STEM graduates are finding a weak job market. Why that could be a big opportunity to fix construction’s skilled labor woes

Updated Jul 14, 2014

construction educationA recent article at Business Insider revealed an odd wrinkle in the job market.

According to Census Bureau statistics, less than half the college graduates with STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering and math) find jobs in STEM related fields.

This wouldn’t be surprising except for the fact that so many people bleat on like a stuck record about how useless liberal arts degrees are and how STEM degrees are much more valuable and important to our economy.

According to conventional wisdom we’re running so short of engineers that we have to relax immigration quotas and import more brainpower from overseas. Failure to do so means our economy won’t compete with all those Asian Tigers. Oh my. (Curious isn’t it, that most of the people who write stuff like this, have liberal arts degrees.)

When you talk to engineers, though, sometimes you hear a different story. I’ve heard it said that this pressure to graduate more STEM majors and import more STEM trained foreigners is just a ploy by the big companies to suppress the wages of the engineers we already have. That makes more sense to me, especially given the employment figures cited above.

What also makes sense is that these underemployed STEM graduates would make excellent new hires for construction companies.

I realize that perhaps as many as half of them are so pale and dweeby as to be unsuited to the rigors of outdoor work. But construction, engineering and technology go hand in hand. I would wager that given a chance many of these recent graduates would thrive in a construction environment.

You probably don’t need to recruit among the biology or math majors, but you certainly ought to touch bases with the engineering departments at your nearest university. What I know of engineering students, they’re always building stuff, breaking stuff, trying to invent stuff or make something better, concrete canoes, solar powered bicycles, imaginative, inventive stuff. And engineering is one of the toughest fields to get a degree in. You won’t find any slackers here.

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The key is recruiting. You have to recruit like a football coach—personal, professional and persistent.

The solution to your labor woes is not to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. You have to try something new. STEM graduates are a top notch talent pool just waiting to be tapped.