will help not hinder this country any more than it already is. There is basically so much vindictiveness in Obama’s presidency, as well as with those who are still a part of his fan club. As for OTB, IMO, it’s just an out-of-control mimic society of leftist talking points. Nothing new there at all.

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