Science, technology, engineering and math are at the heart of the 21st century’s jobs-driven economy.

The gap

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration, growth in STEM jobs was three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs over the past decade. 71 percent of all jobs in the United States will require STEM skills by 2018 and, today, there is one unemployed STEM worker for every two STEM job openings.

"Only 11 percent of business leaders strongly agree that higher education is graduating students with the skills needed for success in the workplace."

In spite of the billions of dollars being spent on STEM education and programs across the nation, scores of students are not prepared for the STEM workforce.

Shifting education

Gallup and Lumina Foundation published a study in 2014, entitled “What America Needs to Know About Higher Education Redesign.” The report noted that only 11 percent of business leaders strongly agree that higher education is graduating students with the skills needed for success in the workplace.

This reality is challenging education institutions and companies to train an increasingly technical workforce. Utilizing an employer’s perspective, we must focus on bridging this skills gap while placing a particular emphasis on increasing diversity and encouraging young women and girls to pursue and persist in STEM careers.

This process of bridging the gap will require the collaboration of multiple stakeholders in STEM education: academic institutions, companies, non-profits, policy organizations and government entities. Aligning corporate, education, and community partners requires that we reevaluate and redesign the system that supports STEM education and workforce preparedness.

Early exposure

Our focus must be on the entire pipeline from kindergarten through careers, with an emphasis on retention as well as recruitment. A few key elements of effective STEM partnerships include K-12 outreach, internships, apprenticeships, mentoring, peer support and course redesign.

Exposing students to hands-on STEM experiences and opportunities where they pioneer solutions will assist in equipping them with the skills and competencies that companies demand. Providing those already in the pipeline with the necessary support—mentoring, sponsorship and work-life balance—can increase retention in STEM careers.

Together as a community, we can lead a STEM workforce revolution and meet the training and educational needs of the global STEM workforce. The sustainability of our schools, the innovative engines of our businesses, the prosperity of communities and the global competitiveness of our economies are at stake. We must act if we do not intend to be left behind.