Bridging the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education Gap
We live in an increasingly technologically homogeneous world where data is transferred across oceans almost instantaneously and business takes place around the clock. A more integrated global economy offers both new challenges and opportunities to the United States and its workforce.
Looking back over the 20thcentury, American ingenuity has been truly incredible. From the Wright Brothers first flight in 1903 to the latest Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft potentially ready for operational space station flights by 2015, American innovations have transformed our nation, again and again, creating whole new industries and occupations. Innovation leads to new products and processes that sustain our industrial base; innovation depends on a solid knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math.
The most recent ten year employment projections by the U.S. Labor Department show that 15 of the 20 fastest growing occupations projected for 2014 will require signifanct knowledge in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. In addition, current trends reflect that over 40 percent of factory jobs will require post-secondary education by 2012.
In addition to the issues related to the need for growing STEM employable skills, international students are out-performing American students, specifically in the area of science studies. According to the 2010 National Center for Education Statistics, the average U.S student’s science literacy scores were below the average of the 30 participating member countries.
America’s global competitiveness will increasingly depend on our ability to better educate our young people in STEM subjects and to attract more of our best and brightest students into science, technology, engineering, and math careers.
STATE OF THE WORKFORCE
One example of the growing need for STEM related employable skills would be engineering employment that is expected to grow by 11 percent over the 2008–18 time frame. Aerospace engineers, for example, will continue to be needed to design, build, test, and improve manufactured products. The future workforce trend exhibits an increasing need for engineers in research and development, and consulting services industries.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the following projections for employment from 2006 -2016.
In addition to STEM related employable skills, for the first time since the Technology Employment Forecast began in 2003, not one of the participating companies reports that they will decrease their information technology (IT) staff. Every category of business plans to increase IT staffing.
The U.S. aerospace sector is creating emerging technologies such as the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Commercial space transportation is a growing industry in the U.S. and abroad. It covers suborbital flights as well as the reentry of all space vehicles. The FAA started granting licenses in 2006 for suborbital reusable vehicle development and test flights and there are currently 8 licensed spaceports throughout the U.S.
In 2008, there were 16 commercial space launches in the U.S., while in 2009; there were only 5 licensed launches. The 2010 commercial space launches in the U.S. is expected to be 6-11 launches. The demand forecast through 2015 shows an increase in expected launches to 20 in 2011. By 2015, the demand is expected to remain steady at that level for the following five years. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Fastest growing occupations, 2004-14,  Standards for What? Educational Testing Service, 2003 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Learner Outcomes Dept of Labor 2009Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition (IIEEE-USA) 5 FAA 2010 Commercial Space Transportation Forecasts, Retrieved on May 28, 2010, from the World Wide Web, FAA 2010 Commercial Space Transportation Forecasts, Retrieved on May 28, 2010, from the World Wide Web,