If you have a school age child, chances are you’ve heard all about the importance of STEM education - that’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Globalisation has driven us into a knowledge-based economy, where technological skills are highly valued. We need to be able to interpret data and solve complex problems, to think critically and seek innovative solutions.
In short, it’s easy to see why governments all over the world are pushing for improvements and accessibility to STEM education.
While it’s clear that the last twenty years have seen a huge shift on the types of skills we need in the workforce, what we don’t often realise is that what has also changed is how companies are fulfilling these required skill-sets. How are they going about ensuring their output is benefiting from these major capabilities?
Long-story short, it’s becoming increasingly unlikely for employers to hire permanent full-time staff members. Instead, short-term contracts and casual positions are the go, and companies often outsource highly skilled work to freelancers or contract workers. This shift is evident when we consider that people aged between 60-75 today have had an average of twelve jobs throughout their lifetime, whereas for ‘millennials’, that number is starting to look closer to twenty.
So not only is it critical for young employees and contractors have a relevant skill-set, but it’s also important that they are resilient in the face of change. It is key for them to adapt to their work environment, and to spot gaps in the job and skills market.
They need to be able to learn quickly and independently.
These are all things that can be learned through quality STEM education.
Science - Science is a process. When children perform experiments, they should be thinking critically about the limits of what the results of the experiment can really tell them. They should be looking for flaws not just in their hypotheses and ideas, but in the experiments themselves. To teach a child about science is to teach a child to think independently and critically.
Technology - Technology is the means by which children can exercise their scientific creativity. Creativity is vital; it’s how we come up with innovative ideas, and it’s how we are able to solve problems.
Engineering - Engineering is basically applied problem solving, and a major part of problem solving is making mistakes. When we teach children engineering skills, we teach them that failure is part of growth: it’s part of every process. Children become more resilient, and enthusiastic about learning from mistakes, instead of worrying about making them.
Maths - In an ideal world, every subject would be able to be taught how maths is taught: show your working. We teach children that there is often more than one way to find an answer - and that it’s OK to do what’s best for you. We teach children why some methods are more appropriate than others, and how to figure out what approach might save the most time or effort.
If your child is excited about science, maths, technology or engineering (or all four!), consider enrolling them into extra-curricular activities, and supporting their interests and personal development.