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STEM Means Jobs

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November 28th, 2011
By Jamai Blivin, Chief Executive Officer, Innovate+Educate

Innovate+Educate believes that corporations across the U.S. must be involved in STEM education and must play a key role in advancing STEM education and workforce.  Our friend, Emily DeRocco, President of The Manufacturing Institute states, “A skilled, educated workforce is the single most critical element of innovation success – and the hardest to acquire.”  With 7,000 kids dropping out of high school every DAY in this country, the architecture of what a “skilled & educated” workforce looks like is rapidly changing.  Based on a survey conducted by Manpower, 52% of U.S. employers have trouble filling open positions because candidates lack the skills needed to do the job.  While most likely the next ‘Steve Jobs’ will emerge, that still doesn’t address the rest of our nation’s job crisis.  If over half of employers TODAY have trouble filling open positions, what is going to happen 5 years from now?  Ten years from now?

This is both an education problem and an industry problem. Education is still operating as it did in the 1920’s and moves too slowly to keep up with our technology innovation and the jobs created by that innovation.    Industry still has a 1980’s view of what the STEM and innovation workforce resume must look like, and they need to begin thinking of a new hiring paradigm.

Our national workforce crisis is where industry can and must take leadership.  We cannot expect the government to fix our crisis.  Industry has and always will be our country’s thought leader and driver of innovation.  In addition, higher education partners play a key role in working with industry to create new ways to educate the learner.  Public-Private partnerships at the higher education level can work together to address the STEM pipeline and jobs.

A critical first step for industry and education to work together is around a skills-based hiring strategy.  What does this look like?   Traditionally, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) jobs were limited to engineering, research, high-tech and/or science careers.  The reality is that ALL jobs require some level of competency in STEM skills but we currently hire based primarily on degree and experience.    Today, 73% of all graduating high school seniors (we won’t mention the 35-40% that don’t graduate at all) are non-traditional students, meaning they must work and attend school simultaneously.    We must create “learn and earn” opportunities for them that will advance both their college and career readiness.  We must expand learning time to offer courses and credits in a blended learning environment, to allow the student to both work and attend college.

If industry keeps waiting for education to fix the problem and if education keeps relying on industry to invest in “random acts of STEM’ we will never have an innovation economy again.  Steve Jobs may not be with us anymore, but his innovation will live on.  I believe he knew that  “STEM means Jobs”.

Join us at the U.S. STEM Solutions 2012 conference in Dallas June 27-29, 2012. We are honored to partner with U.S. News and STEMconnector to bring all 50 states and top leadership to discuss “ STEM Means Jobs.

Jamai Blivin is the CEO of Innovate+Educate, a national non-profit founded in 2009 to align industry with states to advance STEM initiatives that are both sustainable and scalable to a national level.  Key industry partners are represented by our Board of Directors. Meet our Board at: www.innovate-educate.org/board-of-directors .


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