|Seán Sherlock (left), minister for research and innovation, launches Smart Futures STEM Careers Week in Sept 2012.
Irish Innovation: Almost two-thirds of the 9.3m people in the US workforce
who had STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) degrees in 2010
were employed in non-STEM occupations while in many countries including Ireland
and Australia, the importance of producing more maths and science graduates is
often stressed. However, in both Ireland and Australia, there haven't been jobs
booms in the sector despite warnings from insiders and high levels of
We recently reported that
the number of full-time jobs in services and manufacturing added by Irish firms
in information and communications technology (ICT) in
the period 2007-2012 was 1,600 [pdf].
Full-time jobs in Irish State-agency
assisted firms in high-tech manufacturing (chemicals, computers, chips, medical
devices) grew from 62,300 in 2003 to 63,200 in 2012 while services jobs in the
computer and information sectors expanded from 55,000 to 64,900.
This data isn't broken down by
function and many of the jobs in foreign-owned high tech firms may not be
science/ technology positions. For example most of the 5,000 jobs in the Irish
operations of Apple and Google are in general and sales administration and
mainly comprise foreign hires because of the demand for multilingual skills.
The number of researchers in the higher education system increased from
10,072 in 2006 to 11,900 (estimate +18%) in 2009. The government sector employs
about 500 researchers.
A graduate recruitment
survey of 95 companies [pdf] published last year showed that almost half the
positions available were in accountancy and financial services. IT & telecoms,
engineering/manufacturing and science/R&D comprised 24% of the positions.
79.7% of the employers surveyed
offer work experience/ internships and 13.3% of
employers paid their interns less than €1,000 per month. It's unclear what
percentage are likely to be hired.
Some employers complained about the
difficulty of filling specialist skills role but there is a world market and a
position in Ireland wouldn't be a hardship one.
In Australia, the Grattan
Institute said last June that while people with genuine passion
for science should study it, jobs in science fields are relatively hard to find,
and government promotion of science degrees is sending a misleading signal to
the student market.
Andrew Norton of the institute,
wrote [pdf]: "The Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, last month
unfavourably compared our share of graduates in science and technology with
those of various Asian countries. It was the latest in a long series of
speeches and pronouncements talking up the need for more graduates in these
Unfortunately, Professor Chubb gives far less attention to a more relevant
set of numbers: the employment prospects of Australians with science degrees.
These potentially reframe the problem from one of under-supply to one of
Norton cited a rise in applications for science related degree courses by 40%
since 2009, and offers by universities are up by nearly a third.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics asks similar questions of the general
population in its Learning and Work survey. It asks respondents whether they
work in the same field of study as their qualification, and if not whether they
consider their degree 'relevant' nonetheless...Science...is the second-worst
performer. It beats creative arts on matching jobs and qualifications, but falls
behind because science graduates in unmatched jobs are less likely to see their
degree as relevant to their work."
A report by Ruth
Ellen Wasem of
Research Service said [pdf]
Other researchers maintain that a record number of STEM graduates - - both US
residents and foreign nationals - - are entering the US labour market. They
express concern that foreign nationals would displace US residents in the STEM
fields if additional visas were allocated. Some analysts observe that the only
high-skilled occupations that experienced negative wage growth in recent years
were technology-related occupations (e.g., computer programmers and engineers) -
- occupations in which highly educated foreign nationals cluster. Almost
two-thirds of the 9.3m people in the US labour market who had STEM degrees in
2010 were employed in non-STEM occupations."
“Doveryai, no proveryai” (Trust but verify)
became President Ronald Reagan’s watchwords for the relationship with Mikhail
Gorbachev, Soviet Union president, in the 1980s. It should apply here also.
With no shortage of spin, Irish politicians out of
their depth and tech journalists mainly in the role of cheerleaders, scepticism
Irish Innovation: Evidence of science policy failure mounts
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