To build next-gen STEM leaders, universities and industry must collaborate

3 smart steps higher ed can take to build a solid STEM foundation

As more industries become reliant on tech-savvy talent, the disconnect between students’ STEM education and hiring managers’ expectations is becoming increasingly challenging. As companies continue to evolve their hiring requirements to include more of these in-demand skills, creating opportunities to help all students be prepared to fill these roles is imperative. There are many ways in which educators and business leaders can partner to improve outcomes for our students, but what’s important is that we do so now.

This was the subject of a panel at the recent SXSW EDU event in Austin, Texas, which I was fortunate to moderate. As the president of FIRST, a global nonprofit that inspires K-12 students to build a lifelong love of learning and engagement in STEM through robotics challenges, I get to witness the intelligence, drive, and creativity our kids bring to the table every day. With help from Erica Fessia, Qualcomm’s director of community engagement, and Jay Flores, Rockwell Automation’s global STEM ambassador, our SXSW EDU panel took a look at the current professional landscape, the skills students will need to fill the jobs of tomorrow, and how we as business leaders can help get them there. While our conversation focused on K-12, the same takeaways are applicable to university leaders.

Teach students to adapt to a fast-changing world.

Educators, school systems, universities, and businesses alike are facing increasing challenges as they work to keep up with an evolving world. As Flores put it, “It’s a scary concept that our kids’ college textbooks might be obsolete by the time they graduate.” It’s impossible to train kids perfectly for their future jobs because there’s a good chance those jobs don’t exist today. Instead, we need to teach our students the foundational elements of what makes a good professional—the hard STEM skills, but also the teamwork, problem solving, and curiosity they’ll need to make their ideas reality—and empower them to create their own opportunities.

eSchool Media Contributors