A year ago, U.S.News & World Report launched a special project to examine the problem of why, at a time of high unemployment, there are so many jobs going unfilled. The answer: American workers lack the necessary skills for those jobs. We came to summarize this as the STEM problem and called our project “STEM Solutions.” STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math, and it is the lack of skills in those subject areas that is behind many of the nation’s vacant jobs today—and the prospect of considerably more in the next few years.
As we learned more about the importance and complexity of this issue, we decided to move beyond just reporting on it and play a role as an information resource for both policymakers looking for solutions to a significant national problem and consumers seeking educational skills that will land them a good job. One key need that became apparent was the lack of a national forum for the many committed groups that are working in this field. We hosted that meeting this summer in Dallas, bringing together 1,600 people representing hundreds of organizations. It turned out to be a unique gathering of a surprisingly broad community of leading educators, corporate and nonprofit executives, and government officials who realize the urgency of making progress on an issue that is at the heart of America’s economic future.
“This, I believe, is a genuine grass-roots movement,” said Microsoft Executive Vice President Brad Smith at the opening of the event. “And in a sense this is the first national meeting of this grass-roots movement.”
The outcomes of the three days of workshops and discussions at STEM Solutions 2012 make up a kind of State of STEM: what’s working and what’s not. What follows is a summary of the most important takeaways. In addition, we’re publishing speeches, videos, and other material from the conference at usnews.com. They will be part of a growing archive as we hold other events and release new reports in the months to come, leading up to STEM Solutions 2013 next June in Austin. Based on the dozens of presentations and feedback from participants, here are the conclusions, and the unfinished business: