Tech Skills Gaps: The Role of STEM Education


Written by: Reagan Flowers, Ph.D.

Next-level tech skills are in high demand, as I recently wrote about jobs that will be created over the next decade. However, we’re already seeing a huge gap between the candidates equipped with these skills and the number needed to fill available positions. STEM education will play a significant role in closing that gap, which should begin far before college. Let’s discuss the steps we need to take now to ensure students are equipped with the skills they need.

In-Demand Tech Skills by the Numbers

Before we get into action steps, let’s look at what this gap in tech skills currently looks like. The U.S. has four times the jobs requiring artificial intelligence and machine learning that India does. However, we rank among the lowest for the ratio of available candidates for these jobs – just eight potential candidates for each of these jobs.

Another problem area is cybersecurity. Experts in this area yield only five qualified candidates for each job. Data science is another skill to consider. The U.S. has many data scientists, but many jobs need to be filled in this field.

As you can see, opportunities are abundant. First, however, we must lay the groundwork to prepare today’s students for these opportunities.

STEM Curriculum Must Evolve Quickly

Utilization of relevant curriculum is key to preparing students for the workforce. A great example is typing. When computers were fairly new to the general public, many schools integrated typing classes for all students to prepare them for evolving office jobs. Today, this is no longer necessary, as many kids use smartphones and computers from a young age. Similarly, these in-demand tech skills will become the norm, and their use extends to almost every industry.

One of the problems is adapting the curriculum to establish the building blocks for these tech skills. Implementing a new curriculum can currently take up to six years. In a world where start-ups are continually changing the business landscape, and businesses of all sizes are making further developments, this pace of change will constantly leave us behind.

Schools need to develop curriculums that allow for change as new technologies develop. One way to do this is to focus on fundamental STEM skills, including problem-solving, out-of-the-box thinking, iterating, adapting, and collaborating. With this framework, specific topics discussed and what hands-on learning looks like can evolve as technology does.  Continue Reading….

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