As a result of lost manufacturing and outsource jobs, the U.S. needs to look to the future—to new opportunities and growing markets to be able to compete globally, and all indicators point to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.
According to research compiled by the Joint Economic Committee Chairman’s Staff in their report, “STEM Education: Preparing for the Jobs of the Future,” technology innovations have fueled the American economy, with some studies crediting over half of our economic growth in the past fifty years coming from improved productivity resulting from innovation. And the trend seems to be continuing. The demand for workers with degrees in the STEM fields is rising and expected to increase according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
However, the U.S. is not producing enough graduates in the fields of math, engineering, computer science, and therefore creating a skill gap. Forbes Magazine published a list “10 Skills that will Get You Hired in 2013” and mathematics was sixth on the list. The need for understanding arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics and the corresponding applications was found in 6 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs now.
So why are we as a nation struggling to impact math achievement when we know what today’s and tomorrow’s economy will demand of future workers, and what an increase in math achievement will provide for all?
As a nation, we must first acknowledge and embrace the changing economy and the demands that will be placed on the next generation of workers. We must educate students and parents about the opportunities that await those who achieve in the fields of math and science, and get more children, especially girls and students of color, into these fields. We must honestly invest in K12 education, attracting teachers to the field who can not only teach math but help bridge the classroom to the real world applications. We must introduce legislation that emphasizes the need for math achievement, rewards the schools getting it right, and provides the financial means to make schools successful in these areas. And finally, we must continue the fight to make higher education accessible to students.