Tech Sector and Organizations Tackle the Nation’s Skills and Talent Deficit
The United States faces yet another deficit, but this one is not a simple matter of red ink in a government budget.
U.S. companies urgently need thousands of skilled professionals trained in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, but there are not enough workers with the necessary skills. Additionally, too few U.S. students earn STEM credentials in colleges and universities. Fewer than 40,000 U.S. students received bachelor’s degrees in computer science in 2010, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That is a 30% decline since 2004. As a result, employers in the high-tech industries often find themselves unable to fill their high-skilled domestic engineering and programming jobs with U.S. workers. There are jobs (an estimated 150,000 computing jobs opening up each year through 2020, according to an analysis of federal forecasts by the Association for Computing Machinery), but no one available with the skills to fill them. This skill and talent deficit has huge implications for the political, economic, and social strength of the nation in the years ahead.
The good news is that there are efforts underway on a number of fronts to address this deficit. A growing number of U.S. companies are going directly into high schools to teach students about the opportunities that await them in the high-tech industry. From teaching programming classes to hosting summer camps devoted to coding, tech companies are making their talented engineers and programmers available to students to begin training the next generation of high-skilled workers. Perhaps the most important development from this high school students get the opportunity to have hands-on experience and see how technology impacts their everyday lives. Experts believe that the key to getting students interested in STEM careers is to expose them to the subject early and often. While there are concerns about the resources available to host these engineers as teachers and the potential for licensing of engineers, hopefully these concerns can be addressed to continue the STEM education experience for students on a larger scale.
Think tanks and other policy organizations are devoting more time and energy to study and educate policymakers about the issue. On September 27, our friends at the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution hosted a forum featuring business executives and public policy experts to discuss reforms aimed at promoting more STEM education and attracting skilled workers to foster greater American global competitiveness and economic opportunity for all. In addition, ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force has formed an Innovation Subcommittee specifically to examine policies and best practices through which states can use their education systems and public-private partnerships to foster new technologies and improve the country’s economic competitiveness.
All policymakers face the same questions: How can employers, educators, and policymakers engage to with each other to promote more STEM education to grow and develop our high-skilled workforce? That is a conversation we here at ALEC look forward to having.