Every few years we read about the lack of engineers and how the lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) graduates is a threat to our national economic security.
The article How Science Degrees Stack Up in the February 2012 issue of Scientific American points out that more STEM degrees are being awarded now than in the past 20 years. The workforce issue is a result of these STEM majors choosing to work in non-STEM fields like medicine and finance.
The article then goes on to say that these alternate fields provide the higher earning potential that graduates need to pay off ever increasing student loans.
I submit another explanation. The same companies that decry the lack of STEM graduates are also doing little to make STEM fields attractive to prospective employees and sustaining for current employees. To clarify, I don't see this as a generational issue to be solved by pandering to Gen-X, Gen-Y, Millenials, or whatever tag young people are wearing these days. It's an institutional issue about where employers see engineers fitting into their culture. All too often, in my opinion, engineers get the mushroom treatment. And that's been going on for quite some time.