“Indiana students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics—or STEM—may not find a wealth of jobs to choose from when they graduate.” That, writes Krystal Vivian in The Elkhart Truth, is the conclusion of a report issued in May by the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. “The available evidence drawn from officially published data offers no evidence of a STEM shortage. On the contrary, the data actually suggests a continuing excess supply of many key STEM occupation workers, both in Indiana and the U.S. as a whole,” states the report, entitled “How Real Is the STEM Shortage in Indiana?” “Our research found that unemployment rates for STEM employees rose significantly in the last few years and still haven’t dropped to the extremely low levels of a decade ago,” said Michael Hicks, author of the study and director of CBER, in a university release

In recent years, statistical evidence has been accumulating that the widely touted STEM-worker shortages don’t exist, except in some particular disciplinary and geographical areas. This is the first state-level report on the subject we can recall seeing.

In Indiana, employers’ complaints about inability to hire STEM workers don’t reflect a shortage, Hicks continued, but rather ineffective hiring practices. “Either they have inappropriately advertised the descriptions of the positions they need to fill, or they are offering a combination of salary, benefits, work, and location options that are not attractive to STEM workers,” he added in the release. “Focusing on more effective human resources efforts and offering job placements in desirable communities will ease talent acquisition concerns."

Commenting on the widespread push to encourage more students to study STEM in order to boost the economy, the report notes that “public policy to broadly stimulate the number of STEM graduates will have no direct effect on the overall economic performance of Indiana, and risk[s] sup­pressing the wages or increasing outmi­gration of future STEM graduates.” The report added, “those proposing broad action regarding public policy to stimulate STEM graduates at the state level should immediately re-evaluate their policies using actual data and analysis of occupation employment and wage growth.” 

The report advises communities hoping to increase the number of high-paid STEM workers in their areas that urging students to major in STEM is not likely to work. Instead, it suggests making communities attractive places for firms that employ well-educated people to relocate to, and also for those people to live, with particular “emphasis on K-12 education, and recreational and housing amenities.”

Beryl Lieff Benderly writes from Washington, D.C.