We talk a lot about the talent gap businesses are facing in many STEAM jobs, but perhaps don’t focus enough on the interest gap that may exist for students between STEAM education and STEAM careers.
So, What do you Want to Be When you Grow Up?
In the Imagination Report, a collaboration between New York Life and Fatherly, a survey of more than 1,000 kids younger than 12 revealed how influential parents, educators, and caregivers can be inspiring kids. While at such a young age it’s less telling what they want to be, as overall little has changed over the years with roles like doctor, veterinarian, and police officer topping the list, but more evident what emphasis and media can do. For example, in 2017, girls were more likely to select STEM careers, an indication some of the recent focus on STEM fields, especially for women, is turning the tide.
While it’s natural for kids to play doctor and make general plans to become one, it’s another (more rare) thing for them to understand the hard skills they’ll need in order to actually become one. We need to change the way we approach STEAM education to inspire students to develop skills that will align with the STEAM career they wish to pursue through non-traditional programs.
Looking at students closer to the workforce, some STEM jobs are making the list for Gen Z, with a reported 19% of Gen Z applications for the software engineer role, according to Glassdoor.
Despite some of this buzz around general roles, the ever-widening skills gap suggests that maybe technical education should include more than just a run-down of STEAM skills, but also ignite interest in STEAM industries on the whole.
Linking Classroom STEAM Learning with Real STEAM Contributions
STEAM is so much more than only software development and engineering, and Julie Feest, CEO of the Engineering Development Trust (EDT) writes in Education Business that one key solution is for business and education to sync up and provide future professionals with a real understanding of how their STEM classroom learning connects with the business world – and often in a meaningful way.
Let’s use the typical chart-topper for kid career aspiration: doctor. While it’s natural for kids to play doctor and make general plans to become one, it’s another (more rare) thing for them to understand the hard skills they’ll need in order to actually become one.
In the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s digital STEM Scholars program, they’re focusing on just that, and Liz Rowan, Director of Marketing, EVERFI, says one of the key takeaways is these middle school aged students’ ability to convey an understanding of the skills they’ll need to pursue their career paths. Many students in the program also said they wouldn’t have been aware of STEM careers if they hadn’t specifically explored them in the program.
Connecting the Dots
We’ve all heard (or maybe even lodged) the age-old complaint in a math class: When am I ever going to need this in real life? And if it’s a rite of passage for school kids, it’s also a serious problem. One of the problems could be simply the implementation in a traditional school, Associate Professor P John Williams, of the Centre of Science and Technology Education Research at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, argues.
Sometimes, even when schools are prioritizing STEAM education, it’s having little to no inspirational effect on students. For example, the Raytheon Co., one of Massachusetts' leading employers of STEM professionals, surveyed 1,000 middle school students around the U.S. for their preference: math homework, or eating broccoli. The majority (56%) said broccoli.
“Despite the hundreds of thousands of well educated people who spend their lifetimes devising ways (pedagogy) and means (content) of capturing children’s interest in the things that go on in school, children steadfastly and consistently are much more interested in what goes on outside school,” Williams writes.
And so, it would seem, we need to approach the STEAM education and process of rooting it in future careers outside traditional classroom norms, instead of continuing to instruct on the necessary skill sets in a vacuum, devoid of any practical experiences or tangible connection to its future value. Our students, and our future workforce, will thank us for it.
We’re inspiring a passion for STEAM in education to spark interest in STEAM careers.
Education Unbound is building up STEAM in education and help connecting the dots between STEAM skills and stimulating STEAM careers by implementing non-traditional, forward looking programs. Learn how you can join our efforts by visiting http://www.educationunbound.org/programs.