STEM Shortage

I recently ran across a cartoon (shown below) illustrating the shortage in the STEM fields. It says that 75% of students gifted in the STEM fields decide to not pursue them in college. They also say that 40% of students intending to major in STEM fields either switch majors or do not graduate at all. Even still, if the student completes a degree in the STEM field, only 57% decide to work in a STEM industry. Ten years after graduating, of the 57% that worked in the STEM field, 46% of them have switched to another field.

The cartoon claims that STEM is the second fastest growing sector of the economy with the most job growth occurring in mathematical science and computer science. However, the interest is quickly declining. The cartoon suggests a curtail in grade inflation and an increase in discussion and design projects can increase interest.

One of their sources can be found at the NY Times.

The cartoon describes the Curtail Grade Inflation as

Math and science grades are typically the lowest on campus, with education, language and English handing out the highest. This drives students away from STEM.

I think the cartoonist is being misleading in this instance. Although I am a STEM supporter, I do not see the non-STEM fields as “handing” out higher grades. I believe that since each discipline is so different, it should be up to the experts in that discipline to decide how grades should be given.

I do think that lowering class sizes would be beneficial for increasing interest. This will give a more one-on-one interaction with the students allowing them to obtain more insight into the field. This insight beyond class topics is what holds interest in students, not just the topics taught in class. Perhaps a mentoring program (either peer-peer or professor-pupil) could be enacted  to help encourage students to ask questions and seek answers in the STEM fields.

Have you realized this decline in STEM interest has been happening? What do you think could be done to increase interest?

STEM Shortage

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