Introduction: Labor Shortages and the Downfall of STEM
STEM. It’s the new buzzword in education as jobs move increasingly towards the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In fact, data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that a whopping 15 of the 20 fastest growing jobs require advanced mathematics or science knowledge.
However, while most acknowledge that STEM is where the job market is heading, the federal education system has been slow at implementing STEM into the national educational curriculum, leaving many students unsure of the short and long term benefits of a STEM education. For example, by 2018, it’s predicted that 8.65 million STEM jobs will exist. Nevertheless, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a drastic shortage of almost 600,000 potential candidates for those jobs.
It’s clear that we need to get young people entering the job market interested in STEM to counteract this drastic shortfall in necessary talent. Yet, while one would think that such a shortage would impel or incentivize people to prepare themselves for STEM-focused careers, that simply isn’t the case. The statistics are worrying to say the least:
- Only 28 percent of high school freshmen are interested in studying a STEM subject after high school
- Only 16 percent of high school students overall are interested in a STEM career and are skilled in mathematical subjects
- 57 percent of the aforementioned students are predicted to lose interest in STEM before graduating from high school
Thus, although the U.S. faces huge future shortages in qualified STEM job candidates, it looks like this problem will only continue to get worse as students continue to lose interest in STEM fields of study and work. Are there any other benefits of STEM education besides perhaps a lucrative, stable job that may interest K-12 students in STEM?
When people think of workers in STEM fields like computer programmers, they might envision someone who is robotic, emotionless, and definitely not creative. However, early implementation of STEM education for K-12 students may actually bolster creativity as students who study in STEM programs must come up with their own creative solutions to problems. Furthermore, on top of creative problem solving, design principles, such as making simple drawings, can be helpful in STEM fields, such as engineering, because such designs can help in understanding things like how to effectively use space within structures.
STEM = Jobs in Beauty and Fashion?
This benefit of a STEM education for students might be surprising, but studying STEM instead of posting pictures on Instagram might actually be a better way to break into the beauty and fashion industries. For example, with beauty brands like L’Oreal constantly looking to come out with innovative products in order to stay relevant, these brands are in need of scientists who can create and design products that will keep customers feeling beautiful. Likewise, the fashion industry also employs people from STEM to make products like Apple Watches and apps like Tommy Hilfiger chatbots.
More Jobs, Even for Writers!
For those looking to study English and become a writer, coming across work isn’t easy. However, writers that are knowledgeable about STEM fields may face a different situation as medical and technical writing jobs are currently in high demand as there are few people who can combine both writing and STEM knowledge.
While the reality of STEM and the job market’s increasing orientation toward it are undeniable, the benefits of a STEM education are not being emphasized enough to younger generations. To help increase interest, educators may want to highlight untraditional STEM benefits and how a STEM education can set them up for an impactful future in not just the workplace, but also the world as a whole.
Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on data collection and analysis.