STEM is the Future. So, Where are our Kids?

STEM is the Future. So, Where are our Kids?

If STEM is the future, then where are our kids? By 2018, there will be nearly 9 million Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) jobs in the U.S. Yet, there is also expected to be a talent gap of approximately 1 million. That means two things:

  1. Ching Ching: there are not enough skilled STEM professionals to fill the jobs needed, so following the economic principle of supply and demand, those who are in STEM career fields, will become much more marketable than they are today – they are quite marketable today – and they will be able to demand more for their skills; and
  2. Haves and Have Nots: the disparity between the haves and have nots will widen, with those in STEM careers acquiring more of the economic pie.

Sound the Alarm and Act.

I am sounding the alarm because it is our Hispanic and Black kids among the “have nots.” Today, over 80% of all STEM jobs are held by White and Asian males. Females, Hispanics and Blacks are woefully underrepresented in STEM fields in colleges and in the workplace. The reports provided by the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Education Statistics provide a sobering picture of the opportunity gap we have to direct more women and non-Asian minorities into STEM fields. See also STEM 101: Introduction to Tomorrow’s Jobs.

It is our Hispanic and Black kids among the “have nots.”

Even today, we read about the challenges technology companies like Google, Facebook and others face in hiring more women and non-Asian minorities. We also hear women and minorities complain that when they graduate with science and engineering degrees, they are not finding jobs within their fields. Something has to give. We have to find a way for our kids to seize the jobs of the future. It starts with creating and maintaining a healthy pipeline of students into STEM fields.

Bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2012 (latest data from the National Science Foundation):

Race/Ethnicity

% of Degrees Awarded

(All Fields)

% of Science & Engineering Degrees Awarded % of Science Degrees Awarded % of Engineering Degrees Awarded

% of Non-S&E Degrees Awarded

Whites

64.7

62.7 61.9 68.1

65.6

Hispanics

10.1

10.3 10.4 9.3

10.0

Asians

6.8

9.7 9.3 12.0

5.4

Blacks

9.9

8.8 9.5 4.2

10.4

 

The tag line of The Social Scholar is “when we know better, we do better.” So, what are we to make of these facts and what can we do to ensure our kids will be prepared for the jobs of the future? It’s not too early, nor is it too late. The time is now!

5 Things We Can Do to Prepare Our Kids for the Jobs of the Future.

I can think of 5 things we can do today that could turn this trend around and help our kids prepare for the jobs of the future:

Provide exposure: be intentional about exposing your children to Hispanic and Black STEM professionals in your community. The more our kids see successful Hispanic and Black doctors, dentists, scientists, mathematicians, computer scientists and engineers who look like them, the more they will believe those fields are career options for them too.

Seize everyday opportunities as “teachable” moments: if you provide an allowance to your children, have them maintain a balance sheet or “checkbook” of their income and expenses; allow them to measure the ingredients for tonight’s dinner recipe or convert measures to the metric system; if they notice the stars in the sky, encourage them to research the constellations; or learn about how the body repairs cells to heal itself if they or a family member is recovering from an illness. There are literally tens, if not hundreds, of opportunities in a given day to demonstrate how STEM fields are a part of our daily lives and to sharpen their cognitive and quantitative skills.

Sign up for a STEM summer camp: if you type “stem summer camps” in your search engine, you are likely to find a long list of available camps (I did) – camps for girls, for children as young as 5 years of age, for teenagers, and for every income level. This is one investment that could pay huge dividends in the future and could be a change of pace from what your child has done the last three summers.

Research it: every year, you can count on your child having at least a ½ dozen research projects. Encourage your child to choose a STEM field for their next research assignment. They will have to get to know the field deeply and it may just kindle an interest they didn’t know they had previously.

Speak it: if your child expresses an interest in any of the STEM areas, affirm their interest. Let them know that they can achieve anything they put their minds to and are willing to work hard for. Sometimes our children are just looking for that affirmation from us that their dreams are within reach. If your daughter wants to be a doctor, greet her as Dr. (Her Last Name). If your son wants to design the cars of the future, buy him a model car to build and work on it with him.

I am sure you can think of other things. These are just a start. Recently, I read that 40% of engineers in China are women. That happens because there is a cultural emphasis on math and science and boys and girls are equally encouraged to pursue those fields. We have a great opportunity in front of us to close the gap and help our kids eat more of the economic pie.

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