The U.S. will have more than 1.2 million job openings in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related occupations by 2018.Yet, there will be a significant shortage of qualified college graduates to fill these careers. For the U.S. to succeed and continue to play a leadership role in addressing tough global challenges, we must do a better job of engaging students in these subjects and encouraging them to pursue careers in STEM-related fields.
Some interesting facts from this infographic from Microsoft:
4 in 5 STEM college students made the decision to study STEM in high school or earlier.
49% of women pursuing STEM degrees chose STEM to make a difference.
STEM occupations are growing by 17%, while others are growing at 9.8%.
All of this supports my long-held position that our students must be introduced to STEM at a MUCH earlier age than they are today. If a student hasn’t been introduced to the opportunities of STEM by their 11th birthday, they are far less likely to choose a STEM educational or career path.
More importantly, we need to do a better job of introducing engineering (and STEM) as a way to MAKE A DIFFERENCE! To meet the overwhelming need for more qualified engineers to solve the world’s problems, we can no longer ignore our girls. We know they will find a way to change the world, let’s give them the tools to do so.
A personal note on this theme of “changing the world” (that I’ll share more about in the coming months): I’ve recently become involved with “Engineers without Borders” which is a non-profit humanitarian organization established to partner with developing communities worldwide in order to improve their quality of life. This partnership involves the implementation of sustainable engineering projects, while involving and training internationally responsible engineers and engineering students.
I’ve been intrigued with the organization for many years because of their work with university engineering students, as an authentic service-based learning approach to developing competent engineers to solve our global challenges. But when I finally joined my local chapter, here in Portland, to learn more about the work they were doing, I was struck by one truly amazing finding. Not that there were engineers solving global challenges, or even that they were doing it in a volunteer role, without getting paid. It did not come as a surprise to me that there were engineers out there that cared about making the world a better place – in fact it is what motivated me to choose engineering as a career.
This little fact did more to demonstrate the importance of elevating engineering as a way to make a difference, than any recent experience I can think of. What came as such a surprise is the percentage of women involved in this organization. You see, I have been a member of many engineering organizations, and practiced as an engineer long enough to become tolerant, and dare I say, comfortable with being the only woman in the room/class/team/project. That is… long enough to walk into a room where MEN WERE THE MINORITY, and notice! The chapter in Portland is working on projects in Haiti, Ecuador, and Tanzania and all of the projects are led by women and run by teams made up of more than 50% women. Considering that the US has not yet registered 10% of the country’s total practicing engineers as women, to me, this says something:
Give girls the opportunity to change the world and they will grab hold and not let go!