#71 – Getting Schooled, Part Five: Rotting at the STEM

English Canadians believe that all of their problems would be solved if everyone was in school for the right things.

Of course, “the right things” are obvious to the simple-minded English Canadian – make more shit to drag more raw materials out of the dirt because that’s what Canada does, baby! The intellectual side of this, engineering, has been long held as the “way to get a job”. But naturally, Canadian businesses don’t want to pay for this homegrown talent, because that would be stupid! Who hires people based on competence anyways, am I right? Why hire Canadian talent when you can outsource! What do you mean, the Egyptians we dragged in did a shit job? Never mind that – keep scouring for more foreigners to work for cheap!

Meanwhile, Canada’s science grads suffer un/deremployment on par with the hated social sciences and humanities. Even engineers are starting to feel the crush – huge graduating classes with (reasonable) high demands for pay and benefits meeting Canada’s business culture of cutting costs doesn’t spell good things. In 2007, 18% of Canada’s engineers were un/deremployed or not even in the workforce. This number has only increased as graduating classes continue to surge in size and expectations. And Canada, being Canada, continues to not bother looking at how it intends to employ a huge pile of students expecting the Moon in salary after being told that they are The Chosen Ones.

See, this is the problem with un-coordinated education. A shortage of professionals in a field results in a crush of students, which our university-businesses love to see because that means tuition money – but those people graduate in a crush, meaning a scrum for a job inevitably ensues. Co-op programs provide cheap work for Canadian firms. Why hire a good student at a high rate of pay when you can use co-op temp-workers for the same job and have them rotate? We were told that we were desperate for engineers, so desperate that we just had to grab a bunch of Chinese engineers ready to work for 60% of the wages a grad would expect. And now that we have a bunch of home-grown engineers, Canada doesn’t have a clue what to do next.

What does this mean for the future? I don’t know. I’m not typing this at Delphi. But I do know that there’s a problem here (any time a field is defined in a study as “more mobile”, what it really means is “less stable”) and that the mismatching of talents to salaries in the STEM fields needs to be examined. The most recent studies on the information and communication technology market have gone undone for a decade, but the offshoring of R&D and increasing reliance on cheap labor in the Canadian business world has been continuing apace. And Canada doesn’t even look.

You know, there’s a way to hire that ~40% of natural and social scientists grads that remain underemployed or not even in their field. But knowledge doesn’t drag shit out of the ground so it clearly doesn’t matter.

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