STEM needs to form education's bedrock

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Science and engineering professions require rigorous data collection and risk analysis. That same approach needs to be applied to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education with respect to forecasting job prospects for students today.

We need to see STEM as a foundation for all of education, not solely as a vocation. As funding pours into STEM activities, we need to be sure it is well-spent, not the education reform du jour. STEM must be treated as a core lifelong skill.

STEM proficiency alone will not necessarily lead to better jobs and higher incomes. Currently, about one third of all bachelor's degrees are in a STEM field, yet only about half of those graduates actually work in a related field. Fewer than 5 percent of all jobs are explicitly STEM jobs, and although the number of STEM jobs is expected to increase by 20 percent over the next 10 years, that only brings this number up to about 6 percent of all jobs.

When we couple the number of STEM-educated people not working in their field with this modest real increase in available employment, it makes one think about what we're really trying to accomplish.

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