As we enter May, young people here in Boston and across the country are about to embark on a new chapter in their lives. Many will be graduating from college and taking their first step into the great, wide, professional world. Question marks fill their future as they wonder what kind of opportunities await them and their hard-earned bachelor’s degrees.
While it is impossible to forecast the job market with absolute certainty, it is undeniable that the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) hold the greatest opportunities for job seekers now and in the future. Industries like renewable energy, healthcare, advanced manufacturing and technology are rapidly growing and demand increasing numbers of skilled workers to sustain their expansion.
The computer and math occupations account for close to half of all STEM employment, followed by engineering with 32 percent, and then physical and life sciences at 13 percent, according to U.S. Department of Commerce. Significant growth is projected for computer and mathematical scientists, engineers and engineering technicians, architects and architectural technicians and more STEM occupations.
Those with strong STEM education backgrounds “will find themselves at the center of our new economy,” tech expert Vinay Trivedi said in the Huffington Post.
But unfortunately demand is outpacing supply when it comes to STEM-related careers. Fewer students are pursuing advanced math and science degrees, creating a problematic skills gap threatening the United States’ position in the new global economy.
The U.S. ranks 30th in math and 23rd in science, according to latest Program for International Student Assessment; and the latest ACT results show that only 44 percent of our high school graduates are ready for college-level math, and just 36 percent are ready for college-level science, the National Math & Science Initiative reported.
The impact of the skills deficit which develops in secondary level education has deleterious consequences once those students reach college. Many students abandon interest in STEM career by the end of their sophomore year, Irv Epstein, Professor of Chemistry at Brandeis University, observed.
It is a national imperative to reverse this trend. President Barack Obama declared creating the next generation of STEM leaders an educational priority for the nation at his State of the Union Address in January.
“I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can’t find workers with the right skills. Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Think about that–openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work,” he said. “That’s inexcusable. And we know how to fix it.”
Many have answered President Obama’s call to improve STEM education. In addition to early education initiatives, select colleges and universities have stepped up including Brandeis University who has partnered with the Posse Foundation to provide merit-based scholarships to minority students interested in pursuing STEM degrees.
But meanwhile, as programs launch to serve the next generation of students, the STEM jobs are still waiting, available for current job seekers who have the skills and ambition to seize the opportunity.
For those who lack adequate STEM skills but are eager to break into expanding, innovative industries, there is a way for them to bridge the skills gap: graduate education. Don’t wait for a job to pop up that fits your resume. Act now to get the training you need for the jobs available.