The world needs more people in STEM.
Statistics reveal that there are currently millions of job vacancies in the STEM industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an astounding 8% increase in STEM careers by 2029, compared to other industries at only 3.7%.
The Trump administration tried to double down in infusing STEM into the country's educational system to cope with the projected 3.5 million unstaffed STEM jobs in 2025. The only path forward is strengthening STEM education through policy initiatives to provide future workers with skills in step with technological advancements.
Many believe that STEM education can give people the skills that make them more employable to meet the labor demand. But before we dig deeper into its importance, let’s try to understand what is STEM education first.
What is STEM Education?
STEM education refers to the integrated teaching of the 4 facets of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics into the education curriculum. Although the subjects are fundamental components in schools, STEM education is typically focused more on a hands-on and experiential learning process.
Each component of STEM contributes to a person’s well-rounded education, especially in a technologically relevant era:
Science enables people to understand the world they live in through fact-based critical thinking.
Technology prepares students for the use of complex tools relevant to the workplace and prepares them to embody an innovative mindset.
Engineering hones people’s problem-solving prowess and helps students create innovative structures, devices, and applications.
Mathematics trains people to actively analyze information, eliminate errors, and make calculated decisions when forming solutions.
On top of the four fundamental disciplines, the STEM approach also infuses creativity, especially when generating new ideas and technologies.
Now that we understand what STEM education is and what it entails, let’s try to unmask more of its vital importance in 2022.
5 Reasons Why STEM Education is Important
1. The future economy is reliant on STEM careers
As mentioned previously, a strengthened integration of STEM into the country’s educational system is becoming more and more prominent because employment in STEM occupations, or careers demanding intensive STEM backgrounds, is expected to balloon in the years to come.
According to the BLS, healthcare occupations, careers that typically require a strong STEM background, are projected to grow by 16% (or around 2.6 million jobs) from 2020 to 2030. Add that to the 3.5 million expected STEM jobs to free up by 2025 and the U.S. will need more STEM-career aspirants to fill up the vacancies.
2. STEM imparts critical thinking and innovation
The benefits of STEM education resonate across all students, whether or not they pursue STEM careers in the future. STEM focuses on laying the groundwork that will shape students' logical thought processes and problem-solving skills, which are instrumental to helping them succeed in any field.
By presenting students with STEM-oriented challenges, you encourage them to think critically and creatively to formulate solutions.
3. STEM jobs pay very well
One of the driving forces in encouraging students to pursue STEM careers is the lucrative pay, and STEM doesn’t disappoint. According to Burning Glass’ insight on STEM careers, those employed in STEM careers earn 26% more than those that don’t. And BLS corroborated this by revealing that STEM workers made more than double the median salary of non-STEM workers ($89,780 vs $40,020).
Although David Demings, in one of his columns for the NY Times, claimed that STEM careers only give a huge salary boost at first. STEM workers and Arts and humanities majors enjoy the same annual wage by the time they reach 40.
Still, having the privilege of a lucrative salary is a benefit not everyone gets to experience.
4. STEM education encourages collaboration
Being employed in the workforce means collaborating and working alongside people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Needless to say, teamwork is a critical yet underrated driver of success.
The hands-on nature of STEM encourages students to collaborate during coursework like lab investigations. This hones the element of collaboration and interpersonal skills they will need later on.
Plus, since STEM capitalizes on finding creative solutions, practitioners are more likely to absorb and reconcile inputs from people of varying backgrounds to extract the best possible course of action!
5. STEM education can enhance students’ management skills
Efficient project management skills are essential qualities valued in the workplace. And STEM courses, particularly those leaning towards engineering and technology, can impart these skills to students.
Aside from effective collaboration when engaging in hands-on STEM projects like building robots or coding a computer program, children also learn the value of managing their time and systematizing the steps to accomplish a large task.
Learning project management skills will benefit students throughout their lives, whether they pursue STEM careers in the future or not.
6. Recent events emphasized the relevance of STEM
In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, workplaces were forced to adapt and adopt a technological approach to resume work. As people turn to tools like Zoom, Slack, Asana, and Trello to connect with coworkers, the need to equip students with tech literacy becomes more apparent, and pursuing STEM education is the right way to go.
While companies may now have restored old workplace systems, some tech habits from the pandemic will certainly be retained.
How to Strengthen STEM Education?
• Reinforce the education system’s STEM curriculum and standards
The highly coveted performance of Asian countries when it comes to STEM is a motivation for the U.S., which historically has preferred local control, to adopt a uniform national curriculum standard when it comes to STEM education.
Giving each state the responsibility to independently formulate their STEM education standards creates a huge margin in the focus, coherence, and rigor of standards. Adopting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) throughout the 50 states may be the biggest leap to establishing a uniform focus on the most essential topics, a logically sequenced curriculum, and a deeper understanding of STEM across the U.S.
•Revitalize STEM instruction
The success of STEM learning relies heavily on capitalizing on students’ early interests. So providing opportunities that engage their curiosity is the most effective way to sustain kids’ interests in STEM and ensure optimum learning.
Infusing lessons with mind games, using everyday objects to explain a mathematical concept, or facilitating an on-the-spot group problem-solving can be good engagement and peer instruction techniques. Previous studies suggest that peer instruction can increase a student’s mastery of a subject.
• Establish auxiliary programs that promote STEM
Afterschool programs, STEM clubs, and school makerspaces dedicated solely to the promulgation of STEM interest among the youth are other ways to encourage STEM learning. All of these can set the stage to transform traditional learning into hands-on experiences that promote real-world application of STEM concepts that ultimately develop innovative perspectives.
• Teach STEM before children step into school
STEM education goes beyond school subjects. More than the fundamental disciplines and concepts presented by STEM, it’s supposed to give children a set of skills that govern the way they think. And there are ways to impart STEM learnings to children even before they’re old enough for school.
Engaging in STEM-related games and activities ad playing with STEM toys are some of the ways to facilitate STEM learning among kids before school.
STEM Education Prepares The Future Generation to Become Innovators!
Preparing today’s children to become the world’s future innovators and inventors begins with instilling an insatiable passion for STEM education. Although a strong revitalization of the educational curriculum can go miles, nothing beats beginning their STEM journey at home through toys that promote STEM learning!
Infuse Your Child’s STEM Education with STEM Toys
Facilitate their STEM journey with the right kind of scientific toys! If you’re looking for STEM-geared playthings for your toddlers, check TheSTEMKids’ complete list of science toys for kids. From microscopes to engaging science kits, we have your children covered.