STEM jobs are continuing to grow faster than ever. In the U.S. alone, employment in STEM occupations has grown 79 percent since 1990, and the total number of STEM jobs is expected to grow by almost 11 percent by 2030 — increasing about 30 percent faster than jobs in the overall workforce.
With the talent pool becoming increasingly competitive, this has created an urgent need for education and training in high-demand areas such as computing, engineering, and advanced manufacturing.
However, in a field where hands-on learning and experimentation is crucial to successful education, a student’s experience is often only as good as the lab equipment they have available to use. In my own case, broken and outdated equipment during lab courses made for a challenging undergraduate experience where nothing seemed to quite work as expected and it made me question whether experimental research was really for me. It’s a pattern l noticed again as a professor demonstrating labs, where old, poorly working equipment would turn students off before they got a chance to see how satisfying real scientific research could be, where you had high quality equipment and results generally made sense.
We must make high-quality, user-friendly lab equipment more accessible to students, from undergrad through graduate school. Not only does having better equipment encourage student engagement and experimentation, but the closer the educational experience can mirror real-world industry applications, the easier the transition will be for students and the more options they will have upon graduation.
Technologies have a strong influence on students’ learning and engagement within STEM subjects, and can either supplement or deter students’ opportunity to develop critical STEM skills such as complex problem solving, communication, and collaboration.
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