UofM Producing STEM Graduates for Workforce Needs

November 18, 2019 - Careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are at the core of the skills gap in the United States. Employers lack qualified candidates to fill high-paying positions with qualified talent, resulting in unfilled positions and opportunity gaps.

In April 2018, Nasdaq vice chairman Bruce E. Aust wrote that there were “500,000 well-paying computing jobs currently unfilled in the U.S. By 2020, there will be 1 million more computing jobs nationally than there will be graduates to fill them, resulting in a $500 billion opportunity gap.”

In fact, the U.S. House Science Committee held a hearing earlier in 2019 to discuss STEM workforce needs. They stressed that the U.S. must “better develop domestic talent and continue to welcome students and researchers from abroad to ensure the future sufficiency of its STEM workforce.”

In Tennessee specifically, it is anticipated that more than 100,000 STEM-related jobs will need to be filled within the next six years, and 88% of those jobs will require post-secondary education.

The University of Memphis Herff College of Engineering has specific initiatives in place to increase the number of STEM graduates it produces who are highly needed in the workforce. In its 10-year strategic plan, the Herff College of Engineering’s goal is to double the number of BS degrees conferred between 2013 and 2023.

“The UofM is committed to increasing degree production in the Herff College of Engineering,” said Rick Sweigard, dean of the Herff College. “As a University, we realize the importance of a STEM education and work diligently to prepare our students to excel in these positions that are in high demand in the workforce.”

While West Tennessee underproduces engineering and STEM degrees as compared to the U.S. and the state of Tennessee as a whole, the Herff College of Engineering has increased overall enrollment by 30% in the past five years, and the number of BS degrees in its department has increased by 50%.

“The Herff College of Engineering is growing at unprecedented rates, which is a testament to our ongoing commitment to award increasing numbers of engineering degrees,” said Mark Askew, founder-principal of A2H Engineers, Architects, Planners and chair of the Herff College of Engineering Advisory Council.

To help achieve its 10-year goal, the college implemented the Herff Merit Scholarship Program to enhance recruitment of high-performing students and reward academic achievement with continued scholarships, up to four years. Since 2013, the overall undergraduate enrollment in the College of Engineering has increased by 37%.

“As you can see by our five-year metrics, the Herff Merit Scholarship Program is having a positive impact on recruitment, retention and four-year graduation rates in the college,” said Sweigard.

With a strategic plan in place, together with the Herff Merit Scholarship Program, the College of Engineering is working to address STEM workforce needs and is on track to achieve its 10-year goals for degrees conferred.