Its all over the media. There is a huge “skills-mismatch” in the US. In spite of high unemployment, millions of jobs in the so-called “STEM” (science, technology, engineering and math) fields are going begging because employers can not get enough “qualified” Americans to fill those positions.
Two recent articles caught my eye and relating to what I call the STEM conundrum. In a country that has been wringing their hands over a supposed STEM crisis, we find that Facebook – perhaps the ultimate employer of a geeks in the US is switching its focus from development to acquiring sales staff!
In a recent post, Jared Bernstein gave voice to an issue that I have long been concerned about: the feasibility of many STEM career tracks. With all the hand-wringing about STEM, the facts surrounding wage stagnation and even depression are being blithely ignored. Everyone is bemoaning the so-called “skills-mismatch” without considering whether the salaries being offered are commensurate or even doable given the required years and cost of training for these careers. Education is expensive and the “numbers” have to work for people to even bother entering certain career tracks.
The President is making his State of the union address tonight. We have been told to look forward to a speech dominated by issue of “income inequality”. A divisive issue – most certainly, but timely and long overdue as the centerpiece of domestic policy.
In a recent column in the New York Times (The Inequality Problem) David Brooks indicated that targeting the obscene wealth of the top 1% might be a moot point since the wealth at the top, though massively higher than it was in the past, is not making the rest of the world poorer. To that assumption, the most polite thing I can think to say is “horse hockey!”
Income inequality, the wealth gap, call it what you will, the problem is very real and is literally shredding the fabric of the middle and working classes. Progressives have coined the phrase “income inequality” to describe this destructive force.
Without trying to parse words too much, I think “wealth inequality would be a more comprehensive definition of what is actually happening. Either way neither description has that sound-bite “pop” that would capture the essence of this national tragedy. Neither can come close to “class warfare” which the republicans and tea baggers had the audacity to latch onto. Admittedly it was a brilliant stroke of political spin. They brazenly managed to take ownership of “class warfare” while they were launching full scale nuclear Armageddon on the middle and working classes.
Over Thanksgiving weekend I was talking to a friend of mine about the mayoral election in New York City. This friend has always been politically engaged – perhaps to a bigger extent than I. She responded to my query with a sigh…”I just can’t get jazzed about any political candidate. Nothing any of them have done in the past 20 years has accomplished anything except to make my life harder.”
Work is under attack. It doesn’t matter what kind of work that you do, if you work as an employee, you are probably in a bunker hoping things just don’t get worse. It all began in the early 80s and after more than a generation of decline, we are now watching the middle class is in its death throes.
Over the past week I came across two blogs that seem to dovetail the same issue even though at first blush, they are seemingly unrelated. On the phenomenon of bullshit jobs, and Too tired to hustle. The first blog came to my attention because from Mike, the mad biologist’s although I have lost the exact link to his post.
Once upon a time, in a place called America, there was a thing called the American Dream. A person growing up in that America knew that if they dared to dream and worked hard, their dream would become reality. Secure in the knowledge that inspiration, hard work, tenacity and careful planning would lead to success, young Americans reached for the sky and even to the stars (remember Neil Armstrong).