How the STEM Crisis Threatens the Future of Work
As the world’s leading economy, the U.S. is under pressure to produce the best minds to solve the greatest challenges facing mankind.
The problem is, the United States is falling behind in some of the most important areas of education to help solve the problems of today and tomorrow. The crisis in STEM fields—which cover science, technology, engineering and mathematics—is threatening the growing workforce and in turn, the country’s position in the global economy.
Today’s infographic from Early Childhood Education Degrees explores the importance of STEM education and how an emphasis on these four areas could successfully lead the world into an uncertain future.
The Rise of STEM
STEM is a relatively new term, coined less than two decades ago—although the grouping of subjects was sometimes referred to as SMET in previous years.
While 86% of Americans believe that increasing the number of workers in STEM areas is vital for maintaining their position in the global economy, a 2005 report sounded the alarm that U.S. students were lagging behind academically.
To combat this issue, STEM education and subsequent research programs were injected with more funding. New legislation also helped prioritize these subjects in the curriculum for kindergarten through high school.
The Skills Shift
According to Emsi, a modeler of economic data, undergraduates in STEM education increased by 43% between 2010 and 2016. However, despite the promising growth, 2.4 million STEM jobs went unfilled in 2018.
One possible reason for this? Advancing technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and robotics require entirely new skill sets. Success in STEM jobs also relies on adapting to new situations and developing soft skills such as:
- Creativity and innovation
- Problem-solving and critical thinking
- Collaboration and leadership
As these technologies continue to evolve, having skills in STEM will be non-negotiable for employees and leaders the world over.
Threatening U.S. Economic Leadership
Statistics show that the U.S. is providing more opportunities for other countries to take the lead in STEM fields. For example, 62% of all international students in tertiary education in the U.S. are in science and engineering fields, with almost 70% of those students coming from India and China.
What’s more, over half of all U.S. patents go to foreign nationals and companies instead of Americans at home.
If America’s STEM proficiency continues to decline, not only will the skills gap be detrimental to the workforce, but it will also erode its potential future for economic and scientific leadership.
The Global STEM Leaders
According to the World Economic Forum, China is a major player in STEM education, boasting 4.7 million graduates as of 2016.
The country’s swift uptake of STEM initiatives is driven by new government policy, school participation, and parents’ increasing awareness of the benefits that will future proof the careers of their children.
The U.S. sits in third place with 568,000 STEM graduates, but compares closely with India on STEM graduates per population—1 to 52 in India and 1 to 57 in the United States. However, they’re still no match for China’s 1 to 29 ratio.
Narrowing the Skills Gap
If the U.S. is to become a global leader in STEM literacy, innovation, and employment, the Department of Education suggests that a STEM reform is needed, with the increase of diversity and inclusion being a top priority.
A significant opportunity for growth lies in making STEM more accessible for women—but while there has been a steady rise in women pursuing STEM careers, there are still systemic barriers in place that prohibit women from entering.
Experts also suggest that the introduction of STEM at an earlier age and educating students on the diversity of STEM careers are crucial elements in preparing a more capable workforce.
Given the recent demand for reform, it is clear that STEM education is key to thriving in the new technology-based economy and cultivating solutions to real world problems.
Ranked: The World’s Top 10 Electronics Exporters (2000-2021)
Here are the largest electronics exporters by country, highlighting how electronics trade has increasingly shifted to Asia over 20 years.
Top 10 Electronics Exporters in the World (2000-2021)
From personal computers to memory chips, the electronics trade plays a vital role in the world economy. In 2021, global electronics exports reached $4.1 trillion according to McKinsey Global Institute.
This graphic shows the 10 largest electronics exporters in the world, based on data from McKinsey, and how they’ve changed since 2000.
Ranked: The Top 10 Exporters of Electronics
Which countries are the leading exporters of electronics, and how has this shifted over the last two decades?
|Rank||Country||Share of Total 2021||Share of Total 2000|
|3||🇰🇷 South Korea||7%||5%|
|7||🇺🇸 United States||4%||16%|
We can see in the above table how global electronics trade has become more concentrated in Asia, specifically China and Taiwan. As an electronics powerhouse, 34% of the world’s electronic goods in 2021 came from China, representing $1.4 trillion in value.
Home to leading firms like TSMC, Taiwan also plays a major role due to its prowess in semiconductor manufacturing—highlighting the island’s global importance.
But not all of Asia has been thriving. In 2000, Japan was a global electronics powerhouse responsible for 13% of the industry’s exports, but has seen its share shrink to 4% in 2021. The U.S. has also sheen its electronics lead shrink, with exports down from 16% of the global total in 2000 to just 4% in 2021.
Several factors have driven this shift. Instead of manufacturing electronics domestically, the U.S. has outsourced technology to countries where manufacturing, production, and labor costs are lower. However, recently, the U.S. is focusing on reshoring semiconductor production specifically given its role in national security, as seen through the $52.7 billion CHIPS Act.
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