With more new technology being developed all the time, it’s become vital for graduates entering the workforce to have a firm grasp on STEM (science, technology, education, and math) subjects. But the statistics aren’t promising at this point: over the next ten years, five out of eight new jobs and eight out of ten of the highest-paying positions in the US are likely to be in careers related to STEM topics; however, we’re likely to have a deficit of at least one million STEM graduates to fill those slots.
What to do? For some universities, the conundrum has meant an increased amount of spending on providing STEM resources. Duke University, for instance, has a $100 million, 85,000-square-foot STEM facility in the works. The building is being funded by Duke alumni, which include big names in the business, political, and tech worlds–David Topper, Todd Hughes, Elizabeth Dole, and more. The facility will focus on bringing together graduate and undergraduate students in engineering and physics to work on everything from developing solar energy technology to engineering better medicines.
According to Duke President Richard H. Brodhead, “This facility will make possible the best of Duke’s vision for teaching and learning: bringing together students from different fields of study to work collaboratively on projects that address the problems of our time. It will provide a physical home for Duke’s growing partnerships that link engineering with the sciences and liberal arts, helping our students develop the broad perspectives they need to become leaders and innovators.” The hands-on approach that will happen here is likely to encourage more students to focus on STEM topics in their studies.
That’s good not just for broadening student minds; it’s good for the US economy. Jobs in STEM fields are the second-fastest growing in the nation (just behind healthcare), according to a Georgetown University study. And experts are saying STEM-related jobs will hit 8.6 million by 2018, with as many as three million unclaimed if current STEM education standards persist.
With increased investment in STEM training like Duke’s new building and educational offerings, there’s also a chance for woefully underrepresented demographics, such as women and ethnic minorities, to get the chance to fully participate in the US economy and the development of new technology. As it stands now, Latinos, African-Americans, and American Indians between the ages of 18 and 24 represent 34% of the US population but earn only 12% of all undergraduate degrees in engineering. There’s absolutely no reason increased support of STEM education shouldn’t raise those numbers and increase employment opportunities for currently struggling students.