Agency STEM workforces in decline, report finds

AFGE Local 704 union President Michael Mikulka speaks as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) workers protest job cuts during rally in Chicago, Illinois, March 2, 2017. By John Gress Media Inc 

EPA employees protest job cuts at a 2017 rally in Chicago. (Photo credit score: John Gress Media/

Several federal companies have seen their science workforces shrink dramatically over the past decade, with particularly steep declines underneath the Trump administration, in line with a brand new report protecting seven companies by the Democratic employees on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

“The departure of so much scientific talent and institutional knowledge from the government represents a competitive disadvantage for the United States. We must fix this,” mentioned Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), chair of the subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight.

The report pins the start of the shrinking of science workforces on price range cuts in the early 2010s however states that the state of affairs received markedly worse because of the Trump administration’s “open hostility towards federal scientists and the federal workforce in general.”

Overall, some companies have seen dramatic declines in the science, engineering, know-how and math (STEM) workforces, at the same time as different science companies have saved regular numbers.

The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have suffered significantly steep workforce losses since fiscal yr 2009. Total company employment at EPA declined by 16.6% in that interval. Within the Trump administration alone, the company’s workforce shrunk by 3.9%. Over half of this decline is attributable to STEM job loss.

This has impacted their work as workers stability low staffing, outdated IT and lack of science tools, mentioned Dr. Betsy Southerland, former director of Science and Technology in the Office of Water at EPA.

“The lack of staff and resources has forced EPA to focus primarily on those rules with statutory or court order deadlines,” she mentioned. “Rules without deadlines …. are often postponed for years.”

Several witnesses and lawmakers targeted on issues in hiring and on onboarding, like prolonged time-to-hire home windows.

Agencies have a variety of current hiring and pay authorities to assist fill gaps in the STEM workforce, mentioned Candice Wright, the appearing director of Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics, U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Using particular fee authorities to supply greater wages to cybersecurity workers can assist in that top demand area, Wright mentioned. Agencies also can use direct rent to fill essential positions.

Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, pointed to the promise of internship or fellowship applications. The variety of Presidential Management Fellows at science companies has plummeted over the past 4 years, in line with the report. The program provides two-year fellowships to current graduates with superior levels.

Among the eight companies tallied in the report, the variety of fellows dropped from 136 to 49 since fiscal yr 2016.

The report particulars enduring gender and racial disparities in federal STEM workforces. Overall, company STEM workforces are much less various than company workforces. In NOAA, for instance, there are 8.5 male engineers for each 1 feminine.

This downside is wrapped up into recruitment, mentioned Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, the Director of the Center for Science and Democracy, Union of Concerned Scientists. Agencies usually recruit from the identical locations yearly with out in search of out college students at minority-serving establishments.

“How the government responds – or doesn’t – to face its human capital challenges today will have lasting effects for the future workforce it needs,” Wright mentioned.

About the Author

Natalie Alms is a employees author at FCW protecting the federal workforce. She is a current graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.



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