Key points:

It is imperative that we bring STEM to those without easy STEM access

STEM careers are set to grow by more than 10 percent by 2031

See related article: 3 best practices to create a STEM-focused school

For more news on STEM education, visit eSN’s STEM & STEAM page

STEM allow us to push the boundaries of innovation, enabling people to step foot on the moon, develop lifesaving health care, and advance clean forms of energy. We also have STEM to thank for how we live, from asking our smartphone’s voice assistant to play our favorite music to connecting with our parents on a video call.

Each year, we dedicate November 8, National STEM Day to encouraging students to explore and pursue their interests in STEM fields of study that propel our world forward.

Understanding the growing need for STEM education

While there has been a 62 percent growth rate in STEM education and degrees earned across the board in terms of race, gender, and ethnicity in the United States within the past decade, more work still needs to be done when it comes to encouraging women and underrepresented groups to pursue careers in STEM fields. In fact, today, women only make up 35 percent of the STEM workforce, while all underrepresented groups represent 24 percent, and people with disabilities account for a mere 3 percent.

By 2031, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that STEM career opportunities will grow by 10.8 percent compared to a growth of 2.3 percent for non-STEM occupations. However, the Semiconductor Industry Association predicts a worker deficit of about 67,000 workers by the end of the decade. To keep up with the ballooning number of STEM positions, it is imperative for companies within the broader tech industry to bridge the STEM education gap and foster access for the workforce of the future.

In my role as chief people officer, I have a front-row seat to the evolving landscape of STEM-related job functions, as various fields increasingly integrate technology and emphasize data-driven decision-making. I have seen the value and understand the importance of diversity in the industry, which is why one of my goals is to ensure investments in STEM education around the world intentionally create greater opportunities for women and underrepresented communities.

In a study that explores teachers’ views on the impact of STEM education on the labor market, the results indicate that STEM education supports increased job opportunities, which in turn yields higher economic growth. Unemployment rates and the associated social costs of unemployment are lower among STEM education graduates. Additionally, the study implies that those who receive STEM education become curious and engaged learners and develop a sense of entrepreneurship that creates new career possibilities.

Leading the industry by example

It’s vital for the broader tech industry to take action and increase access to STEM education. The STEM education gap is an opportunity that welcomes involvement from stakeholders across markets, businesses, community partners, and nonprofits. Companies can play a pivotal role in bridging this gap through strategies including partnerships with educational institutions, internships and apprenticeship programs, outreach and community programs for students, intentional inclusive practices to recruit and hire individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, and encouraging continuous learning within their organizations.

Overall, we’ve made great progress in STEM representation globally, but our work is just beginning. To accelerate innovation, we must continue to welcome, provide access, and remove barriers for all, including women, those with disabilities, and those from rural and underrepresented communities. We do this by opening new pathways through education, creating hands-on, interactive exhibits at museums, or bringing STEM to students with limited access through summer camps and regional community colleges.

By eliminating barriers to STEM education and encouraging careers in the field, the industry will flourish and prosper with continued advancements and innovation.

Celebrating innovation and curiosity

This STEM Day and beyond, let’s celebrate and thank our STEM trailblazers–those who are already leading the way, like the teachers, volunteers and mentors who support programs that inspire the next generation. Let’s celebrate STEM students–the future innovators who will earn patents and make breakthroughs that will accelerate our society forward.