President Obama: We need 1 million STEM graduates
One million - that’s the number of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduates needed over the next decade to fill the growing number of jobs that require STEM skills, according to a report released this morning by the President’s Council of Advisors in Science and Technology (PCAST).
Not coincidentally, the report was released as the second White House Science Fair celebrating the student winners of a broad range of STEM competitions from across the country kicked off today.
As part of the celebration, the president has launched a national challenge to prepare 100,000 effective teachers with STEM skills over the next decade in encouragement of more STEM graduates.
Several steps have been announced to meet the STEM graduates and teachers goals, including:
- A new $80 million investment to help prepare effective STEM teachers
- A new $22 million investment from the philanthropic and private sector to complement the Administration’s efforts
- New policies and investments to recruit, support, retain, and reward excellent STEM teachers
- A priority on undergraduate STEM education reform in the President’s upcoming budget, and
- A new K-16 education initiative jointly administered by Department of Education and the National Science Foundation
A full list of the efforts can be found here. Note that some of these efforts would have to be approved by Congress before they took force.
Love or hate the current administration, there’s no disputing that such efforts are desperately needed. The PCAST report found that fewer than 40% of students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field complete a STEM degree. The report also estimated that increasing the retention rate from 40% to 50% would provide three-quarters of the million STEM graduates needed. PCAST advises that colleges and universities can significantly increase their retention rates by improving faculty instructional practices, helping students rapidly improve their entry level math skills, and creating multiple pathways to excel in STEM, particularly for underrepresented groups.
Meanwhile, it is encouraging that at more than 30 teams this year’s science fair had nearly twice as many winners of various competitions nationwide as the initial White House event in late 2010. Examples of the young engineers in attendance included a 15-year old modeling brain control of a robotic arm, a high school student developing system to detect nuclear threats, a 13-year old programmer creating dynamic educational video games, and a 14-year old maker Faire veteran who invented an extreme marshmallow cannon (pictured above) and an LED cube microcontroller shield and is now starting his own business. More on the students projects can be found here.
What are your thoughts on the efforts? Is it possible to generate 1 million new STEM graduates in the next 10 years? Voice your opinions below.