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STEM: Are We Doing Enough?

Investing in and planning for the future is an important part of life, business, and industry. Companies offer retirement plans to help employees toward this goal, parents create college savings account for their kids, and businesses often prioritize putting aside “rainy day” funds to help out in times of need. The global pandemic in 2020 has thrown the importance of financially planning ahead into the spotlight. Many businesses that didn’t or couldn’t financially plan ahead are hurting now as a result. In the realm of technology and the IoT (Internet of Things), industries are using IoT technologies as tools to help future-proof their businesses against the persistent waves of change.

One way the United States and stakeholders in the tech space must plan for the future is by finding ways to invest in and support STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. Exposure to STEM education—both as a key set of subjects and a key set of skills like information literacy and computational thinking—is critical in preparing students for the rapidly changing, iterative global workforce of the 21st century.

Stephen Jehl, director of K-12 program design at the National Math and Science Institue, says innovation and problem solving are drivers of economic success. “As a nation, if we are not the home of the best STEM companies and individuals, we will pay an economic and cultural price,” Jehl warns. “STEM education does much more than crank out scientists and engineers. It builds critical thinking skills and imagination. We are living in a society where people don’t understand how our everyday tools even work. That makes them easy targets for scams, makes it more difficult for someone to start a small business, and makes us reliant on the status quo. A population of people with a strong STEM education is nimbler and more adaptive to change.”