News and ResourcesSTEM programs crucial for a competitive future - April 6, 2014
During the past decades, the medical and pharmaceutical, research and development, information technology and other science and technology related fields have skyrocketed in job demand and net worth. The demand for well-trained and educated doctors, researchers, developers, computer specialists and other similar jobs has increased dramatically, as has their salary and benefits.
Companies like Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, Mac, Google and other Fortune 500 firms send out talent scouts and “head hunters” across the globe in search of the best and brightest employees to bring back to their respective companies. Unfortunately, it seems that many American high school and college graduates get passed over for these highly competitive but highly paid jobs.
One of the reasons often cited by companies for bringing in international talent is that U.S. high school and college graduates are not as proficient as their global counterparts in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a federal agency in charge of collecting, analyzing and interpreting educational data, American school children are falling behind in the STEM fields. In 2012, there were 29 nations whose high school students performed at a higher level of math than U.S. high school students, and 22 nations whose high school students performed at a higher level of science than U.S. high school students. As of 2013, only 44 percent of U.S. high school graduates were ready for college level math, while only 36 percent of U.S. high school graduates were ready for college level science.
U.S. colleges and universities are not immune to the STEM crisis either. In 2008, 31 percent of all U.S. bachelor’s degrees were awarded in engineering and science fields, while nations like Japan had 61 percent and China had 51 percent of their bachelor’s degrees awarded in science and engineering. With overwhelming numbers and statistics like these, it’s no wonder many companies look internationally for STEM educated employees for their workforce.
When asked about it on National Public Radio (NPR), Anthony Carnevale of The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce said, “You have to remember that STEM makes up only about 7 percent of the jobs in the American economy. On the other hand, we know that anybody who majors in STEM often doesn’t stay in STEM ... they leave. They no longer work on the bench, in the lab. So we need to produce a lot more STEM workers than we actually use because we lose so many of them along the way because their careers are relatively successful.
STEM education and programs play a major role on in-state workforce development and job recruitment in Maryland.
In 2008 in Maryland alone, the state had more than 6,000 STEM or STEM-related job openings while Maryland’s institutions of higher learning only graduated about 4,000 STEM graduates, leaving our state with one of the worst STEM workforce deficits in the mid-Atlantic.
In 2008, Gov. Martin O’Malley saw this workforce deficit and acted quickly, creating a STEM task force and issuing a call to action for our educational system to enhance current STEM efforts and create new STEM opportunities and programs.
Harrison Jackson is Coastal Stewards coordinator for the Coastal Bays Program.
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