Firms highlight shortage of grads with tech skills

Google, Microsoft, and Intel meet with lawmakers

Representatives from the nation’s leading technology companies urged Massachusetts lawmakers on Wednesday to address a “talent crisis” among the state’s college graduates in the field of computing.

Officials from Google, Microsoft, and Intel said they are facing a shortage of well-trained graduates with computer expertise and warned that the Massachusetts economy may suffer if the problem is not corrected.

“Computing… is not a tech sector problem, it is a Massachusetts economy problem,” said Steve Vinter, the engineering and site director of Google in Cambridge, at a Tech Hub Caucus meeting at the State House.

J.D. Chesloff, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, said Bay State students generally score well on national tests in math and science but relatively few of them end up pursuing careers in the science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing (STEM) fields.  On average, he said, one person pursues a STEM job for every 2.1 STEM jobs available in the state.

Vinter said 71 percent of new STEM jobs require computing expertise, but computer science is one of the few areas in Massachusetts where the number of available jobs exceeds the supply of graduates. He urged state officials to start computing courses earlier in school to inspire more interest in the area.

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Alison Derbenwick Miller, the Vice President of Oracle Academy, a department of Oracle software company that focuses on industry-related education, said the shortage of graduates in technology-related fields is exacerbated by a shortage of women and minorities in those fields. She also said other countries are rushing to churn out graduates with tech skills.

“This is going to became a social justice issue of the 21st Century if we are not careful and it is not going to be the haves and the have nots in the US only,” she said. “It is going to be the US as a have not and the rest of the world as a have.”