Saturday, March 7, 2015

Shortage of Engineers is a Hoax? You Don't Say.

The only real disagreement is whether supply [of STEM* workers] is two or three times larger than the demand. -USA Today

Between mostly poor pay, variable benefits, instability (six layoffs in seven years) and lack of opportunities in engineering, and then living in a land of milk and honey in public accounting--where the Great Recession barely got my attention--I knew the "shortage of engineers" was a load of horse shit. Or as someone else described it, STEM was a lottery with a very expensive ticket.

Perhaps I'm not alone here: a lot of low-carbers are scientific, analytical people who might have had trouble finding work in their fields.  Heaven knows I've had plenty of clues that there was a glut of engineers: taking a year to find an engineering job out of college, making less than the cashiers at King Soopers when I was temping as a mechanical engineer at Bechtel, and seeing few advertisements for positions. Changing industries and learning more about business gave me more insight: companies that really do need to hire employees don't run an ad in the paper for a year, rejecting all comers, or run an ad with a mile-long list of obscure qualifications and wait while the work apparently piles up. (They might do the latter, my brother said, if they've already hired someone and they're running the ad for EEOC purposes. The former, I think, might be only for poaching employees from competitors.) Companies try to keep their employees around with good pay, benefits and other perks when they're hard to replace. And as we all saw during the tech boom and lately in petroleum engineering, employers raise wages when the workers they need are in short supply.

Still, it was disheartening to constantly hear about engineering degrees being a ticket to wealth and guaranteed employment, and how all those unemployed liberal arts majors should have majored in engineering. Finally, though, I have proof that there's a glut. Falling Behind? Boom, Bust and the Global Race for Scientific Talent by Michael S. Teitelbaum looks at the evidence and finds no indication there's a shortage of engineers or other STEM workers except, perhaps, in a few sub-fields. He describes scaremongering and lobbying by industry, academia and immigration lawyers to convince lawmakers and the public that the US was, and is, short of STEM workers--the solutions being to get more students to earn degrees in those fields and bring in foreign workers. One effect was, of course, to flood the market with STEM labor, putting downward pressure on wages and opportunities. Tragically, some of the lobbying focused on preventing students here on visas from being tracked with an up-to-date computer system. Some students took advantage of the lax student visa system, dropping out of school, training with terrorists and attacking America on 9/11.

But it was the US government, Teitelbaum says, that was the first to start crowing about a lack of scientists and engineers generations ago. Government sets an agenda based on little or no evidence and industry flacks make up bullshit to help their businesses and get government support. Sound familiar? Others, too, are calling out the STEM shortage as a hoax. Professors from Howard and Rutgers Universities have, like Teitelbaum, looked at the data and say there's no evidence of a shortage. IEEE looked at hundreds of articles, reports and white papers and concluded--with a dramatic visual--there are 227,000 STEM vacancies in the US, and 11.4 million STEM degree holders who work outside of STEM. And Mark Zuckerberg, who's been lobbying for inexpensive foreign workers, got served by Sen. Jeff Sessions. Sessions now heads the immigration subcommittee in Congress.

Even though I'm not in STEM anymore, I wish well for everyone who is. In any case, maybe outing the STEM shortage as a hoax will get colleges and companies in that field to do what they're supposed to be good at: solving problems themselves.

*STEM is science, technology, engineering and math.

ETA 2/25/2016: Having just moved to a new city, I've been looking for work and received this email from an engineering firm with $3 million in revenue:

I want to make sure I am clear in understanding that you prefer an administrative role as opposed to an engineer as we have openings for both in our Indianapolis office. The reason being, is that the engineer is paid more towards the rate you are seeking while the project admin is a support person, who’s [sic] rate ranges between $18-20/hr.  (Emphasis added)

"The rate [I'm] seeking" is about what I was making doing secretarial work, which is apparently what the engineers there make. Unless it's just for a temp job, $18 an hour doesn't get me out of bed.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Fibromyalgia Relief? Yes or No?

My posts on fibromyalgia relief (which propose trying a paleo diet) have been getting a lot of traffic lately. I'm curious how it's been working out for people. Your results?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pictures of your Fridge? I Want to See your Medicine Cabinet

My refrigerator:

Ox cheek and homemade mushroom soup in the containers. Bacon and liver sausage in the meat drawer. 
My freezer:

Black angus beef.
My pantry:

Note the coffee, jalapeno peppers and full-fat coconut milk--so-called "trigger foods" for acid reflux, which I had until I started a low-carb diet. 

My medicine cabinet:

All the medicine I own, aside from some Neosporin. I just threw out a bunch of decongestants and Pepto Bismal that expired years ago. The aspirin shown expired nearly two years ago. The toothpaste is for a cavity that started forming last year when I was stressed out and wasn't taking extra-good care of myself.