The term ‘STEM,’ which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, has only been around for roughly two decades. These subjects are increasingly important in a globalised world, where skills are shifting and disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, and quantum computing are becoming increasingly popular1.
That said, there are still a huge amount of unfilled STEM jobs, despite the uptake in STEM education2. The reasons for this are multifaceted, but with the need for entirely new skillsets every few years, alongside the emphasis placed on soft skills such as empathy, creativity, innovation, critical thinking, collaboration and leadership – all of which drive a millennial workforce – the alignment of people, skillsets and job availability in the age of globalisation remain disjointed.
That said, the gap will close. It’s not a matter of if, just when. How quickly it happens is down to how seriously schools, organisations and society takes the need for adaptable innovation and growth.
One thing that is measurable is the increasing demand for STEM proficiencies. As the world evolves alongside emerging technologies, many employers will start to consider candidates having STEM skills as non-negotiable when it comes to who they hire3. If the current skills gap isn’t reformed, it will hinder growth and the potential for economic or scientific leadership in any country it isn’t prioritised4. As the Coronavirus has shown us, having people in charge who can look at a crisis from an objective point of view is the difference between competence and consequences.
STEM benefits the world, and without diversity, STEM can’t thrive. Its growth lies in its ability to diversify quicker, starting with its accessibility to women, who are currently grossly underrepresented. The second step is how we communicate the benefits of STEM from a young age, be it through education or the media. There’s a lack of awareness around both the diversity of STEM careers (how it produces capable and well-adjusted employees), and the diversity needed to ensure its prevalence. We need to act now to ensure our technology-based future and the evolving economy can prosper with a well-equipped, well adapted and proficient workforce – especially one that understands its value.
Covid-19 has shown us how STEM subjects are more essential than ever when it comes to tackling a crisis. Science is what saves us, technology and engineering are what keep our society functioning, innovating and adapting, and maths is what helps us make sense of it all: equipping us for a better-prepared future. This isn’t a new realisation. For years these fields have been telling us what’s going to happen if we don’t innovate and prepare for the future – whether it’s for the benefit of our planet or, on a smaller scale, our communities. Not only is it time for society to sit up and listen, it’s time for those in STEM industries to recognise how diversity and inclusion play an important role in ensuring they’re heard.