The (Not So) Simple Roadmap to Solving STEM Problems

American businesses need more STEM-capable workers, but finding them isn't so simple.

Attendees observe new technology at the U.S. News STEM Solutions National Conference Monday, June 17, 2013, in Austin, Texas.

Attendees observe new technology at the U.S. News STEM Solutions National Conference Monday, June 17, 2013, in Austin, Texas. Seventeen percent of 12th graders are both proficient in and interested in STEM careers.

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STEM jobs are projected to grow by 17 percent by 2018, and 71 percent of those new jobs will be in computing. However, 17 percent of 12th graders are both proficient in and interested in STEM careers.

[READ: The State of STEM and Jobs]

In a keynote speech at the U.S. News 2013 STEM Solutions conference, Surya Kant, president of IT consulting firm Tata Consulting Services, cited those figures to stress the crisis that employers believe they will soon face. Employers in STEM fields nationwide are concerned about this coming dearth of STEM workers, and Kant identified four steps for how employers can help to boost STEM education and train future workers: increasing capability; building capacity; enhancing quality; and improving employability.

The whole process sounds simple, if a bit jargon-y: solving STEM problems is a matter of four steps and eight words. However, spelling out what exactly is involved in these steps shows just how steep the climb ahead might be for America's employers and schools.

Increasing capability, for example, involves identifying which skills a STEM worker will need, then relaying that information to employers, said Kant. Building capacity, explained Kant, is a daunting task of both boosting the number of teachers and getting kids into STEM courses – particularly girls and minorities. The last two steps, meanwhile, involve ensuring that classes are high-quality and that they leave students employable.

[VIDEO: U.S. News STEM Conference Links Education and Jobs]

Accomplishing any one of the tasks on that list is itself a tall order, with scores of ideas out there for how it can be solved. Putting them together shows just how much work lies ahead for America's educators and employers.

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