What is STEM education? At its core, it’s the study of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. It’s also so much more than that simple explanation. It’s the way we teach people to innovate, solve problems, and become the leaders of the next generation.
Mathematics and science have long been core subjects in K-12 education (and even higher education), but emphasizing the importance of technology and engineering in our society has led to STEM initiatives across the country. Not only does a STEM education help set students up for a career in lucrative and interesting fields, it helps children develop new skills and ways of thinking, resilience, and problem-solving skills. STEM education initiatives are engaging students all over the country and getting people more interested in science and math, preparing them for the future.
Now that our society relies heavily on technology and science, STEM jobs are more in demand than ever—and that demand isn’t going away. STEM fields have grown at three times the rate of any other field in the last decade, and many positions are left unfilled as there is a major talent gap. Improving STEM education is the answer to this growing demand. Here are just three of the many ways a STEM education helps to prepare for and advance careers in almost any field.
Adds Value to the Education System
Some teachers are intimidated to teach challenging STEM subjects. As a result, many of them begin to learn new skills like coding and practical applications for engineering and science. All these new initiatives keep teachers sharp and add value to the education system. Teachers become more versatile, confident, and the professional development they gain from diving into STEM education helps them to be more effective teachers. Since technology has become an important part of the classroom, teachers benefit from a STEM education by becoming more comfortable using and leveraging technology in their teaching.
Everyone benefits when teachers learn from a STEM education. Children benefit by getting a better education, and the workforce benefits as the pool of skilled workers expand. Enthusiastic teachers who are willing to learn alongside their students set a good example and help to maximize their students’ potential.
Creates Jobs in Vital Industries
Technology has made its way into just about every vital industry you can think of. Education, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation—all of these and more reliant on technology and on innovative people in STEM roles. Specialized roles from nurse managers to marine engineers are becoming increasingly important, and we can only create and fill jobs like these in vital industries by ensuring that all students receive a well-rounded STEM education and are encouraged to pursue these fields.
For example, due to our aging US population, filling jobs in healthcare is vital to ensuring the health and safety of older Americans. Not only can a STEM education prepare students to find employment in these fields, there is the added bonus that they tend to be well-paid and very satisfying.
Develops Problem-Solving and Leadership Skills
Even though a STEM education will directly relate to many great careers, the skills students learn by studying these subjects are transferable to almost any career path. Creativity flourishes when students have to develop their problem-solving skills and take on difficult challenges. Learning to code, solving math problems, or taking on an engineering challenge force students to come up with creative solutions and to give themselves the grace to fail and try other approaches. These skills are important in any field, creative or logic-based.
While you might not think that leadership and STEM go hand in hand, there are ways to use a STEM education to nurture leadership skills. Students who work together on group projects. Since 63% of Millennials feel that their leadership skills aren’t being developed in the workplace, it’s important that students have an opportunity to build their skills before they enter the workforce. A STEM education can be an important component of that process.
STEM: Part of an Integrated Education
It’s important to note that although a STEM education is vital for preparing students to be successful in their careers, it’s part of a larger integrated education. Blending STEM education with the arts will help students develop both hard and soft skills, ultimately making them more adaptable and prepared to enter any field that interests them. For now, though, we need to focus on how we can provide the best STEM education possible. Our economy and future depend on students’ interest in these vital fields.
Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education. When she's not watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.