Home BHEF Research Brief - Creating the Workforce of the Future: The STEM Interest and Proficiency Challenge

BHEF Research Brief - Creating the Workforce of the Future: The STEM Interest and Proficiency Challenge

BHEF Publication

A strong economy requires a highly educated workforce, especially in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. In the United States, STEM degree production has stagnated, despite employment projections forecasting a 17% growth in the field over the next decade.

Two key criteria influence progression through the STEM education pipeline and into the workforce: proficiency and interest. Research has shown that students who graduate high school proficient in math are generally ready to pursue STEM majors in college. In addition to academic preparation, however, students must also be interested in STEM fields.

Yet, current interest in STEM fields and proficiency in math are not sufficient to meet U.S. workforce demand. As the country’s population becomes increasingly diverse, gender and race/ethnicity disparities in STEM interest and proficiency will exacerbate workforce challenges. Policy interventions will require a nuanced two-pronged approach focused on increasing STEM interest and improving math proficiency.

This brief is part of the , which focuses on important dimensions of the education and workforce misalignment challenge facing the United States. Through this series, BHEF will further analyze 10th and 12th grade student STEM interest and math proficiency, as well as postsecondary enrollment using a longitudinal data set provided by BHEF member organization ACT. These analyses will provide fresh insights into the nature of the STEM challenge and explore unique solutions to these challenges.


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