Determining demand in STEM fields is not so simple
- Looking to get to the bottom of the ongoing argument that STEM jobs have higher demand and higher pay, Education Week reviewed research and interviewed experts, finding that while that point holds true, the full picture is far more complicated.
- Among sticking points are little attention to detail in specifying what careers are under STEM's umbrella, the steps that can be taken in K-12 to raise the number of students in STEM, the amount of education needed, and the indicators that predict STEM interest and engagement.
- Michael Teitelbaum, a senior research associate with the labor and worklife program at Harvard Law School, suggests in the article that rather than narrow focuses on specific STEM areas, K-12 would better serve students with broad expertise and knowledge across many STEM areas, with "equal weight" given to applied sciences and engineering.
The past several years have seen STEM given an increasing amount of attention as policymakers, families and other stakeholders look to maximize return on investment for students' educations. But it's worth considering that a metric like pay isn't always going to be the primary motivator for people in a number of fields. If it was, few would choose to pursue fields like social work or education. As some experts said in the article, the demand for STEM education by some employers is also likely driven heavily by a need for soft skills associated with STEM, like complex problem solving or deductive reasoning.
That's not to say that the demand for jobs in various STEM fields is overblown, however — though a disproportionate focus on one set of career fields over others could potentially oversaturate the market and leave other fields in need in the future.
As it stands today, the STEM pipeline is still sorely lacking in women and people of color. This has largely been credited to gender biases, a lack of visible role models from those demographics, and negative stereotypes of the average STEM professional as a socially-awkward Poindexter. To an extent, films like "Hidden Figures" have helped to showcase prominent professionals in these fields who aren't white or male, but educators must make a concerted effort to reach out to and highlight those in the field today, perhaps even arranging virtual classroom chats with them, to expand the idea that these careers are pursuable for all.
- Education Week Is STEM Oversold as a Path to Better Jobs?
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