Why STEM Education

STEM-logo4-980x523During the last few months, television ads have popped up all over showing cool jobs in cool companies with the tag line “STEM Utah, Curiosity Unleashed”.

Why would businesses fund a $2.5 million media campaign promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)?

The world of today is very different than previous generations and is full of technological advances that make our lives more and more productive. STEM education produces critical thinkers and problems solvers. These are the very skills that allow our children to compete for today’s jobs. National studies show there are three STEM jobs for each qualified worker. Conversely, there are at least three applicants for each non-STEM job.

In his 2005 book The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman made the case that our children will increasingly compete for jobs with children from all over the world. STEM education for our children can keep these highly skilled jobs here in America. At the national level, policy makers are increasingly calling this skills gap a national crisis. I had an Air Force general recently tell me that STEM education has even become a national security issue.

At the state level, Utah government is investing huge amounts of energy to recruit companies that need STEM skills. Yet, Utah already has thousands of job openings that aren’t being filled while thousands of our young people struggle to find jobs because they don’t have the requisite STEM skills. The Legislature is meeting this problem head-on by investing tens of millions of dollars in classrooms to help teachers teach more effectively and students learn better.

While each employer must decide for themselves who is responsible to train their future workforce, many are deciding it is up to them and have joined together to form Utah’s STEM Education Investors Coalition. This group promotes volunteerism in schools, High School internships, technology in the classroom, after school STEM activities and yes even a media campaign. When government sees private sector involvement, they are much more willing to continue their investment. Other companies become inspired to participate and a virtuous cycle of preparing Utah’s future workforce through education becomes a reality.

Many ask what are STEM jobs. Whether a four year degree or a high school graduate, the vast majority of jobs in Utah are STEM related. From engineering to the trades, almost every job demands using technology, critical thinking and problem solving.

And who knows? With government, businesses and other STEM enthusiasts working together, maybe we really can change the world for Utah’s children.

Their futures may depend on it.

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