In 2015, there were nearly 8.6 million STEM jobs in the United States, and that number is growing every year. In fact, STEM job growth in the past 10 years is three times that of any other field, but by 2018, it is projected that 2.4 million STEM jobs will go unfilled. Yet, STEM education programs have not kept pace–calling into question whether there will be enough qualified employees available to take on these new positions.
Worryingly, only 16 percent of students graduating high school are proficient in STEM and also interested in a STEM career. The natural response to such a low percentage would be to prioritize improving STEM education efforts in the classroom. However, this is unfortunately easier said than done.
The economic climate in the US has seen both budget cuts and increasingly diverse opinions among educators and administrators about where to spend the money made available to them. We must work to find ways of blending STEM education into all elements of the classroom, inspiring student interest at a young age.
Let’s explore a few changes we’re anticipating over the next five years that could make a real difference to the quality of STEM education teachers would be able to provide. If followed through, they could prove crucial to encouraging more students to engage with the subjects that will define our future.
1. Fueled by more effective teacher education, students will become fluent in coding
To prepare students for careers in growing STEM fields, we must increase the importance of programming literacy, or fluency in computer science and coding, in the same way that we did for reading and writing in the mid 20th Century. We need students to become as familiar with technology as they are with a pen and notepad. And it happens through hands-on experience.
However, it’s difficult to achieve this kind of widespread programming literacy when it hasn’t already been a part of most teachers’ schooling. School districts, particularly administrators, must commit to providing the resources necessary to train teachers on STEM subjects that they may not have had the opportunity to learn before. Supporting teachers’ personal education in this way will allow them to further integrate coding and computer science into the classroom curriculum, furthering the development of programming literacy.