Millennials may have grown up with computers, smartphones, and the Internet, but all that time spent looking at screens does not necessarily mean the generation has full technological competence—they are not as tech-savvy as they think they are. They do not have the necessary skills to fill the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) positions of today and tomorrow.
As per a study conducted by Change the Equation, 58 percent of millennials have low skills in solving problems with technology, although they spend an average of 35 hours per week on digital media. The report further says that this may have already affected the job prospects of millennials.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education offers the young generation with a plethora of career options. Still, many students lack interest to enter this field. Some are of the perception that STEM subjects are simply too hard for them. Moving away from STEM fields by switching majors to non-STEM fields or leaving post-secondary education before earning a degree or certificate is depriving them of the opportunities to go for higher paying jobs. And they may not even be aware of this. This apparent lack of interest is creating a knowledge gap, which has long term implications.
There has been a decrease in the number of scientists, researchers, and engineers who are the building blocks of any nation. Companies today do not have enough skilled applicants to fill the STEM jobs. Industry leaders believe STEM careers are necessary to sustain innovation, compete globally, build communities, and transform nations. In STEM professionals’ hands lies the responsibility of solving the complex problems of today’s world and its future. They are the ones finding solutions to problems like global warming and cancer.
Education programs, both in and beyond schools, are required to show the way forward and should infuse interest in STEM subjects to adolescents during their formative years. There should be mentor programs to advise the young generations on the advantages of taking as many STEM courses in their school as possible.
Learning has changed from the time of baby boomers. Millennials don’t learn the same way. Their attention span is short, and so education techniques must grow and change to meet their needs. The STEM courses need to be taught by engaged and enthusiastic teachers utilizing a plethora of new technologies to increase engagement and learning. Learning outside the traditional classroom setting give students the opportunities to practice inquiry learning and problem solving in everyday situations. The students should be taken to factories, offices, science centers, or national parks and forests as part of their school curriculum.
Additionally, making science and math courses fun and interesting will not only help students to learn better, but would also plant the required “seed of interest”. This interest in early years could grow into an exciting and rewarding STEM career. Companies can also collaborate with local schools, community colleges, and non-profit organizations to create programs for young minds to build interest in STEM skills in order to bridge the knowledge gap early on.
STEM education is vital to the future of the manufacturing industry. Empowering students to take up this career path can help create a generation of skilled workers who can greatly bridge the knowledge gap in this industry. We need to work together to build the foundation of STEM education to create talented, resourceful, and competent workers.