In December, The Washington Post ran an opinion piece exploring the results of several in-house studies conducted by tech giant Google that raised some questions over the conventional wisdom surrounding the importance of a STEM education on careers in the digital age.
“No student should be prevented from majoring in an area they love based on a false idea of what they need to succeed,” writes Cathy N. Davidson, author of The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux. Looking at the results of multi-year studies conducted by Google into its own employment practices, including hiring standards and team productivity, Davidson noted Google’s own findings that a hard skills from a STEM education were not as important as softer skills such as curiosity, empathy and emotional intelligence.
On January 18th, NBC News THINK published a thought piece penned by Google CEO Sundar Pichai in which Pichai argues that the traditional stance on education, whereby students would graduate from academic institutions with the assumption that they had learned lifelong career skills, is no longer tenable given the rapid changes posed by technology. Pichai argued in favor of moving away from “code and intensive degrees” towards a more “lightweight, focused model” featuring apprenticeship and certification programs, some of which can be completed in less than one year.
To be sure, there are aspects of Google’s stance on education which do seem to be in line with the current reality facing job seekers in today’s digital economy. Wage earners today are more likely to work in more jobs over the course of their careers and the average time spent at a single job has been decreasing. Between January 2014 and January 2016, average employee tenures dropped from 4.6 years down to 4.2 years according to statistics reported from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
An April 2016 blog post by business-oriented social media platform LinkedIn indicated that college graduates between 2006 and 2010 worked for an average of nearly three different companies during the first five years of their professional career. By comparison, those graduating college between 1986 and 1990 worked for less than two different companies on average during the first five years of their career; over the first 10 years of their career, those same graduates worked for an average of nearly 2.5 different companies. So it seems clear that job seekers today should expect to be adaptable to a change in work environment every few years.
However, Google’s stance on the importance of STEM educations in the current economy seems to be a little out of touch given recent research on the number of jobs available to those with STEM educations. A BLS occupational outlook report from Spring 2014 indicated that occupations related to science, technology, mathematics and engineering are projected to grow by more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022. This includes positions such as actuaries, software developers, aerospace engineers, conservation scientists, physicists, nuclear technicians, STEM teachers and much more. Further, these jobs tend to pay much higher wages than the median income. The Spring 2014 BLS report reflected a median annual wage of nearly $76,000 for workers in STEM-related occupations, more than double the median wage for all occupations during the study period.
So why doesn’t Google think that a STEM education is all that valuable for its workers when all of the labor statistics seem to suggest otherwise?
One potential explanation for this is the fact that research and development does not seem to be all that important to Google’s current and massive fortune. The third quarter 2017 earnings report released by Google parent company Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) shows that Google advertising revenues make up the overwhelming bulk of Alphabet’s overall revenues, accounting for $24.1 billion of the company’s $27.8 billion in third quarter revenues. For the nine months ending September 30th 2017, Google advertising accounted for $64.1 billion of Alphabet’s $78.5 billion total revenues for the period. Other Bets, which is supposed to be Google’s division of diverse innovative companies, contributed less than $800 million for the entire first nine months of 2017.
What seems to have proven to be more valuable to Google than the education of its employees, in fact, includes positive outcomes on challenges to the validity of targeted advertising patents asserted against the company. Perhaps it shouldn’t be shocking that Google would take this anti-STEM stance. With such little revenue attributable to innovation and so much revenue derived from adopting patented technology of others it is no wonder Google does not value a STEM education.
Join the Discussion
9 comments so far.
angry dudeJanuary 24, 2018 01:21 pm
Night [email protected]
Sure you can (in theory) – if there is will on the government’s side to do it
Either effective patent enforcement or anti-trust law
Neither is gonna happen in this country any time soon
Trump’s administration may hate bezos and google punks but they’ll never let amazon or google stock to fall
its all about money
thus bezos is the richest man in the world
and american inventors and small patent holders are devastated
Night WriterJanuary 24, 2018 10:21 am
>>screw that company
The whole point of becoming a monopoly is that you can’t screw the company. You are stuck with it.
angry dudeJanuary 23, 2018 03:29 pm
yeah, right… google wants to embrace “diversity” but disqualifies any person (especially white Caucasian males) over the age of 40 to work there
How about that ?
Is rampant age discrimination anti-diversity ?
or is google full of sh1t as usual ?
screw that company
AnonJanuary 23, 2018 12:21 pm
I do not follow the supposition of “apples and oranges.” You yourself indicate that this is NOT and apples and oranges situation with your concluding remark about “catching up.” If indeed this were an “apples and oranges” situation, there would be NO “catching up” to be had.
Rather, your remark comes across more so as defending an indefensible position. Like it or not, Google has created a position along many lines that those that want stronger patent systems (those who appreciate rewarding innovation) find distasteful.
BJanuary 23, 2018 11:18 am
Respectfully, Bob, Google is the same company that reported fired a guy for expressing conservative views and questioning the appropriateness of “diversity.” I suspect that Google has jumped the shark on certain issues, such as “emotional intelligence,” which most people throughout history had qualified as “leadership” and “not being a basket case” sans the touchy-feely aspects that “emotional intelligence” implies.
Bob HodgesJanuary 23, 2018 10:19 am
I think this is apples and oranges. Google is speaking about the qualities they find useful in employees that are not related to whether or not the employee has a STEM degree. The labor and market studies show that, on average, employers value employees with STEM degrees more than those without STEM degrees. Google’ view might be correct about how valuable employees actually are, but the labor and market studies show that employers in general have not caught up to Google’s discovery.
curoiusJanuary 22, 2018 11:45 pm
After they destroy the patent system, they don’t need to hire any engineers, they can just steal from others. So yes, Google still needs engineers, they just don’t want to have to pay them.
BJanuary 22, 2018 05:21 pm
Time to finish that degree in feminist dance theory, and send your resume to Google.
angry dudeJanuary 22, 2018 09:58 am
google is full if sh1t as usual
nothing can replace good fundamental education in math, physics, chemistry etc.