Panel: STEM education crisis stems from unsupported teachers

One woman in the audience suggested reaching out to toy manufacturers, like with Mattel’s Barbie.

“Before, you had housewife Barbie, and then you had Barbies such as ‘Dr. Barbie’ and ‘Veterinarian Barbie,’ and little girls felt it was OK to be like her. We need ‘STEM Barbie’ now,” she said.

Charles Giancarlo, managing director and head of value creation at Silver Lake Partners and a former senior executive at Cisco Systems, suggested that another way to attract more STEM workers is to allow more H1B visas.

“When I worked at Cisco, 85 percent of our entire staff in some way had tech training. Every year, the U.S. produces around 86,000 graduates in STEM. That means that Cisco hires an entire year’s worth of U.S. STEM graduates. And that’s just one company. Clearly you can see the lack of supply for the demand,” he said.

Giancarlo noted that most STEM graduates are foreign-born but cannot get their visas approved to stay and work in the U.S.

“Cisco had to create its R&D program in Vancouver, because Canada accepted those visas, while the U.S. did not. It’s sheer necessity for companies to look for overseas STEM grads now, such as in India and China, because the quality of the graduates is amazing and the abundance plentiful.”

Giancarlo said policy makers also should broaden the qualifications for teaching.

“Many STEM industry professionals who have retired [would] make great teachers and want to share their knowledge and experience. We have to give them the opportunities to do this. Two of my teachers who inspired me to go into STEM were former industry professionals,” he said.

Other ideas that came from the discussion include…

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