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Study: No Shortage of ­.s. Engineers

By Business Week

November 2, 2009

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The United States, contrary to popular belief, is not lacking graduates in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, according to a study by researchers at Georgetown and Rutgers universities. The study suggests the problem is that many of the top graduates are taking financial and consulting jobs. "It is now up to science and technology firms to attract the best and the brightest graduates to come work for them," says Rutgers professor Hal Salzman.

The researchers say that employers could address recruiting challenges for the best talent by increasing the appeal of careers in STEM fields through bigger salaries and other incentives. However, Microsoft and other employers say the problem of drawing talent would more likely be solved by adding more of premium candidates to the talent pipeline than by boosting salaries. At a hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology last March, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates cited a decline in student interest in the sciences and contended that immigration policy needs to be changed to help fill the void in the labor market. He pushed for an extension of the period that foreign students can work in the United States following graduation, elevating the current limits on H-1B visas, and issuing many more green cards annually.

Critics of the Georgetown/Rutgers study's conclusions include Computer Science Teachers Association executive director Chris Stephenson, who says that high schools have steadily been dumping computer science courses over the past six years. "It's clear that the number of students taking computer science is dropping," she says.

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