A joint report last year from the National Association of Manufacturing and Deloitte found that by 2025 there will be 3.5 million STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) related jobs to fill in the United States. Of those, more than 2 million could go unfilled due a lack of highly skilled candidates.
Efforts are already underway to help close this gap, and just this month House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma) along with Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Rep. Jim Baird (R-Indiana), and Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah), introduced legislation to enhance STEM education in rural schools, which account for half of all public schools in the country.
In addition, this month Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada), in an editorial for The Hill called upon greater efforts for STEM training. Rosen wrote, “The best way to overcome this gap is by giving all of our children, no matter their gender, race or background, a pathway for success in STEM,” and she added, “STEM education is an area where we can’t afford to leave anyone behind.”
While it is true we’re facing a shortage of IT workers, cybersecurity experts and other tech-related workers – should we put so much emphasis on STEM training alone? What about the need to fill future positions in geopolitical positions, political science, law, economics and history?
“We are going to need people well versed in the social sciences going forward,” said Darrell West, vice president and director of the governance studies program at the Brookings Institute, and author of The Future of Work.
“We are facing issues that will require this type of knowledge, including geopolitics and risk assessment as we cope with technology,” West told ClearanceJobs. “This is in the middle of many debates over education.”
Social Sciences Lacking
While there is now increased effort being put on STEM education and training, the question is whether it is taking away from the social sciences. Social science instructors are already seeing this trend. According to recent employment studies, job opportunities for economists were projected to grow 6% by 2026, as the demand for economists grows from the increasing complexity of the global economy, additional final regulations, and simply a more competitive business environment.
In addition, a March 2016 report in the peer journal Perspectives on History warned that the number of people earning a U.S. bachelor’s degree in history had seen a significant decline in recent years. The report noted that the intense popular and curricular emphasis on education and careers related to STEM has played a significant part in this decline.
Social science studies and the number of students engaged in these areas are in fact on the decline, as the emphasis on STEM has increased.
In an email to ClearanceJobs, Dr. Charles White, social studies education program coordinator at Boston University said he was “concerned about the general decline of history and social science knowledge, attributed in part to those fields being crowded out of the curriculum by STEM courses and narrow testing.”
The consequences for failing to teach the social sciences could be as far reaching as the shortage of cybersecurity workers.
“Our failure to adequately prepare citizens with fundamental historical and social science knowledge, ways of thinking, and moral principles leads to a public that is easily manipulated and unable to defend itself against the predations of unscrupulous would-be leaders,” White told ClearanceJobs.
“We certainly need people trained broadly in liberal arts,” suggested West. “We’re going to need a range of soft skills including independent thinking including the large scale changes taking place.”
Unlike the training that is required for STEM careers, social sciences may not even need dedicated programs, either, suggested West. “There isn’t a need for a school for social sciences, but it needs to be a part of the studies going forward.”