Today’s students face a world full of challenges. And a future full of opportunity. New industries and emerging technologies are all interconnected globally. Given these challenges, education and training have never been more important. Together, they represent a dividing line between economic opportunity and economic limitations.
As millions of students go back to school this fall, it’s important that they are prepared to confidently tackle tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities. Recognizing this critical need, we strongly support the drive for better education and training in science, technology, engineering and math or STEM.
There are two reasons STEM is so important.
First, every generation tries to raise the standard of living, education and success for those following in their footsteps. This reflects a sense of optimism, hope and faith, and it builds a legacy for the future.
The second reason is more practical. More than 20 percent of the jobs in our country today require knowledge or training in a STEM field, yet many remain unfilled. Recent estimates show as many as 2.5 million STEM-based job opportunities are available right now.
STEM jobs are among the highest paying in today’s workforce. And contrary to some misconceptions, STEM education and training does not always require a four-year degree. Many vocational and junior colleges offer the type of course work that technology-based employers seek in job applicants. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and narrowly defining academic success shortchanges students and society.
More broadly, STEM education and training is vital to our global competitiveness. International assessments rank the United States 35th in math education achievement, trailing countries such as Russia and Slovenia. In the sciences, the United States ranks 27th, behind Latvia and Vietnam.
Consequently, our educational shortcomings may soon threaten our ability to attract international investment and employment opportunities. It also means fewer American students are prepared to pursue advanced degrees.
The good news is we can still reverse these trends and better prepare both our students and our workforce for the STEM challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. We must provide our daughters and sons with the opportunity to reach beyond what we have accomplished, and to shape the quality of life of succeeding generations.
As a nation, we’ve started to lay the foundation. The Every Student Succeeds Act, passed almost a year ago, emphasizes the pressing need for both teacher training and student achievement. It strengthens math, science and engineering requirements, recognizes career and technical educational opportunities, and improves the professional development of the teachers who play such a critical role in the process.
Still, like so many of the challenges we face as a nation, it’s unrealistic to rely solely on government to solve these educational and vocational gaps.
The private sector, especially technology companies, has an enormous responsibility to do our part as well. We must continue to raise awareness, to support and partner with educational institutions, and to inspire young people by promoting the personal and financial rewards of both education and STEM careers.
At the same time, we must support diversity in the emerging workforce, encouraging and seeking talented women, minorities and people with varied backgrounds. Diversity, in all its flavors, is vitally important in problem-solving, and a variety of perspectives and contributions is essential to creating breakthroughs in science and technology.
This idea is not new. One of our founding fathers, John Adams wrote his wife Abigail in 1777 saying, “I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”
At Intuit, we are very aware of the need for a strong and well-rounded education and we look for candidates with STEAM – people whose education and training goes beyond STEM, with the added benefit of an “A” for their study in the arts. While it may not be readily apparent, the arts play an important role in the technology industry. Graphic designers, for example, are an essential part of the process of creating products, making them appealing to use. In addition, those with a background in the arts and humanities bring the creativity that is essential to critical and strategic thinking.
We demonstrate our commitment on many fronts. At the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, we conduct over 100 recruitment interviews. We are also engaged with students and faculties at more than 20 college and university campuses. In addition, we support Girls Who Code, Code 2040, and Yes We Code, the leading organizations supporting black and Latino engineering talent and underrepresented minorities in technology-based education. We’re proud to be recognized by Fortune Magazine as among the country’s top workplaces for women.
Even more promising is that fact that we are just one company among dozens in the technology sector making similar efforts.
We encourage more public-private partnerships to increase support for both STEM and STEAM education. Together we can set the course – and encourage the talent needed – to keep our country competitive and prosperous, and to help future generations embrace and realize the full promise of our global society.