On March 12, a group of organizations representing business and industry, large and small, announced they will join forces to address the growing challenges for America's future workforce. The Business and Industry STEM Coalition announced its commitment to doubling the number of graduates with a bachelor's degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) to 400,000 from 200,000 by 2020.
Nearly 30 business and industry organizations representing more than 20 million employees have joined together to address the challenges for America's workforce through a number of actions. They include developing an inventory of employment skills needed by business over the next 10 years, engaging employers to promote game-changing STEM programs in all 50 states and improving attitudes of the general public toward STEM professionals.
The business community is joined by advisory members from the federal Defense, Education and Homeland Security departments, which also face shortages of highly skilled tech workers.
"This is an unprecedented coalition of employers," said Richard Stephens, a senior official at Boeing and a founding member of the group. "We strongly believe that we need to take aggressive and unified steps together in order to ensure that in 2020 our workforce is prepared to keep our nation strong and competitive."
The U.S. workforce of 2020 is in trouble as current statistics show that students are falling behind. For example, the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress math tests found that fourth graders showed no signs of progress for the first time in many years, and eighth graders showed modest progress. Internationally, the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment, which is the latest data available, found that American students ranked 21st out of 30 in science literacy and 25th out of 30 in math literacy.
Honored at the March 12 event were Representatives Bart Gordon, chair of the House Science & Technology Committee and Representative Vern Ehlers, ranking member of the Research & Science Education Committee, for their strong support of and commitment to science, engineering and math education.