Recently a group of over 300 industry and educational leaders meet in Washington D.C. to share and explore ways to fill the pipeline of human talent in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The group, called STEMconnector, is facing a growing crisis due to lack of qualified intellectual talent to meet company hiring needs. A series of industry leadership panels identified the challenges, then explored solutions that would not only improve individual lives, but support developing economies and governments across the globe.
STEM jobs, those careers focused on use of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, are growing 1.7 times faster than that of non-STEM jobs. Surya Kant, President of North America, UK and Europe for Tata Consulting Services (TCS), a worldwide contractor for information technology talent, estimated that by 2030 they will need to hire 430,000 more STEM employees, a majority of which will be in the area of computer science and engineering. They have developed a new program called Go IT which is now being rolled out in 32 major cities across the world. The program engages students and their parents by introducing them to the basics of programming and exposing them to the many well-compensated careers in this area.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that between 2013 – 2023 there will be two jobs available for every computer science graduate in the U.S. Currently only 2.4% of college graduates earn their degree in computer science. TCS notes that 30 of 50 states do not require computer science courses in their graduation requirements, hindering efforts to get students engaged in programming early in their education.
Allyson Knox, Director of Education Policy & Programs at Microsoft, echoed concerns at TCS. She noted that 1 in 4 U.S. high schools offer advanced placement courses in computer science. She noted that research has found young women taking this course were 4 times more likely to complete a degree in computer science, while African-American and Hispanic students taking the course were 7 times more likely to achieve academic success in the degree. Microsoft has created the website code.org to encourage students and their parents to explore computer programming. Filled with interactive games that increase in complexity, the site illuminates lucrative career paths in computer programming.
Dr. Mehmood Khan, Vice Chairmen and Chief Scientific Officer at Pepsico, shared the humanitarian opportunity associated with filling these talent needs. He noted that 40 percent of the food we grow is wasted. The main contributor of pollution in the world is agriculture. Dr. Khan shared that each day 1 billion people go to bed hungry. He notes if we can cut our food waste in half, we can feed the world and not increase pollution. Yet he also highlighted that in the next 10 years 50 percent of our scientists working on this efficiency problem will be retiring.
Industry leaders created STEMconnector to help them address the looming talent shortage. They all recognize the solution does not lie in just higher education or exclusively in our K-12 school system. It is a societal challenge whose solutions lie in multiple initiatives and they are each taking individual and collaborative steps to fill the STEM pipeline. The quality of our lives in the future is directly correlated to the success of filling this STEM pipeline, as does the economic prosperity of our children.