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Is the STEM shortage a national security issue?

April 17, 2017 (Photo Credit: Portra Images/Getty Images)
We have seen much attention given to the science, technology, engineering and math human resource shortage of late. Investigation into this issue also identified a shortage in STEM teachers and that appears to be the case at all levels — grade school through graduate programs. Both of these issues must be addressed simultaneously, and that is no small chore!

I decided to check on the challenge of recruiting STEM resources. I asked Carmen Calabro, director of corporate recruiting at PTP about the current human resource conditions. “The challenge is getting the target candidate’s attention through the mass of noise out there. These individuals are obviously in high demand, and attracting them to participate in the interview process takes the lion’s share of effort,” he said.

But wait — it gets better. While speaking about technology, one computer science student said he was scheduled for an interview with a three-letter agency and was excited about working on technology applications for national security. When he was asked about getting a security clearance and taking a polygraph, his facial expression was of total disbelief. In fact, he said: "What do you mean I will have to take a polygraph?" No joke! While this individual may have had all the technology smarts, he lacked the general knowledge about how national security works; and given the facial response, one has to wonder if he could pass the poly.

Our growing dependence as a nation on technology is indisputable. Examination of this issue clearly indicates that the STEM shortage is a national security issue that must be addressed now. After all, you can’t fix this overnight. You need the resources to instruct the students. It will take years to begin to address the human resource shortage. Perhaps if we label this a national security issue or issues in the making, the increased attention it would receive will make sure the issue is being properly addressed now. Possibly a robust national recruiting campaign that targets high school and college students would prove to be beneficial as well.

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