Addressing the STEM Education Challenge
STEM — short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — is a main driver of economic growth. Despite the best efforts of educators, industry and government, we as a nation are failing to attract and educate a sufficient number of young scientists and technologists. Demand for these workers is growing fast but our talent pool is not.
This is curious, given that a STEM career is highly advantageous. Consider:
- Demand for STEM jobs is expected to increase by 62% by 2020
- The average wage for all STEM occupations in the United States is $85,570
- Women with STEM jobs earn 33% more than those in non-STEM occupations
Despite these positive benefits, interest in STEM careers is limited. The U.S. government expects that 2.4 million STEM jobs will remain unfilled by 2018. And only 16% of our high-school seniors are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career. As a result, the STEM job gap does may not be bridged anytime soon.
A for Effort
A host of schools, government bodies, corporations and nonprofit organizations have been working diligently to close the STEM gap. They’ve conducted studies, awarded grants and run technology summer camps. Yet despite these laudable efforts — not to mention millions of dollars — the nation’s STEM gap persists.
Much of the emphasis on STEM is focused at the university level. While this is good — educators need to start training youngsters in elementary and middle schools too. We also need more effective STEM programs that reach out directly to girls and members of minorities, both of whom are disproportionately underrepresented in technical and scientific job markets.
Companies need to get involved with their local schools. Masergy engineers have volunteered in our Plano, TX area public schools. Masergy this year launched its STEM scholarship program and awarded April Opsvig of the University of Washington with a $5,000 scholarship. With a challenge this big and this important, we all need to do our part to encourage children of all ages to discover the wonders of science, math, engineering and technology.