Five Good Reads on Closing the Skills Gap in STEM

Helping the future workforce compete

BY: MOLLY WARTENBERG, KRISTEN WEYMOUTH, AND LUIS GOMEZ

This article is part of a series on “solvable problems” within the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Global Engagement Forum: Live takes place this October 10–11, 2018, bringing together leaders from across the private, public, and social sectors to co-create solutions and partnerships to address four urgent, yet solvable problems—closing the skills gap in STEM, reducing post-harvest food loss, ending energy poverty, and eliminating marine debris and ocean plastics. Learn more about the Forum here.

We’ve all likely experienced that anxiety-inducing moment when an automatic phone or computer update leaves us scratching our head as to how this device in front of us is the same one we’ve used before. Or that moment when we’ve walked into a trendy new restaurant only to realize that our entire transaction will be conducted over a small tablet screen. It has become commonplace to experience moments of simultaneous gratitude and disorientation towards the technology that governs our lives. In a world where technology shifts and updates faster than we can keep up, workplaces are also transforming into high tech laboratories that require a vastly different skill set than was expected even ten years ago.

Given the tremendous technological advances of the past decade, the global labor force faces a skills mismatch of ever-widening proportions. Around the world, 200 million people are unemployed, while nearly 60 percent of CEOs report that a shortage of skilled labor is holding back their company’s growth. As employers struggle to find qualified candidates from the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), the need to tailor academic curriculums based on emerging employment demands from the private sector is clear.

Over the past few years, the push to bridge this gap has underscored the need to better align academia and business. In classrooms from Ghana to Australia, teachers are looking to translate STEM education into relevant and practical workplace skills. Vocational courses that build both technical know-how and the soft skills of being a great employee are starting to appear in curriculums. The private sector has also stepped up its role by developing innovative education models in partnership with educators and policymakers. Companies like IBM, SAP, and 3M have designed integrated models such as P-TECH, B-TECH, and STEP to prepare students for “new-collar” jobs in STEM disciplines.

As with any complex global challenge, a participatory process stands the best chance for a comprehensive solution. By combining diverse knowledge, expertise, resources, and influence, we can dream bigger and generate the inspired ideas that will keep society on pace with technological progress. In turn, our future workforce will be equipped with the tools needed to resolve other pressing challenges for a sustainable and prosperous future for all. Imagine the implications.

Read from the following selection of articles about closing the skills gap in STEM for a deeper understanding of the challenge and solutions.

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