What is STEM?
STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering and Math. But STEM education is so much more! STEM education is an approach to teaching that integrates inquiry, research, design, data analysis, problem solving and collaboration into all subject areas. STEM education means hands-on lessons that allow students to participate in solving problems with the support and encouragement of their classmates. It means teaching our students that they can make sense of the world around them and discover ways of making it better. Unlike traditional educational experiences in which subject areas are concentrated on separately, STEM education emphasizes technology and integrates subjects in ways that connect disciplines and relate them to each other. STEM education prepares students to become the next generation of innovators who are needed to solve the world’s toughest problems.
“In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past.” (National Science Foundation)
According to the U. S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17%, while other occupations are growing at 9.8%. STEM degree holders have a higher income even in non-STEM careers. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the U.S. economy, and are a critical component to helping the U.S. win the future. STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators. Innovation leads to new products and processes that sustain our economy. This innovation and science literacy depends on a solid knowledge base in the STEM areas. It is clear that most jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of math and science.
1) There’s a STEM Job Crisis
There is currently a gap between the jobs that are in high demand and the skills required to fill them – and the gap is only going to grow if nothing is done about it. According to Fast Company, in the next decade 80% of professions will require a deep understanding of STEM skills. In the meantime, fewer and fewer students are going above and beyond to excel at STEM skills. There are plenty of jobs that require a deep understanding of science, technology, engineering, or math (or all of the above) and no one to fill it.
2) Innovation boosts the economy
We have all heard of the tech-boom currently happening and we can even see it happening right before our eyes. There’s a new gadget out every few hours and it’s hard to keep up with the trends. However, these trends help boost the economy, create jobs, and essentially keeps money in our pockets. We need skilled STEM experts to help develop the next successful antibiotic or cure for a disease. We need engineers and developers to create the next new phone or a computer that learns faster than a human. We also need those math-savvy folks to help us understand big data, make-sense of our economy, manage finances, and even help us get to Mars!
3) Companies want to build their talent pool
Companies need to have top talent to stay competitive in their industries. It’s so important that companies employ those who will help them stay relevant now and in the future. This means that they need to have the best research and development teams, the best accountants, the best engineers, the best web and app developers, the best designers – you see where I’m going, the best of the best everything! Companies are now investing in STEM education programs all over the globe in hopes that they will be able to nurture the next generation of innovators.
4) There is a gender gap that needs bridging
According to Fortune, women comprise about ⅓ of the workforce in the largest tech companies (like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc.) and the gap only gets bigger as you move up the ladder toward leadership roles. The gap is also widened if you dive into these numbers a little. As shown by Deloitte, the number of women with actual IT related roles is closer to 25% and only 17% of recent female grads are in IT related fields. Most believe that this gap is related to the opportunities (or lack of opportunities) available to girls to explore tech when they are younger and the other side of this gap is due to gender biases. However, there is hope for women-in-tech and Deloitte predicts that this gap will slowly start to improve as more STEM education opportunities are available.