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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Need for STEM in Quality and Business

A couple weeks ago I mentioned a new series that will focus on spreading the word of quality.  Today's post is the first in this series. In Paul Borawski’s post this month on ASQ's blog he advocates the need for STEM careers in business. STEM represents the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM education encourages a curriculum that is driven by problem solving, discovery, exploratory learning, and student-centered development of ideas and solutions. The saturation of technology in most fields means that all students – not just those who plan to pursue a STEM profession – will require a solid foundation in STEM to be productive members of the workforce.

I couldn't agree with Paul more myself. I am an engineer (chemical) by formal education so this hits home for me. STEM fields have become increasingly central to U.S. economic competitiveness and growth. Education in math and science is critical to our nation’s future success. Our nation needs to increase the supply and quality of “knowledge workers” whose specialized skills enable them to work productively within the STEM industries and occupations.

There is broad consensus that the long-term key to continued U.S. competitiveness in an increasingly global economic environment is the adequacy of supply and the quality of the workforce in the STEM fields. Scientific innovation has produced roughly half of all U.S. economic growth in the last 50 years (National Science Foundation 2004). The STEM fields and those who work in them are critical engines of innovation and growth: according to one recent estimate, while only about five percent of the U.S. workforce is employed in STEM fields, the STEM workforce accounts for more than fifty percent of the nation’s sustained economic growth (Babco 2004).

Everyone needs a strong foundation in science and mathematics accompanied by familiarity with their applications to engineering and technology to be productive contributors in business and society. Since the 1960s, the demand for skills has changed significantly – the demand for routine manual task skills have decreased, while the demand for non-routine interactive task skills have increased significantly. However, as jobs requiring a solid background in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are growing – more students are choosing not to major in these areas. If students continue to pursue degrees and careers in fields other than STEM related areas, the U.S. will find it difficult to compete in the global economy.

Here in the U.S. we are observing National Engineers Week this week, February 19-25. This gives us a unique opportunity to recognize the achievements of those in STEM fields and raise awareness for the continual need for these individuals in the future. There is probably no greater gift you can give someone than the ability to solve problems based on a foundation of math, science, and technology. 
As leaders in business we have a responsibility to develop our people.  As good stewards in our community we need to foster this belief in our youth.

I encourage you to take some time to think about how you encourage the need for STEM related fields.  Is there more we can do?  

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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  1. Interesting post about STEM in US, and I agree with you: Everyone needs a strong foundation in science and maths accompanied by familiarity with their applications to engineering and technology to be productive contributors in business and society.

    Let me share with you what is happening in my country, Argentina, about STEM careers; I would love to have your comments.



    1. Thanks for sharing Jimena. Being an engineering graduate in 1998 I can relate to your reasons why there is a lack of engineers. I also find there is a cycle related to the economy and business that relates to the need for this role, too.