STEM Literacy: Are We Keeping Up?
STEM For all of the happy talk about the importance of STEM education, there has been surprisingly little progress toward improvement.
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education is the new civil right of the 21st century, and the gateway to the future for our kids. The STEM fields support American innovation, which creates new American jobs and keeps our country strong and prosperous.
Yet research shows that more than half of graduating students are not prepared for the growing, ever-changing STEM workforce.
Whether their path takes them to the shop floor, the research lab or the frontiers of cyber security, in today’s global economy every American student needs to have a strong foundation in STEM subjects. All too often, policymakers overlook the fact that STEM jobs are vital to just about every sector of the economy—not just the so-called “traditional” high-tech fields typified by icons like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
"STEM jobs make up 20 percent of all jobs today and the top 10 highest earning bachelor-degree majors are all in STEM fields."
Modern auto mechanics use a software interface to fix your ignition. City planners utilize big data to improve traffic. Farmers utilize GPS-optimized watering schedules for our crops. STEM jobs are everywhere, in every industry, and they are not just jobs for Ph.D.s.
Over the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM jobs. STEM jobs make up 20 percent of all jobs today and the top 10 highest earning bachelor-degree majors are all in STEM fields.
Despite the growth, the U.S. is still falling behind. In 2010, 14 percent of U.S. companies were unable to hire due to applicants’ lack of STEM skills, and by 2013 40 percent of U.S. companies were unable to hire due to the same skills gap. At the same time, by the fourth grade only 13 percent of African-American, 29 percent of Hispanic and 40 percent of White students are considered “proficient” in math, with similar results for science. These numbers all go down by the eighth grade.
More than a buzzword
STEM education must be elevated as a national priority reflected through educational reforms, policies to drive innovation and federal and state spending priorities.
STEM is not just a trendy buzzword; it is the core of our country’s economic future. Simply put, if we are to keep up with our global competitors, we had better step up our commitment to improve STEM education.