When IEEE Spectrum posed that question to a group of technology professionals, the overwhelming response was, Yes. In fact, nearly three-quarters of the people we polled said they would “strongly encourage” the student to pursue such a career path because it’s “interesting and stimulating work” and one in which a person “can make a difference in the world.”
The question was one of several posed to the IEEE Spectrum Forecasters, a self-selected panel of IEEE members and other engineering professionals whom we poll periodically about emerging technologies and related topics. Of the 470 people surveyed, 42 percent responded. (The full results of the survey are here.)
In follow-up comments, respondents elaborated on their reasons for encouraging STEM education. “It is what the future needs!” one person noted. Two others said their advice hinged on the “shortage of engineers.”
So is there a shortage of STEM workers? Contributing editor Robert N. Charette, in his article “The STEM Crisis Is a Myth,” argues that there is not. After reviewing six decades’ worth of articles, white papers, and reports on the topic, he found a lot of confusing and inconsistent data but no convincing evidence that such a shortage exists.
If there is a STEM crisis, Charette says, it’s one of literacy. “Everyone needs a solid grounding in science, engineering, and math,” he writes. “To fill that shortage, you don’t necessarily need a college or university degree in a STEM discipline, but you do need to learn those subjects, and learn them well, from childhood until you head off to college or get a job.” That kind of mental preparation is good for individual, good for companies, and good for society, he notes.
That sentiment seems to jibe with a comment made by one of the IEEE Spectrum Forecasters: “STEM fields encourage critical thinking, development of problem-solving skills, and other skills applicable throughout life—regardless of future jobs.”
So tell us what you think: Should young people today be encouraged to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math?