Delaware PhD’s make up an exclusive employment club

    Our content selection from our content partner Delaware Today Magazine comes from Doug Rainey, who also authors Speakeasy columns for newsworks.  He offers some additional information on how we view science, technology, engineering and math careers.

     Here’s Doug’s column for newsworks.

    In the midst of writing the Delaware Today story on the gender and enthusiasm gap among teen girls in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, a curve ball came my way.

    A possible shortage of science-based positions was the topic of a Washington Post story that was passed along by one of the people I interviewed. The story created something of a buzz in a science community that had seen cutbacks over the years.

    It is also true that the ups and downs of industries and research funding have taken a toll. In the Delaware Valley, many jobs have been lost as AstraZeneca and other pharmaceutical companies scale back or shut down expensive R&D efforts.

    The story raised some interesting questions, but based on the available data, should not discourage anyone, male or female, from pursuing a science career.

    While landing that dream research job is never easy – even when you have the brainpower and persistence required to pursue a PhD –   labor statistics indicate that hard work and talent will pay off when it comes to staying out of the unemployment office.

    George Sharply,  Delaware Department of Labor Chief of Labor Market Information, reports that the jobless rate in Delaware among those with PhD s and other professional degrees in law, medicine, etc. comes in well under 1 percent. Persons with masters degrees have a 3 percent jobless rate, with the bachelor and associate degree categories logging in at 4 and 4.6 percent.

    Delaware’s monthly unemployment rate has been coming at slightly under 7 percent.

    Based on those percentages, it is hard to argue against the need to improve student performance in the building blocks required for   STEM careers.

    The gender gap in STEM skills, is   worrisome, given the fact that more and more jobs in all sectors of the economy require math and science.

    Moreover women now account for a majority of students at many colleges and universities.

    The low unemployment rate for those with advanced degrees is of little comfort to Mark Perri, of Wilmington, who describes himself as one of the more “visible unemployed PhD s” in the state. He’s currently, the Green Party candidate   for governor.

    Perri has also been involved with the Delaware Occupy movement that took aim at the Wall Street bailout. He says a lack of focus by the current governor on global warming was a big reason for his decision to seek the top state post.

    Perri has a doctorate in chemical engineering from Georgia Tech, an MBA from the University of Delaware and more than 20 years of experience in packaging, and other industrial areas.

    More recently, his career has consisted of series of   assignments and little of the stability he saw while growing up as the son of a DuPonter.

    Perri says part of the problem is a short-term focus on the next big deal by corporate America, although he also acknowledges a sluggish economy is a big factor.

    Age can also come into the equation, with companies seeking out younger researchers with lower salary expectations..

    “We need to do something,” says Perri, who admits does not that he does not run into many unemployed PhD s.

    He suggests a union or other association that would allow those with advanced, specialized skills to go from assignment to assignment, with benefits that would allow those going through a dry spell to “not lose their house.”

    As for DuPont, Perri says he has, for the most part, given up on landing a position at the Wilmington company that has gone through wave after wave of restructuring. In recent years, however, overall employment has remained stable, based on the information from the Delaware Book of Lists.

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