STEM Challenge Requires Fresh Thinking

by Matt Gardner, CEO, California Technology Council

California’s seemingly intractable difficulty with STEM education hasn’t improved in years. CTC spoke with Dr. Vince Bertram, CEO of Project Lead The Way and author of One Nation Under Taughtabout the skills gap and STEM careers. 

It has been more than eight years since I wrote this opinion piece for the San Francisco Business Times. At the time, California ranked 48th out of 50 in eighth grade science achievement. Fast forward to present, and in the latest Nation’s Report Card California ranks 48th out of 50 in 8th grade science. Alabama and Mississippi trail California.

Conditions are only slightly better in mathematics. In the latest Report Card, California ranks 44th among the 50 states.

Ironically, California’s innovation engine remains a magnet for top talent all over the world. As we continue to fail our own children, we perpetuate a condition which leads graduating kids short on the skills that will help them compete in a global economy. Short on those skills, recent graduates may miss opportunities in the STEM workforce.

This complex matrix of issues is addressed in CTC’s podcast interview with Dr. Vince Bertram, CEO of Project Lead The Way.

“Our students are not prepared in K-12 education,” Dr. Bertram told CTC. “We look across the country, only 34% of our 4th graders were proficient in math. Only 27% were proficient in 8th grade, 26% in 12th grade. In science the numbers are similar.”

There is a clear disconnect between this level of career preparation and the urgent need in STEM-based industries.

“Today we have about 7.4 million STEM-related jobs. We’re expecting that to grow by 1.2 million over the next couple of years,” Bertram added in reference to the skills gap. “There’s enormous upside, but a great threat to our economy unless we correct this with our children in K-12 education.”

Listen to the podcast here.

Check out the entire archive of CTC podcasts here.