If you look across the academic landscape what is it that you notice? Students are performing science experiments, testing out solar energy, and learning the basics of computer programming. But what does all of this mean? Here’s one word for you, STEM. Referring to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, you can find STEM education being implemented in schools and programs around the country and here in New York City. But the question is what makes STEM so important?
Jobs today are proactively seeking candidates who possess skills revolving around STEM. The majority of those jobs fall within the realm of science, technology, engineering, and math fields. However, professionals with such skill sets are not abundant at the moment, resulting in a shortage of skilled workers that may result in a negative impact on the U.S. economy. Research and studies continue to show that in order to produce a highly skilled and educated workforce that will enable the nation to compete on a global scale with the likes of China and India, greater emphasis needs to be placed on STEM education. STEM education will stimulate students’ minds, cultivating that sense of curiosity and eagerness to enhance their knowledge, all while enriching and empowering a new generation. This has spurred a movement by civic and government leaders, including President Obama, to make it a priority to expand STEM education across the country. In addition to that, the growth of technology and its relevance today makes it all the more important for the expansion and continued introduction of STEM related disciplines.
Starting from an early age, students exposed to STEM have demonstrated better performance than those who have not been exposed to STEM. According to the article, Unpacking the Benefits of a STEM Education, the Obama administration has made it a point to focus on expanding STEM education by providing nearly $3.1 billion in funding, with the primary aim of producing well-versed students in the sciences and technology. Case studies have also shown that early introduction to STEM has impacted students career paths, with one particular case study pointing out how one student decided to pursue a degree in engineering at Washington State University, all as a result of his experience with STEM.
Perhaps nowhere else is STEM gaining more steam than in New York City. Early college high schools are opening up with increasing speed. This is part of a joint initiative between the New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York and IBM. The primary emphasis behind the development of such high schools is to give primary focus to STEM. In addition, a wide variety of summer and after-school programs are being organized providing students with a variety of STEM-based activities such as robotics, biology experiments, video game design, and building mobile apps to name a few. This coincides with research, showing that careers within STEM are expected to grow at twice the rate as careers in other professions. In addition to that, graduates in STEM can possibly expect to make $500,000 more than their peers in other professions over the course of a lifetime.
In short, the U.S. today is experiencing a severe lack of a skilled workforce that can keep up with the advances being made in technology and the sciences. Expanding and reinforcing STEM education has the ability to bridge the technical and experiential gap, all while broadening the mind sets of students and professionals alike for generations to come.
by Tammer Mahmoud