When it comes to STEM, everyone seems to agree that we have lots of challenges to overcome. Some say there’s a shortage of teachers, a shortage of graduates and a shortage of candidates. Others suggest that there are plenty of teachers, graduates and candidates – but not of STEM-related jobs. Others again seem to think the only shortage in STEM is of women.
What can we conclude from this mixed analysis? That STEM is increasingly on our minds would be my take. With the fourth industrial revolution underway, anything remotely ‘techy’ is under ever greater scrutiny. The anxiety around STEM speaks to an anxiety about the hi-tech times we live in: are we ready for the technological challenges ahead? Can we cope? Even – are humans still relevant?
As to the first of those questions – are we ready? – well, we do need to move quickly. Businesses are both serving and shaping a swiftly changing world. The calls for solutions to new problems are coming thick and fast. Right now, the academic system is not well attuned to what’s going on in the wider world. Subject distinctions in STEM make less and less sense. Academia has to catch up. Companies must talk to universities. The government needs to enter the conversation. In fact, as I’ve said so often, it’s another example of just how crucial the human glue is as technology skyrockets.
Moreover, something that’s often brought up when writers lament the STEM situation is that STEM-trained students are being ‘lost’ to other sectors. I really don’t think that’s such a bad thing at all, actually! As the fourth industrial revolution takes hold, it’s going to seep into every aspect of society. We need lawyers and politicians and journalists and even medical staff who have an understanding of these topics – people who are not intimidated by the jargon, who can oil the cogs of the fourth industrial revolution.