STEM is an acronym standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This is the catchall term used to describe the interdisciplinary of the four areas which make up its name and teaching students in these areas both in traditional educational ways as well as hands-on real-world training. The term was coined by the U.S. National Science Foundation in 2001. Those who choose to pursue a STEM-related educational path make up the backbone of many industries which rely heavily on the talented individuals who combine their creativity and passion for these analytical fields. The STEM workforce of 2020 is the largest the world has yet seen, however, the future of STEM, and very well the future of the cybersecurity industry, are in jeopardy if STEM is not made a priority in the lives of the youth of America.
Investing in the Future
In the first part of July, the United States House Appropriations Committee reviewed and approved billions of dollars related to the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. This review saw much of the allocated dollars being planned to go toward cybersecurity-related fields, including the quickly growing worlds of Artificial Intelligence and quantum computing. Thankfully, these legislators have also realized the importance of investing in the youth of America when it comes to STEM education, allocating $85 million in STEM-related grants to be awarded over the course of the coming Fiscal Year. This is an excellent indication that government officials notice the need for well-educated cyber professionals in the future and that they are taking the right steps to invest in the youths who will soon become the backbone of U.S. cyber protection.
The Future of STEM: Education
Investments in the future of STEM education will be essential to the continued success of those who choose to follow that path when it comes to their careers. However, government grants alone will not make for a perfect STEM world. While STEM interest is growing for many young people today, the education system needs to turn to make more of a focus on effectively teaching the basics of STEM while students are in their formative K-12 years. In 2019, it was found that only 36% of high school graduates were adequately prepared for a college-level science class. If these students are not equipped with the tools they need for success, they will likely not pursue a degree or career in STEM-related fields.
Additionally, there is an unfortunate trend of many young girls expressing an interest in STEM fields, particularly when they are in middle school, but the interest in such areas of study appears to drop off substantially for these females once they hit high school and college ages. The resulting situation is a STEM world in which only 18% of the workforce is made up of women. Additionally, Black and Latinx individuals make up a mere 29% of these essential STEM fields. In order for STEM industries to be successful, a diverse group of people, perspectives, and backgrounds is imperative. This is why things such as educational reform, which creates equal opportunities and access for students in all communities, would result in a stronger STEM community and, ultimately, a better STEM workforce in the future.
Feed Their Passion
On top of STEM being emphasized in schools for all children, parents should work with their children outside of school in order to feed their interests in various STEM fields. As mentioned above, many children, particularly girls, have interests in STEM at one point in their childhood, however, somewhere along the line, they overwhelmingly lose this interest. Encouraging and feeding a child’s passions for science, technology, engineering, or math from a young age will help to create eager and enthusiastic cyber professionals in the future and create a better, more cyber-secure world for us all.
The future of science, technology, engineering, math, cybersecurity and – not to be melodramatic, but – the entirety of the economy is dependent on a focus on STEM education and innovation now. Without young people who find interest in these fields, there will be no innovative minds in the future who will protect us from threats online, solve the world’s seemingly unsolvable problems, and discover the unknown. All industries require more and more protection when it comes to cyber threats and STEM education is the key to this. The STEM students of today will become the cyber professionals of tomorrow.