They may be relatively small in number, but they pull more than their fair share of economic weight. Amid higher unemployment and economic turmoil, we need them now more than ever.
STEM jobs (97 occupations that fall into the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields) are part of a critical cycle of economic growth. They are vital for national competitiveness, fueling the economy and creating more downstream jobs.
That’s the good news. Now for the not-so-good news.
By international standards, students in the U.S. rate in the middle of the pack (or lower) with respect to proficiency in science and mathematics. And, we’re graduating the same proportion of STEM graduates now as we did 20 years ago. When you factor in the growth in STEM demand, this is creating a serious shortfall of talent that has implications for an increasingly global economy of innovation.
There are a number of factors that are inhibiting new entrants to STEM fields and luring existing participants away to others. These include significant cultural, gender and attitudinal shifts and long-held notions that shape who enters (and who stays in) STEM-related educational tracks and careers. Companies themselves must understand these forces, and be aware of how they may be contributing to them if they are to be turned around.