What is STEM and Why is it important?

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      STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. What is STEM is really not the important question. What really is important is why STEM education is such a viable topic when discussing the economy. The members of the STEM workforce are the source for US innovation and competitiveness. They generate ideas, companies, and industries and aid in the growth of our economy. With the US in recession and unemployment experiencing historical rates, US Business have an abundance of vacancies in STEM related jobs due the lack of supply and availability of qualified workers. In 2010 The unemployment rate for non-STEM workers was nearly 10% whereas the unemployment rate for STEM workers leveled off at 5.3%

      The importance of STEM education programs and a STEM qualified workforce is vital to US economic growth. Just take a look at these statistics provided by the US Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration. In 2010, there were 7.6 million STEM workers in the United States, representing about 1 in 18 workers. STEM occupations are projected to grow by 17.0 percent from 2008 to 2018, compared to 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations. STEM workers command higher wages, earning 26 percent more than their non- STEM counterparts. More than two-thirds of STEM workers have at least a college degree, compared to less than one-third of non-STEM workers.

      Now it is understood that the increase of a STEM driven workforce is essential to US economic growth. The next question is. How do we do that? Rodney C Adkins senior vice president of IBM’s Systems & Technology Group wrote an article which was published in Forbes magazine stated that “To turn this trend around, we need to improve both the size and composition of the pipeline of U.S. STEM students.”One of the most effective ways to increase the pipeline is early adoption of STEM curriculum and project-based learning.

      Think about it. What if there was an extreme shortage of drivers in the US. And the reason for this shortage is that people had little or no hands on driving experience before the age of 18. Well if the youth of America are not exposed to a robotics curriculum we can’t expect them to be comfortable with the idea of becoming the engineers who design automation in manufacturing. The early adoption and hands on training of STEM education will give students the comfort with and understanding of the principles of STEM trades thus making an easier transition to a STEM related field of study in secondary education.

      Project-Based learning is a phrase heard in education circles almost as much as STEM is. Form Director of Project Lead the Way and Creator of fischertechnik STEM Lab Programs with Curriculum for Middle Schools and High Schools had this to say about Ptoject-Based Learning. “Project-based curriculum allows for deep exploration of a problem. The project should be designed to allow different student groups to develop several distinct solutions to the same problem. The problem presents the student with an opportunity to plan, organize and conduct research. Enabling activities help to provide students with needed skills and knowledge” You can read the entire article written by Tom White here.

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