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November 19, 2007

Study finds no shortage of science, engineering talent

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 2:30 PM

My story on Bill Gates' Friday evening speech to the regional conference of the National Society of Black Engineers elicited several responses from readers who think the shortage of engineering talent Gates described is a fallacy created by Big Tech in order to lobby for a raised H-1B visa cap and cut their labor costs.

Many readers pointed to this recent Urban Institute study, which says "U.S. student performance rankings are comparable to other leading nations and colleges graduate far more scientists and engineers than are hired each year." The authors note in a summary excerpt that the education pipeline in these fields could use improvement, but is not dysfunctional. Further, they wrote,

"Surprisingly few of the many students who start along the path toward [science and engineering] careers take the next steps to remain in an S&E career. If there is a problem, it is not one of too few S&E qualified college graduates but, rather, the inability of S&E firms to attract qualified graduates."

This caveat is offered: "The analysis of all S&E students and workers may not apply equally to the trends and problems faced in specific fields or by domestic minority groups. A fine-grained analysis of specific industries, occupations, and populations is needed to identify the weakness in the U.S. education system."

The study is interesting reading and provides a good counterpoint to the comments Gates made. (Here's a full transcript of his speech and Q&A with the NSBE.)

It seems to me that, as with any complex subject, there are plenty of credible studies supporting both sides of the debate for one to pick from.

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