Obama Government is Sitting Up to Warnings About Shortage of Scientists

by on August 7th, 2010
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For a long time the grim warnings have been made – not only about the economy, environment or car industry but about the forthcoming shortage of scientists in USA. The predictions have been coming for decades from the corporates, the government and advocates of education. For nearly half a century the red light has been flashing.

Intensification of these warnings during the last four years has made both the Bush and Obama governments sit up.

Last April while speaking to the National Academy of Sciences Obama promised “a renewed commitment to education in mathematics and science.” He was fulfilling a promise to impart training to scientists and engineers numbering about 100,000 during his tenure as president. But there is a minor snag – the training is there but all the jobs are not there!

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is gathering steam to push on. But many noted critics are warning that the policy is not on the correct lines. The subject is of vital importance because it means USA will be losing her position as number one in the world as regards science and technology.

The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released figures showed that for electrical engineers the unemployment rate has touched a record high. It was 8.6% in the second quarter of this year – it being double that of 4.1% noted during the first quarter of the same year of 2009.

For all types of engineers the rate of unemployment spiked up from 3.9% to touch 5.5% during the first quarter of this year. It is however better than the overall unemployment number of the country – 9.7%. Meanwhile the country is producing thousands and thousands of hopeful graduates.

According to National Science Foundation the colleges of the country churned out 460,000 scientists together with engineers during 2005. Many of these are in the social and behavioral stream.

Simultaneously emerging countries like India and China have produced 700,000 engineers. The growth of STEM scholars is slow. This is not so much because of lack of funds but because the students are faced with a cloudy career future with low wages in comparison to other streams like medicine, law or finance.

One of the most noted vocal critics is Michael Teitelbaum of Alfred P. Sloan Foundation of New York. He said while speaking to the Congress in 2007, “Indeed, science and engineering careers in the U.S. appear to be relatively unattractive.”

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