Center for American Progress

Create a Workforce with World-Class Science and Technology Skills
Article

Create a Workforce with World-Class Science and Technology Skills

America is not on track to create the workforce that we need to remain globally competitive in the 21st century, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Part of a Series

America is not on track to create the workforce that we need to remain globally competitive in the 21st century, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Improved math and science literacy is becoming increasingly important in a wide range of jobs—not just for chip designers and computer programmers.

This problem exists along the entire education ”pipeline.” Sixty-eight percent of U.S. 8th graders receive instruction from a mathematics teacher who did not hold a degree or certification in mathematics. U.S. 15-year-olds rank 24th out of 40 participating countries in an international test that measures the ability of students to apply mathematical concepts to real-world problems. In the United States, only 15 percent of all U.S. undergraduates receive a degree in the natural sciences and engineering, compared to 50 percent in China and 67 percent in Singapore.

Moreover, global competition and rapid technological change are “raising the bar” on the skills that workers must possess to thrive. Business writer Daniel Pink, author of the book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, argues that logical and analytical skills are necessary but not sufficient for professional success in today’s world. Workers also need “right brain” skills such as the capacity to “detect patterns and opportunities, to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new.”

Organizations such as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, comprised of the National Education Association and major high-tech employers such as Apple and Cisco, argue that students must master not only core subjects, but acquire skills related to critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation, collaboration, and information and media literacy. Obviously, there is no one single initiative that will address this challenge, and it will not be solved overnight. Consequently, the next administration must embrace a range of educational reforms.

For more on CAP’s policies for increasing innovation in science and technology, please see:

Explore The Series

Previous
Next