Why America Needs More STEAM Power

Infographic: Bishop-Wisecarver

I must admit it has been exciting to see manufacturing making headlines so much of late. The topic of manufacturing appears to be a current darling of the political talking heads. Much has been discussed about the role of manufacturing in the U.S. economy and how manufacturing will be the engine to power us out of this sluggish economy.

When you look at the data it is evident that manufacturing has all the right stats to power growth in our economy. The higher wages paid versus service sector jobs ($17k per year) and the number of companies supported in the supply chain for every manufacturer (multiplier effect of a $1.50 per $1 spent) just to name just a few.

On the flip side of all this positive talk about how manufacturing will drive our economic recovery is another reality — the vast skills gap facing all manufacturers in America.

For manufacturing to exist in this country it has to be highly automated and on the cutting-edge of technology. These changes are driving the need for a manufacturing worker that is different from decades past. While much is written about the need for a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) based education, school districts and states are not hearing the message.

In February of this year, The State Board of Education decided California eighth-graders will no longer be required to take Algebra 1… This is taking our children’s education in the wrong direction! We’re losing focus on STEM, but is it the silver bullet we hope it is? Many people are coming forward now saying that advanced manufacturing needs more than just STEM focused lessons. What’s missing? Art.

STEAM (science, technology, engineering, ARTS, and mathematics) may seem to be an unlikely pairing but it is not as strange as you may think.

Innovation requires a creative mind and what better training ground than the arts to open up the realms of creativity? For example, 3D and additive technologies require the ability to create in multiple dimensions. But I caution how we build a STEAM based curriculum — it troubles me to see so many graduates earning degrees without practical application skills needed to make them employable.

America at one time had one of the best educational systems in the world. Even with the decline of the system, we’re still leaders in innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit. We must find a way to bring STEAM based curriculum to our K-12 system, and it is critical that we make these programs engaging and hands-on. FIRST robotics is a great example. Together, we need to push our kids to think creatively and scientifically at an early age.

Then, we have to continue supplying the most current STEAM based knowledge to our universities and community college systems. We need to show the world how this can be done, and that it can be done. For if we can excel at solving this challenge, America will be able to STEAMroll the rest of the world.

5 Responses to Why America Needs More STEAM Power

  1. Jim April 24, 2013 at 6:54 am #

    Pamela–Thanks for the thoughtful essay. Integrating systems and linking manufacturing to schooling exposes the practical and imaginative aspects of common sense. Our systems are disconnected, non-integrated and in many cases disintegrated. The themes are lost in our cuurent systems. Your thinking inclines and assimilates hope. Keep up your great work

  2. Frank April 24, 2013 at 6:59 am #

    Not to worry Ms. Kan. It won’t be long before much of the world passes the United States by, and will ultimately own “us” We will need a substandard labor force to sell the souvenirs to the new leaders, taking vacations. You can’t expect highly educated people to run the road side stands?
    Forgive my sarcasm, I so agree with your comments, however it is the people, the parents who are not pushing to advance our education system. Rather they make excuses, “ school is to hard and homework is to long..etc. Or if only the system had more money, that’s the problem. Its the teachers fault ! ”
    No one likes to admit, if only you insisted their children did the work. I admit, my fear and loathing of Mathematics, but I was fortunate enough to have parents who , A) explained why I needed to learn it B) explained why it was not an option C) made sure I did my school work, even if I had better things to do.
    When my children were in school, if we felt there was something they weren’t getting, my wife and I would take the time to either teach or get help to our children. It would have been great to just blame the schools, but we foolishly believed our children are our responsibility. Until the current generation of parents decide this in vast numbers, no amount of logic or money will change our system of education. Now many people point to our colleges and universities as shining examples, however typically the students taking the science and math courses are those dang foreigners. Who had until recently stayed here with there skills. Now however, going back to the nation of family origin is starting to pay off.
    But look on the bright side, in another 10 or 20 years we can become a third world nation, and the pressure will be off us to be anything more than a hunter gather society. There is hope against hope, that American parents will sober up, and decide they will insist on a real education and push this, but I have my doubts

  3. James April 24, 2013 at 7:30 am #

    Manufacturers must also recognize that the workforce is getting older, and be willing to hire anyone who has the skills and ability, no matter what age, color or gender. I am finding it difficult, at 50+ years, to even get an interview – the HR types seem to be looking for overseas types over citizens, especially if they are young. This behavior will cost them dearly, eventually.

  4. Frank April 24, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    Forgive my tangent from subject, but I sympathize with you James. I am 50 ++. Unfortunately most of the HR types are products of the education system NOT described by Ms. Kan. They are not capable of independent thought And the manufactures only care about dollars. They don’t care about the self destructive process they create. If people in the market place can not buy the product, than who will they sell to. If you don’t give us jobs we cant afford your product. They don’t care, rather many of them don’t care. There are companies crying out for the same thing, to improve the education and its delivery system. When was the last time you saw any parents protesting….” There isnt enough math in the curriculum ?”

  5. Kashif June 13, 2013 at 2:56 am #

    I am really surprised by the fact that algebra was removed from the curriculum of california. I am in a dilemma given that us is the heaven for higher studies (post graduate level) how come your base is on such a shaky foundation.