STEM leader

What STEM Is and Why STEM Matters.

A hot topic creating a lot of buzz nowadays is STEM or science, technology, engineering and math.  These STEM disciplines no longer stand-alone as separate career fields, and in fact, many real-world situations require problem-solving strategies that include integrated solutions from each of these four fields.  As global competition increases, more STEM-literate workers are vital to the U.S. and our ability to lead innovation, increase productivity and compete effectively in a growing global economy.

As a result, STEM workers will continue to be in demand.  According to the report, Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements through 2020 (Anthony P. Carnevale, Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl, Georgetown University and Center on Education and the Workforce, June 2013) total jobs will increase from 140 million in 2010 to 165 million in 2020. There will be 55 million job vacancies between 2010 and 2020 due to net new jobs (24 million) and retirement (31 million).  Healthcare, community services and arts, and STEM are the three fastest growing occupational clusters.  By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require postsecondary education and training, up from 28 percent in 1973.

While there is a clear need to improve STEM education to ensure our national competitiveness and security, Congress has unfortunately cut funding for STEM programs in schools.  That means it’s up to other organizations to bring together key stakeholders from our education system, industry, workforce and economic developers, and policymakers to generate student interest in STEM, produce STEM-literate graduates and create innovative employment programs to make it easier for employers to find and hire STEM-ready workers.

In the report commissioned by Bayer Corporation and updated in 2010, Planting the Seeds for a Diverse U.S. STEM Pipeline: A Compendium of Best Practice K-12 STEM Education Programs, many pre-college STEM programs are showcased to demonstrate successful public-private partnerships that are improving student education and boosting student achievement.  Bayer’s Making Science Make Sense program is a Presidential award-winning program that advances science literacy across the U.S. through the support of a corps of 1,000 employee-volunteers and a public education campaign led by astronaut Dr. Mae C. Jemison. As educators work to improve STEM learning through public-private partnerships, other employers are also investing wisely in developing and planning for its future STEM workforce needs, knowing that the return-on-investment in these programs won’t be immediate. YouthSpark, a company-wide initiative launched by Microsoft, intends to create opportunities for 300 hundred million youth around the world over the next three years to connect youth to greater education, employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities.  Learn how other employers are developing programs committed to improving the state of STEM at the 100 CEO Leaders in STEM Blog Series.

While we are seeing encouraging signs that show progress in STEM education and employment, we must not become complacent.  There is so much opportunity, and by working together, we can take the necessary steps to impact and change the future of STEM.

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by Jolene Jeffries, Workforce Sage and STEM Jobs Advisory Council Chair

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