Get access to the exclusive HR Resources you need to succeed in 2018.
Sign up for free email newsletters and get more SHRM content delivered to your inbox.
Is your employee handbook keeping up with the changing world of work? With SHRM's Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
Build competencies, establish credibility and advance your career—while earning PDCs—at SHRM Seminars in 14 cities across the U.S. this fall.
Gain the skills you need to rise to the next level in your career. Jon us at SHRM's Leadership Development Forum, October 2-3 in Boston.
Members may download one copy of our sample forms and templates for your personal use within your organization. Please note that all such forms and policies should be reviewed by your legal counsel for compliance with applicable law, and should be modified to suit your organization’s culture, industry, and practices. Neither members nor non-members may reproduce such samples in any other way (e.g., to republish in a book or use for a commercial purpose) without SHRM’s permission. To request permission for specific items, click on the “reuse permissions” button on the page where you find the item.
The report, The Hidden STEM Economy, by Jonathan Rothwell, Ph.D., says the traditional definition of STEM careers is too narrow and should encompass many more jobs, including some blue-collar ones. These include HVAC installers, actuaries, auto service technicians, carpenters and electricians, among others.
About 5 percent of Americans hold jobs traditionally defined as STEM; another 15 percent are in positions that should be considered STEM because they require expertise in at least one STEM topic, according to the Brookings report. It relied on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network data-collection program.
A separate study that focused on competencies, conducted in 2011 by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce in Washington, D.C., found that STEM jobs make up an even greater share of the U.S. economy: about 40 percent.
“They’re working in health care; they’re working in finance; they’re working across the economy,” said Nicole Smith, Ph.D., a research professor and senior economist at the Georgetown center.
Americans who hold these nontraditional STEM jobs generally are not inventors of products and processes, Rothwell explained. But their contributions are significant, and their training is rigorous, he added. “There are a variety of ways to acquire knowledge,” he said. Certificate programs, on-the-job training and other education short of four-year degrees and graduate studies “can be just as valuable—if not more valuable.”
Among the Brookings report findings:
STEM jobs are expected to increase significantly in the next five years, with most of the new positions being in computer fields.
Balaji Ganapathy, head of workforce effectiveness at Tata Consultancy Services in North America, also sees a need for “a wider perspective of the STEM economy.” He would like there to be greater awareness among young people, educators, government officials, business leaders and other institutions that STEM education is a priority.
The issue “has come to an inflection point,” said Ganapathy. To make STEM training successful, he suggested, the nation must increase its capacity to teach STEM, expose students to more STEM skills, increase standards for STEM education and improve the employability of STEM graduates.
Two national forums on STEM, a White House initiative and other efforts have attempted to align educators and employers, but no single intervention has emerged as a quick fix.
Getting adolescents to do their math homework is one place to start. “Young people need to know what it means to do that homework,” Ganapathy stressed. “That has not been reinforced for them.” In addition, “It has to be cool—and people need to perceive it as cool.”
Getting young women interested in STEM careers is particularly difficult. There is a growing gender gap between boys and girls in STEM education. Currently, women hold less than one-fourth of STEM jobs.
Role models, mentoring, internships and counseling can help, said Smith. She added that young women should be told that although there is a persistent pay gap between men and women in the U.S., STEM occupations have a much narrower gap. “STEM is one of the most equal opportunity employers.”
Rothwell rejects the notion that some individuals or groups of Americans are not well suited to STEM training. “It’s like any other language—the more exposure you get to it, the more fluent you become with it.”
Steve Bates is a freelance writer based in the Washington, D.C., area and a former writer and editor for SHRM.
Recruiting Native Americans for STEM Careers, SHRM Online Staffing Management Discipline, January 2013
Science, Math Programs Designed to Build Needed Workplace Skills, SHRM Online Organizational & Employee Development Discipline, November 2011
Report: Business Leaders Need to Transform STEM Education, SHRM Online Organizational & Employee Development Discipline, April 2011
SHRM OnlineStaffing Management page
SHRM OnlineMilitary Employment Resource page
SHRM OnlineWorkforce Readiness Resource page
SHRM OnlineWorkplace Flexibility Resource page
Keep up with the latest Staffing Management news.
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please sign in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
9 Things Recruiters Do That They Shouldn't
Join SHRM's exclusive peer-to-peer social network
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies