By Gary Wixom
Assistant Commissioner for Career and Technical Education
Utah System of Higher Education
We continue to hear that at a time of high unemployment there are many jobs that go unfilled. The reason: American workers lack the necessary skills to fill those jobs. Many are blaming this on a lack of preparation in the areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.) During the 2013 session of the Utah State Legislature, a bill was passed to address these issues here in Utah. The bill “House Bill 139” created a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Action Center. The Action Center, and an Action Center Board, that is charged with providing science and technology-based education to elementary and secondary students and to expose public education students to college level science and technology disciplines.
According to “Utah’s Federal R & D and STEM Jobs Report” if we want the next generation of students to have jobs that provide a livable wage we need to make science research and development and STEM Education a top priority. Utah’s students need to know that by the year 2018, there will be 101,000 STEM-related jobs that will need to be filled. Most of these jobs will require some postsecondary education and training.
There is no question that the “STEM Problem” is getting worse, not better. The number of students interested in STEM careers here in Utah is slightly below the national average. According to data from the Utah System of Higher Education, the top 10 graduation majors for Utah Students in 2010 and 2011 were:
Too often when national leaders focus on STEM issues, the discussion is centered only on Science and Math. Certainly these two areas are critically important. A solid foundation in math skills is essential to be “college and career ready”. Technology is also an important component of STEM. Technology covers a wide variety of career pathways that are in demand, have high wages, but at the same time do not always require a four-year degree.
Educators: Let’s remember that Technology is an important part of the STEM discussion and make sure that students are aware that these Technology careers are a part of the solution to getting the United States working again, lowering the unemployment rate and helping to grow a dynamic economy for the future.
Students: Talk to your CTE teacher or school counselor about the many opportunities in STEM related careers.