Thursday, June 13, 2013

Problems with STEM

I have toured the Micron facility twice in Lehi, who has complained about getting STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) employees locally. They pay their innovation engineers very well, but seem to have trouble getting enough of them. They have not complained about not being able to get experience with the degree, but some with a degree have said Micron and others also want experience and a skill set that the local candidate has had trouble getting. I have been told that L-3 has been willing to locally provide the required experience, but, I believe has recently been hit by the Budget Sequestration in 2013.

I know in the field of Architecture, (construction related, not typically listed in STEM) I had seen the UofU put out dozens and dozens of those with a Master's degree in Architecture. They aren't an architect until they are licensed, which requires at least a few years of experience plus passing a very hard licensing exam. The exam used to be over 4 days with the last part being 12 hours that you brought your lunch to. That piece took me 4 tries, over 2 years to pass. I was licensed (over 20 years ago) with 4 years of college, a 2 year degree and 7 years full time experience plus passing the test. 

That option is not available today. What is required, I believe requires the professional degree plus 3 years of experience, plus the test. Most take 6 to 8 years to get the BA/BS and a MA in Architecture not including the 3 years of experience. The option I took and what is required today, often take 11 years.

Working at a large firm, several years ago, I would see some of the recent graduates not have the required skills, let alone the required experience. I would see some with an AAS decree in architectural technology be able to function better in a firm initially where those with a MA from the UoU could. It was one of the reasons I transferred from the U to what is now SLCC and got the AAS degree with more experience.  Over the years I have suggested students graduate from SLCC in Architectural Technology prior to taking the U's classes. I know the U has worked hard to make sure their graduates have the required skills that were missing and have helped them get the experience as well.

Because consulting engineers in the field of producing documents to help construct buildings have similar requirements (to architects) to get their PE or SE to not only have the degree but also experience and passing the tests, that area seems to work well. The license is critical as unlike a doctor, who, if makes a mistake. can cause one person to die, if an architect or consulting engineer working with contractors make a major mistake, we can take out 20,000 people at once. Typically it isn't that big a number, but hundreds and sometimes thousands have and do die in collapses, fires, etc.

It appears now, looking from the outside in, that in the US, many of the STEM graduates do not have the required employment skill set AND experience to actually get the job they want in the field they have the degree in. That is either a communication problem, (knowing they need this experience as well), a curriculum problem, or an internship problem. Anyway, it isn't just pumping out people with STEM degrees. It appears many of the overseas graduates looking for work here have the required employment skill set and experience to actually get the job. I believe that is why some articles say we have plenty of STEM graduates, but why the employers are saying they can't find the STEM employees they need. We likely do need more graduates and more money in education in these fields and I believe The I-Squared Act will help, but only if this other issue is solved as well.

For more on the immigration portion of this subject, see: