We often take the modern conveniences we use every single day for granted, and forget that an engineer made many of them possible. Rarely do we consider the feats of engineering that surround us, from cutting-edge automobile design to the very soles of your running shoes. Since technology is all around us, we all need to have a basic understanding of the gadgets and gizmos to be a productive, well-educated citizen.
In the not-so-distant past, creative problem solvers such as engineers and scientists were regarded as heroes. Engineers and inventors forged a path of success, even in the face of many obstacles, such as society’s skepticism and rudimentary tools available at the time. In an age of reality television, being an engineer lacks certain glamour.
Engineering and sciences fueled the industrial revolution, the PC revolution, and now the communication revolution. All of these events dramatically affected the entire globe, shaping economies, opening new avenues for innovation, and shaping our lives on a macro and micro level.
Today, to be successful, all students to be equipped with STEM skills and the creative problem-solving skills necessary to be innovative and creative. Creativity should be infused into all subjects, and not left on the back-burner for chance.
How can we provide the opportunities for today’s students and help them see tomorrow’s possibilities?
”The majority of scientists say they developed their passion for science by age 11. That means that the educational experience children have in grade school profoundly impacts our nation’s ability to graduate a prepared STEM work force,” said Dr. Mae C. Jemison, an American physician and NASA astronaut.
All children have innate curiosity and unique talents. By creating environments where learning happens in a variety of ways – hands-on, visual, physical, etc. – we help students discover their innate talents and unlock their special skills. And no, I am not only talking about shop class as a way to find out if the interest lies in vocational training to be carpenter. There are people that can be engineers, but who never discovered this talent because they were asked to learn science using only pen and paper. How can you see the connection to the real world via a textbook?
At least 8 million jobs available to college graduates in 2018 will be in STEM professions. To put that into perspective, STEM careers are expected to grow by 17% from 2008 to 2018, compared to 9.8% growth for non-STEM occupations. Roughly half of these positions will be in entirely new occupations. Yet, of all bachelor’s degrees granted in the 2009/2010 academic year, just 5.4 percent were in engineering and 2.4 percent were in computer science. (Source: National Center for Education Statistics.)
This creates a unique challenge for our country’s educators, don’t you think? How do we adequately teach students the skills that will prepare them for occupations that we don’t even know about yet? One-third of STEM jobs do not require a college degree, but require STEM-literate high school and community college graduates. This means that even for those students who don’t chose to obtain a college degree, STEM skills are still very relevant. (Source: U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration: STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future, July 2011)
There are many programs created to drive student interest in science and engineering. Invest your company’s time and energy in supporting programs that have proven track records of success such as the FIRST Robotics Competition, founded by Dean Kamen that has been described as the ‘Super Bowl of Smarts’ “where every player can go pro.” Connections like these not only inspire young people to understand the value of studying science and technology, but also make them aware of their prospects with inspirational future employers.
By looking to avenues such as these to support STEM education and bring creative problem-solving into the classroom, you are helping to shape a community of creative, life-long learners – and these are the workers that will accelerate our country’s technological future.