ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ New Mexico’s major universities may not be turning out graduates in science and mathematics at a rate fast enough for employers in those fields, according to recent data.
Both the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University gave fewer degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics _ known as STEM subjects _ than in liberal arts last fall. Records showed 25 percent of the more than 3,700 bachelor’s degrees UNM conferred in fall 2014 were for STEM, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1drPmxs) Sunday. Twenty-eight percent of NMSU’s 1,300 graduates earned STEM degrees around the same time.
New Mexico employers in science, technology and other related industries say finding qualified workers is a struggle. At the Albuquerque Economic Forum earlier this month, Sandia National Laboratories Director Paul Hommert spoke of his company’s difficulties.
“Finding STEM-qualified employees _ given our hiring requirements _ is a challenge,” he said. “It’s a challenge locally and nationally, although we’re pleased with what we’ve been able to achieve in New Mexico.”
Jessica Pascual, a senior manager for talent acquisition at Sandia, said the company hired New Mexico residents for one-third of new hires in STEM-qualified areas.
Los Alamos National Laboratory fills about 42 percent of its workforce with employees from New Mexico.
UNM Provost Chaouki Abdallah, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, said that having a “correct” percentage of graduates with degrees in STEM should not be the main focus. Having degrees in other fields doesn’t preclude graduates from succeeding in scientific and technological industries.
“What we want is someone who can think critically, maybe speak a couple of languages, communicate effectively, has a strong ethical compass, and can work collaboratively,” Abdallah said. “Their degree may be in fine arts, engineering, history, law, or journalism – they will adapt.”
Others say adding to the challenge is that some STEM graduates leave the state for opportunities elsewhere.