For about the last ten years STEM has been the “buzz” in public science education. This marriage between long-time partners, science and math, with engineering and technology has been touted by public educators and politicians as “essential” for addressing our nation’s academic deficiencies. But our students’ “smartness” is just the tip of the iceberg.
The U.S. Department of Labor has projected that by 2018 the U.S. will have over 1.2 million jobs in the STEM fields. They go on to say that there will be a significant shortage of college grads available to fill these jobs. 1 The Massachusetts STEM Advisory Council reports that 80% of jobs in the next decade will require technology skills. 3
A January 2012 report by the Harvard Business School implicated the K-12 Education System as one of the big impediments to U.S. competitiveness2, highlighting the workforce fallout if we don’t get our act together. They surveyed their alums and discovered the following:
“During the past year, more than 1,700 respondents were personally involved in decisions about whether to place business activities and jobs in the U.S. or elsewhere. They perceived the greatest current or emerging weaknesses to be in America’s tax code, political system, K-12 education system, macroeconomic policies, legal framework, regulations, infrastructure, and workforce skills.”
Many have suggested that the three million currently unfilled domestic jobs can also be at least partially attributed to the undertrained workforce that the Harvard study mentions.
This paradigm shift goes hand in hand with an overall trend in education toward collaboration and interdisciplinary study, recognition that the extreme compartmentalization in higher education may be coming back to bite us. Like we actually may be better off if we work with the other guy in that other building across campus.
My parents called it “well-roundedness.” We don’t have to create experts. We simply need to provide opportunities for our children to take on real-life problems. Real problems don’t stay neatly inside the Math box or the Science box. They bulge out. They are messy. This is something I think most homeschoolers intuitively understand.
We need a generation of tech savvy homeschool graduates that can recognize when a wrench will solve the problem and when a highly engineered gadget can solve the problem. Let’s teach our children to use all the tools available – that’s the heart of what STEM learning is about.
1 Occupational Employment Projections to 2018. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 2009.
2 Prosperity at Risk: Findings of Harvard Business School’s Survey on U.S. Competitiveness. Michael Porter & Jan Rivkin. January 2012.
3 Massachusetts STEM Advisory Council, 2011.