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Visa Business Plans

Why Careers In STEM Are Critical For The U.S. Economy

The U.S. faces a significant technology crisis as it has fallen behind both China and India in producing math, science, and engineering graduates. That has significant implications for the competitiveness of the U.S. economy and the effectiveness of Washington’s technology-dependent national defense strategy. Adding to the problem is the shortage of females in STEM, who make up a small sliver of professionals in the field.

In Forbes magazine, technology specialist Arthur Herman wrote, "A future shortfall in Americans trained in science and engineering bodes ills not only for our economic well-being but for our national security as well.[1] This is because so many current and future defense systems will depend on technologies in which America still leads in development and innovation, such as cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum research, and even nanotechnology—but where competitors are pushing hard to overtake us and dominate the high-tech future.”

In China, which has been building the equivalent of nearly one university every week since 2016, about 40% of graduates completed a degree in a STEM subject, more than twice the share in the U.S.[2] The World Economic Forum reported that China had 4.7 million new STEM graduates in 2016 while India had 2.6 million. The United States had 568,000 just STEM graduates in 2016.

While U.S. university STEM programs have expanded, an ever-increasing share of the students enrolled in them are foreigners—not Americans. In 1995, approximately the same number of U.S. and international students were full-time graduate students at U.S. universities in computer science.[3] Since 1995, international students have far outpaced U.S. students.

Between 1995 and 2015, the number of full-time U.S. graduate students in computer science increased by 45%, from 8,627 in 1995 to 12,539 in 2015.[4] Over the same period, the number of full-time international graduate students in computer science increased by over 480%, from 7,883 in 1995 to 45,790 in 2015. The number of full-time U.S. graduate students in electrical engineering decreased by 17%, from 9,399 in 1995 to 7,783 in 2015. Meanwhile, over the same period, the number of full-time international graduate students in electrical engineering increased by 270%, from 8,855 in 1995 to 32,736 in 2015.

Today, foreign nationals account for 81% of the full-time graduate students in electrical engineering and petroleum engineering, 79% in computer science, 75% in industrial engineering, 69% in statistics, 63% in mechanical engineering and economics, statistics, 59% in civil engineering and 57% in chemical engineering.[5] At many U.S. universities, both majors and graduate programs could not be maintained without international students

While the U.S. faces a shortage of STEM specialists of both sexes, the absence of women in STEM is especially notable. Only about 11% of physicists and astronomers are women.[6] Just over 10% of electrical and computer hardware engineers are women. Fewer than 8% of mechanical engineers are women.

The problem has its roots in the education system. Within the female student population in higher education globally, only around 30% choose STEM-related fields.[7] Female students’ enrolment is particularly low in Information and Communications Technology (3%), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5%) and engineering, manufacturing and construction (8%).

The percentage of women majoring in STEM fields at California State University, for example, has remained a steady 37% since 2007, even though women make up 55% of all undergraduates.[8] At the University of California, women make up 52% of enrollment, but only 24% of those studying for engineering degrees are women.

The U.S. needs to take concrete actions to improve its STEM education. In the short term, we will continue to rely on foreign nationals to fill the gap. However, American immigration policy is playing a HUGE role in pushing STEM talent overseas - primarily north, to Canada. Opening our doors to talented H1-B applicants rather than scaring them off could be the first step towards finding a solution to this important issue.

Visa Business Plans is led by Marco Scanu, a certified coach from the University of Miami with a globally-based practice coaching Fortune 1000 company executives, entrepreneurs, as well as professionals in 4 different continents. Mr. Scanu advises clients on turnaround strategies and crisis management.

Mr. Scanu received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (Cum Laude) from the University of Florida and an MBA in Management from Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. Mr. Scanu was also a Visiting Scholar at Michigan State University under the prestigious H. Humphrey Fellowship (Fulbright program) with a focus on Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital and high-growth enterprises.

At present, Mr. Scanu is the managing partner and CEO at Visa Business Plans, a Miami-based boutique consulting firm providing attorneys and investors with business planning services in the areas of immigration and SBA loans.

[1] Forbes “America’s High Tech STEM Crisis” September 10, 2018 Arthur Herman

[2] Statista.com “The Countries With The Most STEM Graduates” February 3, 2017

[3] National Foundation For American Policy Nfap Policy Brief “The Importance Of International Students To American Science And Engineering” 2017

[4] National Foundation For American Policy Nfap Policy Brief “The Importance Of International Students To American Science And Engineering” 2017

[5] National Foundation For American Policy Nfap Policy Brief “The Importance Of International Students To American Science And Engineering” 2017

[6] EdSource.com “Girls draw even with boys in high school STEM classes, but still lag in college and careers” March 12, 2017

[7] Unesco “Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in STEM” 2017

[8] EdSource.com “Girls draw even with boys in high school STEM classes, but still lag in college and careers” March 12, 2017

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