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 Response Page - Swallow and Lavrakas  Interview -      
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These comments are responses to the statements listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Ed Swallow & Susan Lavrakas Interview of

State's production of science, technology, engineering and math grads lagging demand


Edward Swallow, chair of the board of the National Defense Industrial Association's (NDIA's) Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce Division, says there is a supply-chain problem in the United States for producing college graduates with STEM degrees. He and Susan Lavrakas, director of workforce at the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), say the problem starts in elementary school, continues through middle school and high school and on into college. Decisions made by students, parents, teachers and guidance counselors as early as fifth grade can affect students' opportunities to pursue STEM studies and careers. Lavrakas and Swallow

say that a national policy on STEM workforce issues would be helpful, but that the real progress will take place at the local and state levels. Swallow offers examples of successful local models of approaching STEM training issues, including a low-performing high school in the Chicago area that was turned around after conversion to a STEM school. 

Swallow says that attracting and retaining high-quality K-12 STEM teachers requires professional development and differential pay for STEM teachers, a concept opposed by teachers unions. He believes charter schools have a STEM advantage over traditional schools because they can use the more effective project-based learning and integrative learning styles.

Swallow notes that the University of Minnesota must better partner its research with business to help create jobs and must focus on attracting STEM students from outside the state who will stay in Minnesota after graduating. 

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary: Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Swallow and Lavrakas. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readersí zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. U.S. faces STEM shortage. (8.1 average response) The nation faces a shortage of workers trained in science, technology, engineering and math.

2. MN STEM supply lags demand. (7.3 average response) This shortage is acute in Minnesota, where substantially more high-tech workers are employed than are educated here.

3. Increase pay of science, math teachers. (7.5 average response) Premium salaries should be offered to attract more K-12 lead teachers in science and math.

4. State, local cooperation needed. (8.3 average response) Cooperative action at the state and local level--involving employers, parents, K-12 schools and colleges--is essential to assuring adequate workforce preparation in STEM subjects.

5. Industry-university link needed. (8.5 average response) Engineering schools need close ties with industry to be more responsive to the needs of employers.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. U.S. faces STEM shortage.







2. MN STEM supply lags demand.







3. Increase pay of science, math teachers.







4. State, local cooperation needed.







5. Industry-university link needed.







Individual Responses:

Bert LeMunyon (10) (10) (10) (10) (5)

1. U.S. faces STEM shortage. My observation is that many students, especially males, do not want to work hard enough to get a STEM degree. In our affluent society, students aren't hungry for a better life; they already have it.

Ray Ayotte (7.5) (10) (10) (10) (10)

Scott Halstead (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (7.5)

1. U.S. faces STEM shortage. Business continues to want better services but they generally are unwilling to pay their fair share. Executives have very high compensation, yet they have been reducing benefits [and]retention and pushing down on salaries. Provide real leadership and do what is best for the nation.

3. Increase pay of science, math teachers. Is business ready to pay and help in reforming our public education system?

5. Industry-university link needed. Business needs to reach out to the technical schools.

Bruce A. Lundeen (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (7.5)

2. MN STEM supply lags demand. I think this being a State where labor organization is popular is a handicap.

3. Increase pay of science, math teachers. Union seniority measures are the greatest handicap in the American workforce today.

Dave Broden (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (10)

1. U.S. faces STEM shortage. All data regarding the status of STEM employment, technology growth needs, changes in technology, and retirement of the workforce supports the need. Further, to meet the need, companies across the US and internationally are seeking and hiring international students for key STEM related jobs. The technology-related jobs will continue to grow and expand at a significant rate that current US education cannot support.

2. MN STEM supply lags demand. The Minnesota supply vs. demand is definitely out of balance and is impacting which business start up, grow, or expand in Minnesota. It may also be a reason some have left for other states. Minnesota needs to establish an aggressive public/private partnership that encourages STEM education and include a vision of job opportunity in Minnesota. This was the case in the past but [supporting] tech jobs in Minnesota is now a second thought for many. The academic communities must also expand links to business and opportunity.

3. Increase pay of science, math teachers. I would like to rank this higher but teachers is but one of the key elements. Stronger teachers must be a factor and a critical one. But linked to teachers must be a vision of opportunity and understanding of what Minnesota has to offer and where and how.

4. State, local cooperation needed. Minnesota has had a unique, strong position in technology and STEM jobs. This seems to have weakened and can only be returned with strong joint effort.

