One of the cornerstones of education policy in the United States in recent years is an attempt to bolster STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) education. The Obama Administration has made STEM a high-profile priority in its efforts to address challenges in the American educational system.
STEM education is widely viewed by industry, educators and lawmakers as a major component of maintaining America’s economic strength in the future, and occupational trends point out the reasons for that. STEM-related fields are outpacing other occupations in terms of job growth (as seen in the chart below) and have mean wages well above the U.S. average.
Much of the focus of STEM education policy has been focused on the K-12 level, but it goes without saying that colleges and universities play a vital role in preparing the nation’s workforce for STEM-related occupations. Institutions ranging from community colleges to the country’s top research universities have been working to adapt to the needs of an increasingly STEM-dominated workforce.
With that said, there have been some bumps in the STEM road for colleges and universities. Some studies over the past few years suggest that many students who start college intending to major in a STEM related field end up changing majors to a non-STEM discipline or dropping out altogether. Attracting and retaining women and minorities in STEM fields has also proven to be a challenge. Some educators have observed that STEM education at the colleges and universities should collaborate more with high schools to help maintain the pipeline of STEM-minded students as they transition from high school to college. Calls have also been made for increased partnership with the private sector to ensure that STEM programs are meeting workforce needs.
While many of those problems and solutions are national or even global in scope, there are ways that individual institutions can address certain STEM related challenges, particularly those related to workforce issues. RMS has conducted many workforce-related studies for colleges and universities ranging from program feasibility to broader assessments of workforce demands. Our findings have consistently supported the trend of increased demand for STEM-related courses, certificate programs and degrees, particularly in the healthcare and technology sectors. But beyond that, they have also uncovered ways that potential students and their employers would like those programs delivered, the ways that particular areas of emphasis unique to a local or regional economy might present opportunities for niche programs and some of the soft skills that STEM majors will need for success. Market research is usually the best way to help colleges and universities tailor their programs (STEM or otherwise) to meet workforce needs, and is often a crucial step in building or strengthening connections between institutions and the employers that hire their graduates.
If you would like to know more about how RMS can help assess the feasibility of a STEM education program, please contact our Business Development Director Sandy Baker, at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling (315) 635-9802.