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Young Adults Interest in STEM Careers Dwindle

As Spark News reported earlier this week, technology jobs are on the rise and are continuing to expand. This is great news for the market and for the country’s technological advancement, but what if there is no one to fill these positions in the coming years? Sure, the demand for engineers, technology experts, mathematicians and those well-versed in energy conservation methods is rising, but if our young adults continue on with the trend they have created, there will be close to no one to fill those positions.

Recently, many young adults aged 16 to 25 took the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index. The questionnaire is used as a way to gauge American’s perceptions on invention and innovation. Unfortunately, the results were a bit harrowing. They showed that 60 percent of the respondents cited at least one factor that is preventing them from pursuing their education in the science, technology, engineering and mathematical industries (STEM). If the seeds of our country shy away from pursuing higher education in STEM, then where will our advancement come from? Likely, not from our country.

Let’s take a look at why these young adults feel they can’t pursue their education in these fields, though. While both the men (66 percent) and the women (71 percent) see themselves as creative, the quality most associated with inventors, only 27 percent of the women and 39 percent of the men actually see themselves as inventive. This could mean that the young adults of our country don’t feel as though they posses the qualities needed in order to invent something new or that they lack the confidence in themselves to try. Or, could it be that they aren’t quite up to the challenge? The Index revealed that a third of the respondents stated that “these fields are too challenging” and 28 percent said they weren’t “well-prepared in school to seek out a career or further … [their] education in these fields.” These results point to a lack of understanding by young adults for STEM jobs and education and also points to a lack of motivation or fervor. It can also point to the feelings they harbor on life and work in general. If they shy away from entering into a field because it is “too challenging”, what will they choose instead? The easy way out? With this kind of attitude, the technological, scientific and mathematical advancements made by the United States may turn out to be substantially low in the coming years.

However, at the same time these same young adults (47 percent) said that a lack of innovation would greatly harm the U.S. economy. At least with this statistic, it’s evident that they understand the impact of decreased STEM workers and inventors. A closer look, though, may reveal that it’s not simply a lack of motivation of confidence, but rather a lack of sound education to push them in the right direction. 80 percent of the respondents stated that they’d be “interested in courses that would help them become more inventive and creative.” Furthermore, 22 percent said that they would be inspired by jobs that gave them a chance to “change the world.” It may be a small number, but at least it shows that there are young adults out there that want to make a difference and create advancements that can change our world for the better.

Understanding the importance of harvesting these desires for young adults, and our country as well, Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness pushed for a focus on STEM fields in schools nationwide. According to them, we need to “start by transforming our education system from preschool through K-12.” This makes a world of sense seeing as though 28 percent of those young adults that took the Index said they weren’t well-prepared to pursue STEM careers. Chad Murkin, a member of Obama’s other council, the one of Advisors on Science and Technology, agrees with the jobs council and was quoted saying, “this country needs innovative new programs to stimulate the interest of young men and women in STEM and to challenge them to use their intellect and creativity to invent solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.”

So, how can we fix the problems that are clearly deterring our technological and scientific advancement? The young respondents had a solution for that, as well. 30 percent of the women that took part in the Index stated that access to government funding would likely improve the U.S. situation and 36 percent said that including invention projects in school is the best way to encourage inventiveness in kids. However, dealing with the government and education in the U.S. can become a sticky situation fast. As the Huffington Post reports, a report released by the Government Accountability Office stated that federal programs created to promote STEM education have a substantial amount of overlap. Furthermore, even simply suggesting that more funding needs to be funneled into STEM education already has its opponents. Republican John Kline of Minnesota was quoted saying, “taxpayers have seen little evidence that these programs are actually working. Investing in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is a worthwhile endeavor — but pumping billions of dollars into programs that may be duplicative or unproductive is just plain foolish.”

So, where can we go from here? With a lack of sufficient funds, or a lack of desire to funnel those funds into STEM related endeavors, it seems as though it will be very difficult for the young adults in our country to fully advance in STEM related fields without the necessary motivation and fervor. And, as you can see from the Index results, that motivation and passion among our young adults is few and far between.

SOURCE: MIT, Huffington Post
IMAGE: Courtesy of Bio Blog

Nicole Nicholson

Nicole is the Content Editor for Spark Hire and mainly writes for and edits the work for the Spark News blog. She graduated in 2010 with a BA in Journalism from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. She has a passion for writing, editing, and pretty much anything to do with content. In her free time she frequents the Chicago music scene and writes reviews on shows for her own personal blog. Connect with Nicole and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter

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