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How the STEM Crisis is Threatening the Future of Work

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<img src="https://www.visualcapitalist.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/STEM-1200.jpg" alt="STEM education infographic"

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.

STEM education global

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.

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Charting the Next Generation of Internet

In this graphic, Visual Capitalist has partnered with MSCI to explore the potential of satellite internet as the next generation of internet innovation.

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Teaser image of a bubble chart showing the large addressable market of satellite internet.

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The following content is sponsored by MSCI

Could Tomorrow’s Internet be Streamed from Space?

In 2023, 2.6 billion people could not access the internet. Today, companies worldwide are looking to innovative technology to ensure more people are online at the speed of today’s technology. 

Could satellite internet provide the solution?  

In collaboration with MSCI, we embarked on a journey to explore whether tomorrow’s internet could be streamed from space. 

Satellite Internet’s Potential Customer Base

Millions of people live in rural communities or mobile homes, and many spend much of their lives at sea or have no fixed abode. So, they cannot access the internet simply because the technology is unavailable. 

Satellite internet gives these communities access to the internet without requiring a fixed location. Consequently, the volume of people who could get online using satellite internet is significant:

AreaPotential Subscribers
Households Without Internet Access600,000,000
RVs 11,000,000
Recreational Boats8,500,000
Ships100,000
Commercial Aircraft25,000

Advances in Satellite Technology

Satellite internet is not a new concept. However, it has only recently been that roadblocks around cost and long turnaround times have been overcome.

NASA’s space shuttle, until it was retired in 2011, was the only reusable means of transporting crew and cargo into orbit. It cost over $1.5 billion and took an average of 252 days to launch and refurbish. 

In stark contrast, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 can now launch objects into orbit and maintain them at a fraction of the time and cost, less than 1% of the space shuttle’s cost.

Average Rocket Turnaround TimeAverage Launch/Refurbishment Cost
Falcon 9*21 days< $1,000,000
Space Shuttle252 days$1,500,000,000 (approximately)

Satellites are now deployed 300 miles in low Earth orbit (LEO) rather than 22,000 miles above Earth in Geostationary Orbit (GEO), previously the typical satellite deployment altitude.

What this means for the consumer is that satellite internet streamed from LEO has a latency of 40 ms, which is an optimal internet connection. Especially when compared to the 700 ms stream latency experienced with satellite internet streamed from GEO. 

What Would it Take to Build a Satellite Internet?

SpaceX, the private company that operates Starlink, currently has 4,500 satellites. However, the company believes it will require 10 times this number to provide comprehensive satellite internet coverage.

Charting the number of active satellites reveals that, despite the increasing number of active satellites, many more must be launched to create a comprehensive satellite internet. 

YearNumber of Active Satellites
20226,905
20214,800
20203,256
20192,272
20182,027
20171,778
20161,462
20151,364
20141,262
20131,187

Next-Generation Internet Innovation

Innovation is at the heart of the internet’s next generation, and the MSCI Next Generation Innovation Index exposes investors to companies that can take advantage of potentially disruptive technologies like satellite internet. 

You can gain exposure to companies advancing access to the internet with four indexes: 

  • MSCI ACWI IMI Next Generation Internet Innovation Index
  • MSCI World IMI Next Generation Internet Innovation 30 Index
  • MSCI China All Shares IMI Next Generation Internet Innovation Index
  • MSCI China A Onshore IMI Next Generation Internet Innovation Index

MSCI thematic indexes are objective, rules-based, and regularly updated to focus on specific emerging trends that could evolve.

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Click here to explore the MSCI thematic indexes

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