Technology is changing everything in business these days, especially the nature of work. Concrete finishers use lasers to keep floors level. Farmers use global positioning systems to lay outcrops to reduce runoff. Industrial maintenance technicians carry a laptop instead of a tool box. Truck drivers and police officers keep records on computers in their cabs and patrol vehicles, respectively. Plumbers are installing geothermal heating systems while electricians wire solar panels into home and business energy systems. Computers are ubiquitous from hospital bedsides to bank teller counters to automotive repair centers.
These reinvented jobs require new skill sets and new knowledge. Companies want people who have broad skill sets and the knowledge to back them up... practical knowledge that allows people to hit the ground running when they are hired.
What is STEM?
As we upskill the workforce, it is clear that people already in the workforce do not have the level of knowledge and skill in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) that are required to advance into the higher reaches of many career paths. Many of us learned the concepts in school but we were never taught to apply them in the practice of an occupation. Lots of us avoided that trigonometry or calculus class in favor of something softer. Most of us are lazy lifelong learners who have let our skills slide over time.
Young people want to become video game programmers or crime scene investigators or beauticians without any awareness of the technical training and academic base that is needed to get the real jobs that are available in our communities. Employers complain about the lack of work readiness of high school and college graduates. STEM challenges us to find ways to bring skill training related to science, technology, engineering, and math to our incumbent and emerging workforce. Efforts are under way by national and state organizations to embed STEM into workforce, higher education, and the K-12 systems in pursuit of these objectives.