by Gary Beach

U.S. Needs to Adapt to Produce a Workforce Skilled in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

Aug 01, 20052 mins
IT Leadership

“Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves.” – George Bernard Shaw

I used that quote to close a speech to the Boston chapter of the Society for Information Management, where I laid out a reasonable course of action that our country needs to adopt to produce a workforce skilled in science, technology, engineering and math. Here are some points I made.

Teacher preparation for K-12 science and math is woefully inadequate. For instance, 82 percent of middle school science and math teachers—and 42 percent of high school science and math teachers—do not have undergraduate degrees in those subject areas. Maybe that’s why American students rank at or near the bottom in math and science in academic comparisons with other developed countries.

American business leaders should consider lending their best and brightest tech staffers to one-year assignments in K-12 classrooms to bolster the current teacher base. The program could be part of a nonprofit I founded in 1994 called Tech Corps ( CEOs need to realize that workforce development is a business issue, not just an education issue.

And the global economic clock is ticking. For the book The World Is Flat, author Tom Friedman interviewed a Chinese mayor who told him that for now, the Chinese are comfortable being the bricklayers of the global economy while Americans are the architects. In the future, however, he told Friedman, the Chinese plan to be the architects.

With China graduating almost 220,000 science, technology, engineering and math undergraduates every year to America’s 59,500, that Chinese mayor’s observation could become a reality in the next decade or two.

Are we destined to become a nation of bricklayers? Send me your ideas on how we should build a better future for America. I will share them in a future column.

Gary Beach, Publisher