There’s no doubt that STEM is a rapidly growing field. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that by 2018, there will be at least 2.4 million jobs in STEM-related fields.
While the U.S. lags behind in STEM fields, ranking 25th in math and 17th in science among international peers, the trick is getting students interested and excited about STEM. According to a 2011 Microsoft STEM survey, the key is letting STEM engagement begin early on in a student’s life.
Several key findings led to this conclusion:
- Of college students surveyed who were majoring in a STEM field, around 80 percent decided to go into their field in high school or earlier.
- Roughly 20 percent decided that they wanted to enter a STEM field since middle school or earlier.
- According to over 50 percent of male students surveyed, games and toys they played with as children and schools clubs they participated in school helped spark interest in the field. Thirty-five percent of female students said these factors were influential.
Early on in students’ learning careers, exposure to and participation in STEM activities can go a long way in generating excitement for STEM fields. But this won’t be an easy task; the same Microsoft survey stated that only 20 percent of surveyed students pursuing STEM degrees believed that their K-12 education prepared them for college-level work; many high schools simply don’t offer engineering or AP science and math courses.
At an individual level, by engaging students in the value and impactful nature of STEM and by encouraging participation in STEM projects, we can rewrite this story.
Or, check out our STEM Matters Pinterest board for activities and infographics related to STEM!
Post by Stephanie Li, PRIME Fellow