Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates are in increasingly high demand. So much so that many countries around the world are working to boost enrollment in STEM higher education – because skilled graduates are needed across technological and computer science sectors.
In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that STEM occupations have grown 79% in the last three decades, with an additional 11% of growth expected between 2020 and 2030. The number of jobs in STEM is growing twice as fast as non-STEM careers – and the median annual wages for STEM roles are markedly higher than non-STEM occupations.
In the Middle East, STEM professionals are very rapidly becoming the most in-demand in the region – and private and public universities are developing new opportunities for students interested in the field.
And in Africa, there’s a growing emphasis on the critical importance of STEM education to meet future employment demands. The continent has an estimated 675,000 STEM graduates entering the job market every year; but according to the World Bank, around 2.5 million more engineers are needed in sub-Saharan Africa, in order to address the region’s development challenges.
Which countries are having the most success in getting students involved in STEM?
Data collected by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics found that higher education students in Malaysia and Tunisia are most likely to graduate in a STEM field (out of all countries for which data was available) – with 43.5% of students in Malaysia, and 40% of students in Tunisia, receiving a related degree.
But although India has a lower percentage (34%) of STEM graduates, its higher overall population means that it’s actually producing the most STEM graduates in total.
The United Arab Emirates, Germany, Belarus and South Korea all produced over 30% STEM graduates. In general, the Arab world, Eastern Europe, and East Asia generate more educated STEM professionals than other regions.
Comparatively, Western Europe lags behind – with 26% of UK students graduating in STEM; 25% in France, and 23% in Spain. But the Americas fall even further behind – with 19.6% in the US and 17.5% in Brazil, for example.
What can countries and educational institutions do to encourage more students into STEM?
There’s still a lot that can be done to increase interest in STEM education, and motivate students to work towards fulfilling and lucrative careers in STEM fields – with loads of potential for career progression and personal growth.
Governments and education providers can:
- Deliver integrated STEM education. Dynamic approaches to teaching that weave together science, tech, engineers and mathematics in cross-disciplinary programs can cultivate technical skills and problem-solving – without forcing students to specialise in one area before they’re confident it’s what they want to do.
- Invest in STEM education. Investments in the field must be prioritised in order to develop and retain STEM talent. And those investments need to happen at every level of education – from early years to post-graduate.
- Increase STEM teacher training and improve facilities. A shortage of skilled and qualified STEM teachers, and a lack of good facilities for practical skills training, holds back the potential of STEM education – and means that students don’t get an exciting and relevant introduction to STEM fields.
- Continue to work on gender inclusivity. The participation of women and gender-diverse talent in STEM fields is improving. But there’s still plenty of work to be done. Targeted initiatives and policies can improve gender inclusivity, and show gender-diverse students that their talents are in demand.
And finally: Inspire generations
That’s where LEAP comes in. Inspiration is key to driving a rise in STEM graduates. And seeing the impact they could have in the real world – by absorbing firsthand experiences from leaders across tech sectors – has immense potential to drive inspiration and motivate a new generation of STEM professionals.
We welcome EdTech leaders and STEM students at LEAP – and it’s an ideal platform to cultivate mentorship opportunities, share knowledge, and enable young entrepreneurs to achieve their ambitions.