As any business leader can attest, the world has become increasingly complex. To navigate in that world, they need all of the help they can get -- and one powerful tool is a grounding in STEM. Technology and science are not only central to today’s business landscape, but they’re often the keys to progress.
But even with schools’ boosted interest in engineering and math, students often find themselves at a loss as they think about college and careers. Interaction with real-world engineers in actual work situations -- especially in the students’ local areas -- may help as they make crucial decisions about their college years and beyond.
This destruction of old value with the adoption of innovation is not hard to see. Electronic media are displacing printed media. Wireless technologies are replacing most wired communications. Travelers are staying in other people’s homes rather than hotel rooms. People are riding in other people’s cars instead of calling a taxi - and I could go on and on. Most innovation is simultaneously constructive and destructive, and who can say how we calculate the net effect.
As colleges and universities become increasingly focused on student services in order to attract and retain students, it’s never been more important to gauge how students feel about some of the larger, innovative -- and often tech-based -- initiatives leadership spends copious amounts of time and money supporting on campus.
As the US presidential candidates lay out competing visions for the country, I have been thinking about a topic they have not yet discussed in detail: what political leadership can do to accelerate innovation. Innovation is the reason our lives have improved over the last century. From electricity and cars to medicine and planes, innovation has made the world better.
We applaud the U.S Department of Education report last week that presented an “aspirational” vision for STEM teaching and learning by the year 2026. To be sure, the STEM subjects -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- have been hot-button issues over the last few years, both inside and outside the Beltway. But why in the world is this blueprint for change slated for the year 2026?
One of the challenges when it comes to innovation to government innovation, especially innovation focused on development, is the shocking lack of real world understanding of ground conditions and local cultural beliefs, narratives and views across the world. One very senior US Government policymaker in the room pushed back strongly on the concept of better incorporation of socio-cultural insight into government development activities.
If you look around you, most organisations, including those that educated us and those in which we work, try very hard to eliminate uncertainty because it is inefficient and unpredictable. Indeed, all our lives we have been told to plan for the unplannable and, in our organisations, to foresee the unforeseeable. Which leads me to the aforementioned uncertainty principle; where there's no uncertainty, there's no innovation.
Americans rank last in problem solving using technology. In the 1970s, the US had the most educated workforce in the world. Since 2000, the skills and knowledge of US high-school graduates have stagnated while those of other countries have increased rapidly. That failure to adapt means global employers can get cheaper, better educated labor in many other countries.
In the U.S., to maintain our place as a leader in space exploration and the development of technology and capability, we must continue to invest in our most valuable resource -- today’s elementary, high school and college students. They are tomorrow’s space designers and travelers. If we don’t invest and drive change, the consequences could be severe.