NSF’s Science and Engineering Indicators Policy Statement Highlights the Need for a STEM-Capable Workforce

Feb 9, 2018

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently released its “Policy Companion Statement” to the 2018 Science and Engineering (S&E) Indicators Report. The Indicators Report itself is data-driven, while the policy statement allows the agency to elaborate on the figures in a more qualitative fashion and assert its position on key issues while remaining neutral. The 2018 S&E Indicators Report highlighted that the U.S. continues to be a global leader in the Science and Technology (S&T) fields but that predominance is rapidly waning. China is placing heavy emphasis on growing its S&T capacities, leading to a long and sustainable growth not seen previously. If the current trends continue, China will surpass the U.S. in R&D expenditures by the end of the year.

So how does the U.S. remain competitive? Victor McCrary, NSB member and VP of Research and Economic Development at Morgan State University asserts that “STEM knowledge and skills are vital for our nation’s businesses to compete in today’s world, and for bringing better jobs and greater prosperity to every region of our country…Creating a strong, diverse STEM-ready workforce is essential to economic and social prosperity…” In the U.S. the number of jobs requiring STEM skills has increased by over 30 percent. Compare that to China, which saw STEM jobs increase by over 300 percent between 2000 and 2015 and the importance of STEM becomes much more blatant.

If the U.S. wants to remain competitive, the policy statement argues for continued encouragement of STEM career paths, attracting students domestically and from abroad, and utilization of the entire workforce. Women are now getting half of awarded science degrees, but they continue towards careers in the social sciences. Programs such as NSF’s INCLUDES initiative hope to change this by making STEM more accessible to all sectors and groups of society. As the policy statement surmises, “The talents of minority groups in the U.S. are perhaps our greatest untapped resource.”

The full policy statement can be viewed here: https://www.nsf.gov/nsb/sei/companion-brief/NSB-2018-7.pdf