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Reaching for the STEM fields

FRIDAY, MAY 09, 2014 16:00 PM

Many students who graduate from high school are not prepared to pursue a degree in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). However, the STEM industry has seen a boom in job availability over the last few years. This has created a disparity where there are an abundance of positions but not enough qualified people to fill them, and employers have had to hire outside of the U.S.

Many Americans know that the STEM gap is an issue and want to solve it. According to a study commissioned by Microsoft, 93 percent of parents with children in K-12 classes believe that the U.S. education system should make STEM subjects a priority. However, only 49 percent agree that these fields should be the top priority.

Motivations for change
According to the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), only 62 percent of students who begin college with a STEM major graduate in one of those fields. And though people know that number needs to increase, they vary on their opinion as to why. The Microsoft study revealed that most U.S. parents (53 percent) want to improve college and career readiness in the STEM fields to ensure that the U.S. stays globally competitive. Additionally, 51 percent want to see change in education to help students become innovators in STEM. Only 31 percent of parents are motivated by the hope that their children will get well-paying jobs, and  30 percent are motivated by the idea of their kids achieving job satisfaction.

While half of U.S. parents want their children to enter a STEM field, only 24 percent are willing to pay extra money to help their child succeed in math and science through tutoring or private education.

Promoting STEM success
While most everyone in the country would like to see more U.S. students graduating with a STEM degree, the fact of the matter is that students aren't prepared for college-level math and science. The NMSI estimates that only 44 percent of students are prepared for math and 36 percent are prepared for science at the college level when they graduate high school. 

Because the STEM gap has been an issue for years, educators and legislators have been working to change the numbers. The Common Core State Standards, for example, aim to prepare students for college and their careers during the course of their K-12 education. 

Additionally, programs (such as the NMSI) now exist that aim to help students and helps educate teachers on how to better present STEM subjects to their students.