The demand for professionals with STEM backgrounds – meaning Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – is steadily rising. Currently, there are 1.4 vacant STEM jobs for every qualified STEM job-seeker. If this rate persists, by 2018 there will be a projected 1.7 million STEM jobs without qualified applicants to fill them.
Filling this skills gap presents an education challenge for the American job market. A recent article cites that “In 2013, there were 5.7 million total postings in STEM fields. Of those, 76%, or 4.4 million, require at least a bachelor’s degree, and 41%, or 2.3 million, are entry-level jobs requiring less than 2 years of experience.” To that point, only 28% of undergraduate students presently partake in STEM courses in college – even with an abundance of available jobs on the rise in these areas.
Yet, the STEM gap doesn’t begin in college; the fact remains that by the time job-seekers are in college or post-college, it’s too late to develop the necessary background to support open STEM job functions. As such, another route must be taken to fill the growing STEM gap – and it must begin early in the academic journey. To truly impact the STEM gap, students and educators alike must begin looking at earlier education for the foundation of a solid STEM background.
So, we have a solution. But does the majority of the American public know that this serious issue even exists? Does the public know that American children’s proficiencies in math and science are shrinking? And that only 18% percent of all college engineering majors are female?
If the answer to these questions is no, then how do we get the American public on board with early STEM education? The short answer is to educate our public on the STEM skills gap issue and what the crisis means for our future.
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