High school students aren’t sticking with STEM. Even though the number of jobs in science and engineering is expected to surge in the years to come, close to 60 percent of the nation’s students who begin high school interested in science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, change their minds by graduation, according to a report from STEMconnector.
Overall student interest has been gradually climbing for about a decade, with about 1 in 4 of all high schoolers excited about pursuing a STEM major or career. But keeping many of those students attracted to such subjects is proving a challenge. Science and engineering careers are expected to grow more than 20 percent by 2018, twice the rate of the overall U.S. labor force!
In addition, the demographics of students attracted to STEM fields demonstrate a significant gender and race gap. Male students are more than three times as likely to be interested in STEM than female ones, and that gap is widening. And across the country, Hispanic and African-American high schoolers continue to lag their Caucasian and Asian peers in STEM engagement. Retaining and recruiting such underrepresented populations in STEM is vital, experts say.
So what can we as educators do about these students giving up on STEM? Schools can help with the implementation of the new K-12 education standards in science (NGSS), and by opening their minds to the creation of specialized STEM schools! School districts can also partner with educators and businesses to address skills gaps
Across the country, more than half a million manufacturing jobs, for instance, are going unfilled because of a shortage of skilled employees. And more than 70 percent of STEM jobs in the future will be in computing, including software engineers, computer networkers, and system analysts, among other careers, which will require appropriately trained workers. Encourage your students not to give up on STEM careers! They are so desperately needed!