The War for STEM Talent is a Lie


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Did you catch a recent study that says the war for STEM talent is a lie? The authors believe that there are enough scientists and technical people in America to fill our jobs.

This goes along nicely with the progressive HR conspiracy theory that this whole STEM shortage is a myth meant to drive down wages. Some recruiters and HR professionals believe that there are plenty of American workers who are qualified for STEM jobs; however, these candidates are overlooked because they are too old and too expensive. It is cheaper to import immigrants than to employ and train Americans.

  • I don’t like the implicit race-baiting of these theories; however, I love that people are crunching the numbers and suggesting that we can fill STEM jobs with American workers.
  • And I love it when people suggest that not all STEM jobs are really STEM jobs. Just because you use math in your job doesn’t mean you are a STEM worker. The label has the potential for abuse. Companies could invoke the STEM label for all kinds of goofy reasons and request more H1B Visas to find cheap labor.
  • And I like when HR professionals and academic researchers suggest that the way to address the so called “talent shortage” is to invest and train in American workers instead of importing workers from overseas.

Some of my Human Resources colleagues are sick of being told that they can’t find good STEM workers. This is especially true when they present a decent slate of candidates and have them turned down based on concepts such as fit and likability.

Do you need to be likable to work in a lab? Do you need to be fun and engaging when you code?

And many of my progressive colleagues want to play a part in getting Americans back to work. They want to solve the alleged talent shortage in the STEM industry. They urge their leadership teams to dig deeper. Invest in training. Where a talent pipeline doesn’t exist, they work to create their own.

I like that, too.

Human Resources sits at the intersection of work, money, power and politics. I believe that is true. Every HR professional should work hard to create an economic environment that is so amazing that the war for talent is a real problem and not just an outcome of a mediocre educational system and an inefficient hiring process.

But I am dreaming, of course. It is easier to jump on the hysterical bandwagon and bemoan “the war for talent” — especially for STEM workers — than to do something about it.

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