Today’s job climate is one that we haven’t seen in a generation. There are seemingly endless openings, and one notable result is that there are fewer and fewer young adults enrolling in college. Instead, they’re opting to go straight into the workforce. But are they qualified to handle those jobs? The number of openings that continue to go unfilled tells us we may need to refocus our approach to education as preparation for the future.
In order to prepare our young workers with the skills necessary to perform their jobs, many companies and schools are turning to STEM workforce development programs to train them. What is STEM workforce development and how does STEM affect workforce supply as we head into the future? Let’s dive in.
What is STEM Workforce Development?
Protecting the state of the US economy and driving innovation in the future will rely on producing a wide pool of workers who are well-versed in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. STEM workforce development programs prepare students with those skills, as well as the complementary skills gained through their study. The real benefits come through the method.
STEM training goes far beyond simply reading workforce development books, and focuses mainly on hands-on projects that build the skills necessary to succeed in any field. By focusing on actual problems that need solving, students gain tangible experience in real world issues. By allowing students to devise and discuss a number of solutions to those problems, STEM training develops and nurtures important skills they’ll need to succeed in the workforce. Skills that are highly desirable by employers in all fields.
Why STEM Workforce Development Programs Are So Important
One reason that there are so many companies out there that are urgently hiring is that many of these jobs require skills that take time and effort to develop. With some jobs, we can jump in and pick up on the duties rather quickly. STEM jobs require more adaptability. As we make a shift toward more technically advanced jobs, we’ll need candidates with far more robust skill sets associated with teamwork and critical thinking if we want them to succeed. Let’s look at some important skills we gain from STEM workforce development programs.
In the world of STEM education, statistics is one of the most important skills gained. It’s a cornerstone of the scientific method. It allows us to make informed decisions and fully understand why our efforts succeed or fail. A strong grasp of statistics is an essential part of being successful in the world of STEM education and workforce development.
Creativity drives innovation and problem solving. It’s another very important skill a person must possess if they’re looking for jobs in the STEM field. It allows us to think outside the box to devise new products, as well as improve upon existing products and services. STEM training increases our creativity by encouraging students to look for multiple solutions to a problem before moving forward.
A lot of our creative impulses are driven by our cognitive ability. Cognition basically relates to anything having to do with intellectual ability, including learning, reasoning, and paying attention. These skills can be strengthened through regular exercises. STEM workforce development programs are tailored to provide maximum cognitive benefit to students.
Teamwork and Collaboration
The problems we encounter in STEM careers are often complex and require effective teamwork to reach a satisfactory solution. STEM workforce development courses develop these skills by engaging students in group activities that teach them to work together effectively.
Most jobs in the STEM field require solid critical thinking skills to succeed. Whereas traditional classes rely on asking questions and seeking answers based on memorization of the course materials, STEM classes are far more likely to ask questions that must be answered based on logic.
If we don’t know the answer to questions, it’s important we understand how to solve them. STEM teaches us to solve problems through careful observation and thoughtful solutions based on data..
Dealing With Failure
A big part of STEM training involves failure. It’s not seen as a negative, but rather as a learning experience that helps us move forward and devise better solutions. Dealing with failure in a productive manner is a big part of being a successful adult, and STEM courses make sure that happens.
The more things we understand, the more we crave to understand the things we don’t. As students advance in their STEM workforce development training, increased curiosity is a natural side effect. Both successes and failures lead students to make better decisions, giving them the confidence they need to be bold and ask questions.
Developing a National STEM Workforce Strategy
It’s getting more and more important for our young people to be involved in some sort of STEM workforce development program. It’s equally important that we have teachers who have a solid grasp of STEM concepts to teach those programs. Jobs in STEM education are on the rise as a result.
Promoting STEM education and STEM education careers is how we’re going to provide our next generation with the skills necessary to land jobs and succeed in their careers. It’s also a crucial part of keeping the economy humming as job requirements evolve. STEM training makes people more employable, meaning there are more jobs available to those who have been involved in STEM programs. Engineers and scientists are needed in industries ranging from product development to emergency preparedness, so developing the skills at a young age gives the youth a leg up early.
Some benefits of a career in STEM include:
- Increased pay right from the start
- Skills are highly transferable
- You’ll find a wider variety of job openings for which you qualify
- The career field is growing rapidly
- Most STEM workers experience increased job satisfaction
- Your work makes more of an impact on the world
STEM Workforce Diversity
In order to fill the needs of our workforce, we must be better about actively encouraging diversity in the field. Historically, STEM workforce demographics have been somewhat lacking in diversity. White males make up a disproportionate percentage of the STEM workforce. As our nation’s demographics evolve and become more diverse, expanding upon our STEM workforce demographics is crucial to filling our needs for the future.
Building a diverse workforce in STEM fields means creating equal opportunities for underserved communities. Supporting women and minorities who want to pursue degrees in STEM fields is a step towards diversifying the STEM workforce.
Room For The Arts
Some prospective students are turned off by the idea of STEM workforce development because they prefer the arts to sciences. That doesn’t need to be the case. The arts require many of the same skill sets as traditional STEM projects, and participation in STEM programs develops the skills that will help them succeed in either field.
Arts and sciences aren’t mutually exclusive, either. There is an important intersection between the two that isn’t lost on employers. So, what is STEM workforce training when combined with the arts?
When you look deeper into the STEM world, you may come across many references to STEAM. The two are based upon the same principles, but STEAM includes the addition of the arts. In the workplace, this is a necessary addition.
When we design and sell products for the masses, not only should our products work, but they should be visually appealing enough that people want to use them. Arts utilize many of the same STEM concepts, but apply them in solving artistic problems. The skills learned are applicable in all of life’s situations.
Putting Together Your Own STEM Workforce Development Program
Job openings that require the skills gained through STEM education have been rapidly outpacing those that don’t require them for over 30 years, and it’s not projected to slow down any time soon. STEM workforce development programs are a crucial part of bridging the supply and demand gap of qualified workers to high tech job openings.
If you’re working on putting a program together at your institution, it may be helpful to recruit a workforce development consultant to help you get started. NTC offers a number of STEM workforce development and outreach programs that take you through the process in a way that gets results. We’ve got the skills and experience necessary to help you make your program a success and deliver the best possible education to your pupils.