When it comes to STEM, closing the skills gap means several different things. It means closing the gender gap, closing the gap between educators and employers, closing the gap of accessibility, and closing the gap within the different STEM fields. As the workplace rapidly changes and vacancies in STEM jobs grow, it’s becoming imperative for us to work together to bridge these gaps.
At this year’s PYXERA Global Engagement Forum, closing the skills gap in STEM was a major point of discussion. At the forum, five main problems were identified as barriers in STEM: the lack of linkages between educators and employers, social stigmas, girls lacking skills and access to STEM, accessibility and inclusion, and the changing workforce.
Lack of Linkages between Educators and Employers While the workplace is shifting and modernizing, the educational landscape has remained stagnant. STEM education has remained, for the most part, lecture-based, textbook-based, and overall framed within a traditional educational model. Yet, employers desire students with a well-rounded background—students who have hands-on experience and can prove their ability to master projects. This disconnect leaves students unprepared for STEM jobs when they leave high school, and even after obtaining a 4-year degree. The disconnect goes both ways as companies often fail to recognize the value of collaborating with universities. As a result, vacancies in STEM jobs are left unfilled because there aren’t enough qualified workers, and even after years of schooling, students do not have the qualifications that employers desire.
Why is there such a disconnect? One of the reasons is because the pace of change in the education and tech sectors are not the same. The tech industry has seen a massive revolution in the last decade, and changes in the classroom pale in comparison. In high school, students are guided on a path to attending a four-year university and earning a degree. But tech jobs, and many other STEM jobs often favor technical schools, specialized certificates, and apprenticeship programs. Such programs are where students can get the hands-on experience and project-based education that employers are looking for.