According to an analysis of the third annual US News/Raytheon STEM Index, published on May 17, 2016, the US will be reliant upon foreign workers on visas such as the L-1B intra-company transfer visa and H-1B specialty worker visa to fill future science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs. Despite advances in education and hiring, the index reveals that skills gaps still exist - gaps filled by STEM graduates on H-1B visas and other visas. The L-1B specialized knowledge visa for intra-company transfers is also one of the most important non-immigrant visas used to fill skills gaps.
The 2016 US News/Raytheon STEM Index - an interactive measure of science, technology, engineering and mathematics activity in the United States since 2000 – shows that, although the number of STEM degrees granted has risen along with the number of STEM hires, the US continues to experience a lack of domestic STEM workers.
Under the STEM Jobs Act of 2015, which never came into law, it was proposed that 55,000 visas be made available in the 2016 fiscal year, and for subsequent fiscal years, to qualified immigrants who hold a doctorate degree in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM degree) from a US doctoral institution of higher education or have taken all doctoral courses in a STEM field, including all courses taken by correspondence or by distance education, while physically present in the United States.
Additional STEM graduates and STEM jobs
According to the index, additional STEM graduates totalled 30,835, while there were an additional 230,246 STEM jobs from 2014-2015. Editor and chief content officer of US News, Brian Kelly, said: "Despite significant public and private investment, we are still not developing an American STEM workforce to fill the jobs of the future."
"It's clear that we need to focus our efforts on getting more kids, particularly women and African-Americans, interested in pursuing STEM at a young age," Kelly added.
The need for foreign workers on H-1B visas to fill US STEM jobs was just one of the key findings of the index, along with a notable increase in the number of STEM degrees being granted, while the number of STEM jobs has risen along with salaries.
A report published by eCampus News - a monthly print and digital newspaper dedicated to news and information that helps US schools utilize technology and the internet – highlights key findings across three areas, including:
The number of STEM degrees granted and STEM job and salaries increasing:
- In 2016, a 6 percent increase in STEM graduate degrees granted and a 5 percent increase in all STEM degrees granted has been recorded.
- STEM jobs have increased at a rate above overall employment: 28 percent since 2000 compared to 6 percent for all jobs.
- Computer-related jobs hold the top seven positions for the highest number of employees.
- 3 out of 5 of the highest paying STEM salaries are in IT-related fields. Information Systems Managers have a yearly salary of $141,000; Computer Research Scientists are paid $115,580; and Computer Hardware Engineers make $114,970.
Gaps in the fields of engineering and technology, between men and women, are deeply rooted, beginning as early as high school. Gender gaps persist in higher education:
- Overwhelmingly, men expressed more interest than women in STEM subjects, with dramatic differences between the sexes in engineering.
- Four percent of high school females reported an interest in engineering, compared to 34 percent of males.
- Two percent of females reported an interest in technology, while 18 percent of males expressed an interest in the field.
- On Advanced Placement tests, a higher percentage of male students scored a three or higher compared to females in all STEM subjects; on the SATs, males of all demographics scored on average 30 points higher on the math section than females.
- Only 3 percent of associate degrees and 8 percent of bachelor's degrees granted to females were in a STEM field. By contrast, 8 percent of associate degrees and 13 percent of bachelor's degrees granted to males were in STEM fields.
- At the graduate level, only 6 percent of graduate degrees earned by females were in STEM fields. Of graduate degrees granted to males, 11 percent were STEM degrees.
Lastly, the eCampus News report highlighted that, despite some advances, especially among Hispanic students, the gaps between whites and non-Asian minorities in STEM are significant in high school and persist into college and graduate school:
- The number of STEM degrees awarded to Hispanic students revealed big increases at all education levels since last year. From 2014-2015 there was a 9 percent increase in two-year degrees in STEM, a 13 percent increase in bachelor's degrees in STEM, and an 8 percent increase in graduate degrees in STEM.
- On the SATs, black students scored an average of 106 points lower than white students and 170 points lower than Asian students on the math section.
- The number of white students who earned STEM degrees grew 15 percent in the last five years, while the number of black students fell by roughly the same margin.
- Across all demographic groups, interest in mathematics has declined.
Cybersecurity immigrant staff in demand
Based on the findings of the index, it would appear that cybersecurity is the field where workers are needed, with demand for jobs in this sector outpacing the IT job market as a whole.
David Wajsgras, president of Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services, said: "While the STEM Index shows that computer science is a top STEM career choice, the need for cyber talent has never been greater."
"Protecting networks is a big concern for industry, government and the military, but as a country, we haven't educated and trained enough people to protect these environments. Public and private interests need to do more to cultivate an interest and support development efforts in these career paths – our national security depends on it," Wajsgras added.