STEM education is vital

Keeping a skilled, competitive labor force in the U.S. is necessary in the future economy.

by Derek Olson

Ever wonder what happened to those computer whizzes that spent their high school years hiding behind a laptop? Their talents are being fiercely recruited. Technology firms are touring the top U.S. colleges and luring students in technical majors to drop out for a six-figure salary. Nerds, it seems, are the new athletes.

Silicon Valley, America’s hotspot for technological innovation, has hardly been damaged by the recent recession. Innovative entrepreneurs and their start-ups thrive with venture capitalists flocking to invest in the next Zuckerberg. While 8.2 percent of Americans are still looking for work, these firms are desperate for qualified individuals to hire.

Economic transformation follows economic growth; that’s a reality. For decades growth in the technology sector has replaced declining industries and increased the demand for trained professionals. The thriving tech sector, a cornerstone of America’s competitive niche in the global market, needs the support of the government to provide a workforce.

At earlier levels of education the goal should be to cultivate excitement and nurture interest in technical fields that students are not exposed to. It’s not about persuading people to do something they aren’t interested in; it’s about helping students to discover a hidden fascination.

The College of Science and Engineering should expand recruiting and scholarships to attract more students, and the federal government should increase assistance to universities for this purpose. Dedicating more resources to education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields is an investment that will pay off.

If we don’t assist our workforce to suit the changing economy, other countries will. The threat of corporate relocation is a problem to workforces struggling to remain relevant. Advancing STEM education is vital to maintaining our competitive edge in the global economy.