When comparing the United States to the rest of the world, we often hear that American students continue to lag behind much of the rest of the world—and other advanced, industrial nations in particular—when it comes to the so-called STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering, and math.
“These results likely won’t surprise too many people,” says Drew Desilver of the Pew Research Center. Desilver points to a 2015 Pew Research Center report which indicated that only 29% of Americans rated K–12 STEM education as “above average or best in the world.”
Scientists were even more critical, says Desilver. “A companion survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that just 16% called U.S. K–12 STEM education the best or above average; 46%, in contrast, said K–12 STEM in the U.S. was below average.”
This trend is troubling for many American companies. After all, domestic education systems provide a positive externality for domestic businesses: the better educated the students, the higher caliber of employee those companies can hope to employ once they complete their schooling.
But when the education system doesn’t seem to be getting the job done, organizations must sometimes step in to see if they can provide a jolt. For instance, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced that, together with Boeing, it is implementing a $21 million partnership, “through which Boeing will invest $11 million to accelerate training in critical skill areas and increase diversity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.”
NSF says that the funds will be used in the design, development, and deployment of online curricula at the community college, undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels. The $1 million investment is being dedicated to the NSF INCLUDES “Big Idea” initiative, which focuses on increasing the number of women in STEM fields.
Even though high-tech companies like Boeing have a strong interest in the caliber of the American educational system, particularly when it comes to STEM programs, they have little direct involvement. The recently announced partnership between Boeing and NSF is evidence that companies may be interested in having a greater involvement earlier in the recruitment pipeline.
What areas of critical need in your organization might suggest opportunities to partner with educational institutions to ensure a better pipeline of talent to fill current and future openings?