Science Researchers: Need for Future Employees

Posted on December 21, 2005  Comments (1)

Scientists and engineers: Crisis, what crisis? by Mario Cervantes. More data on the question of a shortage of skilled workers, this time, researchers from January 2004:

The number of researchers in OECD countries rose from 2.4 million in 1990 to 3.4 million in 2000, a 42% increase, and demand is still expanding – the EU estimates it will need 700,000 new researchers to meet its commitment to increase investment in R&D to 3% of GDP by 2010. The US National Science Foundation projects that some 2.2 million new jobs in science and engineering will be created over 2000-2010, especially in computer-related occupations. In Japan the University Council predicted in 1998 that demand for masters students would exceed supply by 2010.
In other words, while few scientists are out of work, a significant proportion of them are not finding jobs in occupations that are closely related to their studies. This would weaken the claim of a widespread shortage of science and engineering graduates, but may signal another problem: “mismatches” between what the market (industry or academia) needs and is willing to pay in terms of research, and the skill sets, interests and salary aspirations that graduates have.

Well, if they are employed then there is a match between workers and jobs. The whole idea of the market working to match up the workers to jobs is based on the idea that workers and employers will react to shortages and surpluses by paying more and offering inducements to change career paths (employers facing a shortage) and some workers will decide to take them up on these offers.

I don’t doubt the market has and will continue to be dynamic. Knowledge workers should expect continuing education and learning throughout their careers. And I think most do expect that.

The strong case that the system was failing to match workers to jobs would be high unemployment rates and open jobs that employers couldn’t fill because people did not have the right skills. Taking actions to align higher education with the needs of the economy for science and engineering knowledge is wise. However, I think there will always be slight adjustments needed once students graduate. The key is that they are prepared to quickly learn the specific needs of the current marketplace. That I think is achievable and should be one of the goals of institutions of higher education.

One Response to “Science Researchers: Need for Future Employees”

  1. CuriousCat: Retooling Theory and Practice
    June 12th, 2008 @ 7:17 pm

    “coordinated industrywide education effort: ‘The industry needs an education initiative,’ he says, ‘so that the employers know what they’re getting out of the institutions and the employees know what is expected of them when they show up to work…”

Leave a Reply