Putting the A in STEAM

pottery-classWe discuss the skills gap in a variety of contexts on the blog, and a major part of this issue is the lack of STEM education throughout America.

For those who are unfamiliar, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math– all important fields for a variety of manufacturing and manufacturing-related careers, which is in turn important to America’s economy. And according to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, STEM jobs will grow by 26% between 2010 and 2020– certainly no paltry number.

However, there is an ongoing debate that was sparked in 2008 by the Conference Board and Americans for the Arts, that hasn’t been quite fully resolved yet. According to a study called Ready to Innovate, designed to gauge a pool of executives and superintendents on what qualities they find most “hireable”, creativity-related components are equally as important in their decisions to hire for a variety of positions. Hence, the STEM vs. STEAM argument: do we incorporate the “A” (Arts education) into the list of core skills that can potentially help fix the skills gap?

The study concluded that companies desire skill sets in their new employees that tend to be more arts/creativity-related than science/math-related. According to the Huffington Post, companies want workers who can brainstorm, problem-solve, collaborate creatively, and contribute/communicate new ideas. The skills gap applies here, too– managers are having a difficult time finding creative workers that fit this bill. Think the visual design behind Apple products, the complex and eye-catching advertisements for Microsoft– the people with a knowledge of creative design and technology and engineering are the real elusive catch here.

Writer and executive John Tarnoff explains that he needs “to hire technologists who know how to collaborate in teams, express themselves coherently, engagingly, and persuasively understand how to take and apply constructive criticism and how to tell a good story…I find them taking art classes to understand how color and light really work. I find them in writing classes learning how to express themselves.”

The majority of the technical field as well as the arts field have opinions all over the spectrum on this idea, and there are plenty of valid opinions to support both styles of education. While this debate won’t be solved today, or tomorrow, or maybe in our lifetimes, it’s important to understand that if creative classes or ideas appeal to you, don’t reject them in favor of restricting your education to STEM classes. STEM is wildly, wildly important and we can’t emphasize this enough– but an art class, or an English class, or a history class will not restrict you from entering any of those STEM-related fields, and in fact, could even improve your chances. Full STEAM ahead!

Questions? Comments? Want to learn more about either STEM or STEAM? Contact us anytime and we’re happy to help!

photo credit: pennstatenews via photopin cc