5. Industry-university link needed. Engineering school links with industry, including all sizes of industry, must change in Minnesota. Minnesota has evolved from a well-linked connection of academia and industry that welcomed the exchange of ideas to a selective system where academia helps those who have ability to provide funding. To open we should support those in Minnesota who seek technology help as needed; this is available in other states without question. Some Minnesota engineering schools are too limiting in the dialogue available.

Don Anderson (7.5) (5) (5) (7.5) (10)

Roger Johnson (0) (0) (0) (0) (2.5)

1. U.S. faces STEM shortage. All one has to do is check the number of high schools in Minnesota which offer either no physics or trigonometry, or compare their enrollments with other classes and you will realize the truth of this proposition.

3. Increase pay of science, math teachers. My former STEM college grads, who are around 50 years of age, are all enjoying 100K ++ salaries. Their teachers like me never had a snowball's chance of ever coming close to that in an entire career.

5. Industry-university link needed. Many of these links already exist. They should be formalized through "advisory boards" associated with every STEM program at every Minnesota high school and public college. A simple act of the legislature could command this.

Paul Gilje (10) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (10)

Chuck Lutz (9) (9) (9) (8) (8)

Fred Zimmerman (8) (5) (9) (3) (10)

2. MN STEM supply lags demand. [It] depends upon the growth of the manufacturing economy here. Other states are expanding more rapidly and therefore exhibit more acute need.

3. Increase pay of science, math teachers. (It should be added that many of these should have industrial work experience.)

4. State, local cooperation needed. I am suspicious of this type of broadly orchestrated organizing efforts. Rather, I would like to see the State cooperate with a wider variety of possible approaches, such as apprenticeship and work-study programs with employers, as well as schools. If we just simply lobby, MNSCU will probably get most of the money. While some MNSCU programs deserve it, others may not. Before we drum up lots of money, letís experiment with a wider variety of recipes to see which ones work.

The need for workers proficient in science, technology, engineering, and math needs to employ more specific information. These needs are not identical and probably only around 30 percent require college level understanding. My guess that around 70 percent of the technical job openings require trade school type technology, with an applied emphasis, coupled with well-cultivated personal characteristics and an enthusiastic work ethic. Education is, of course, helpful but it is not sufficient.

Wayne Jennings (6) (6) (5) (8) (8)

There are conflicting reports on the numbers of STEM trained people available and the number of vacancies. Nonetheless, the argument for more students interested in science, mathematics and technology holds because too many kids are turned off by the ways these subjects are taught. The speakersí views on more integrative and project-based approaches hit the nail on the head. The current testing mania of separate subjects exacerbates the problem. We need broader more interdisciplinary, hands-on and applied approaches. Connections to the community and industry would be helpful because students then see the importance of learning in these areas rather than teaching in isolation or decontextualized silos.

Jack Evert (10) (6) (7) (10) (8)

I am aware that China produces about 10 times the number of engineers we do. Though there may be some question as to what they define as an "engineer", the discrepancy is extreme. This is borne out by the comment of your speaker that only about half of STEM graduates can get security clearances due to the fact that they are not US citizens. I would guess that many of them return to their home country because of this. We need to ramp up the number of technically trained graduates in the US.

Tom Spitznagle (9) (7) (8) (7) (9)

Terry Stone (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

STEM talent, as described, is largely fungible. Perhaps it is more cost effective to continue importing it from other states than to develop it in Minnesota. Not only is STEM talent fungible, it is also remarkably mobile, much like capital. It seems likely that STEM capability will increasingly strive for equilibrium on a national and international stage.

Bruce Lundeen (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

Labor-led training will always lag in important STEM skills because seniority encourages attitudes of entitlement. Underachievement and entitlement are the enemies of productivity.

Clarence Shallbetter (6) (na) (na) (8) (na)

Roger A. Wacek (5) (5) (5) (10) (10)

STEM curriculum will have to deal with the future; a future with reduced per capita energy supplies. Richard Heinberg's book, "Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies," should be required reading.

Carolyn Ring (10) (8) (10) (10) (10)

Way back in 1968 one of [Nixonís] proposals was for a national data bank of industries' 5-10 year plans to be shared with high schools and higher ed. to match education with business needs. To the best of my knowledge nothing ever came of it, and I thought it was one of his best ideas. It seems like such a practical thing for both business/industry and education to develop. It does not necessarily need to be done at the national level, and, in fact, makes more sense to do it at the state and local level.


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   David Broden,  Janis Clay,  Bill Frenzel,  Paul Gilje,   Jan Hively,  Dan Loritz (Chair),  Marina Lyon,  Joe Mansky, 
Tim McDonald,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and Bob White

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.
Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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