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June 26, 2014 / ivytechartspartner

Why We Should All Be STEAMED About Education in Indiana

By: Erin Albert – Assistant Professor of Pharmacy, Butler University

 STEM, as an acronym, is everywhere these days. Educators are trying to figure out how to integrate more science, technology, engineering and math into classrooms around the country, and media is talking about STEM education in curricula and school systems in order to remain globally competitive in the future. However, do we really need more STEM workers?

In a recent GAO report, the federal government was inconclusive as to whether or not there definitively was a shortage of STEM workers in the US, as STEM occupations “declined by about 250,000 between 2008 and 2010, …but then increased in 2012.” Girls fare worse than boys in two of the fastest-growth areas of STEM as well: computer science and engineering.

While the necessary number of STEM-educated workers is in dispute for the future, the reality is that we can’t predict everything a student today will need to know for optimal future employability. However, knowing the basics in science, technology, engineering and math are very safe bets for future workers.

However, I also argue that we need to train our future workforce in three other domains in order for our employees to be agile, flexible, deal with rapid and constant change. Those domains are the following, which update the acronym from “STEM” to “STEAMED”:

1. Art – Typically, art and music programs have been the first to go in many public school systems, due to budget constraints. However, creativity and artistic ability will always separate the average worker from the leader with potential. It has been demonstrated in several research studies that students with music education, for example, have higher rates of academic achievement than those without music. Research has also shown that learning the arts leads to mastery of other subjects, such as reading comprehension and math.

2. Entrepreneurship – To take an idea from one’s brain, put it on paper, and pitch it to the universe is an extremely valuable, highly coveted skill for employees of the future. Furthermore, taking an idea planned on paper into the real world and scaling it is an even more highly sought after skill by employers. Schools that provide entrepreneurship coursework as part of their curriculum-networking, business plan writing, creativity and execution of results-will have a cadre of highly employable workers, no matter what the profession, sector or industry.

3. Design – Perhaps the least taught skill set in this list is that of design thinking. Learning how to listen and begin with empathy for a customer, into creation of a list of solutions based upon the root causes of a problem for a customer, pull ideas in from a variety of professional training and backgrounds and then provide solutions to customers – even dreaming up products and services the customer does not yet know she needs – is the skill set taught within design thinking.

All three of these skill sets – art, entrepreneurship and design – are critical for the future worker on top of STEM education. As an educator, I hope that all educators and parents realize that while we don’t know what the future holds for our students and children, at least we can try to ensure they are ready for whatever comes their way.

Dr. Albert is an associate professor at Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, author, entrepreneur, pharmacist and attorney. Follow her blog at http://www.erinalbert.com.

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