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Math and Science are Where the Jobs Are

Posted October 22, 2012

By Sean Hackbarth

The skills gap hurts manufacturers and we now know energy producers, but it is most visible in technology. In the Wall Street Journal, Brad Smith, Microsoft’s executive vice president and general counsel, describes his company’s needs for skilled workers:

At Microsoft, we have more than 6,000 open jobs in the U.S., a 15% increase from a year ago. Some 3,400 of these positions are for engineers, software developers and researchers (a 34% increase from last year).

This problem affects the broader U.S. economy. Smith continues:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. this year will create some 120,000 new jobs requiring at least a bachelor's degree in computer science. But all of our colleges and universities put together will produce only 40,000 new bachelor's degrees in computer science.

And unfortunately, Smith points out that only a fraction of high schools have an advanced placement computer science course. With high demand and low supply, going into this field is good career advice. Crack open a few math and programming books.

Microsoft isn’t sitting around waiting. The New York Times reported that dozens of Microsoft software engineers are teaching high school computer science classes this fall “aimed at getting high school students excited about the field.”

On the policy front, Smith recommends advancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) standards in grade schools, broadening “access to computer science in high schools,” and helping colleges produce more STEM-degreed students.

If nothing is done, the gap between high-skilled job openings and workers’ skills will only worsen. That will reduce America’s competitiveness, reduce innovation, and harm the long-term growth prospects of the economy.

Crossposted from FreeEnterprise.com.

Sean Hackbarth is a blogger for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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