Abstract for:A STEM-Deficient Nation: How might we close the widening gap between available STEM employment and talent?

The gap between STEM employment and talent widens with each year as the number of jobs is expected to grow 8.9 percent in the next decade. Today, 2.5 million jobs in STEM are left unfilled and yet interest in pursuing STEM majors or careers has stayed flat (ACT, Beard). Evidence from the ACT exam indicates that high school science and math preparation is the crux of the problem. Therefore, we aim to understand how increasing the number of STEM-compliant secondary schools can affect the gap between workforce needs and available talent.

We built a system dynamics model that shows both the flow of non-STEM schools becoming STEM-compliant as well as STEM-proficient students moving from secondary school to college to the workforce. The model also accounts for key limiting factors, such as teacher supply and funding, that restrict schools from becoming STEM-compliant. Through testing policy interventions targeted at increasing teachers and funding, we found that secondary schools will only reach STEM-compliance with policies that first aggressively increase the supply of science and math teachers. Following an increase in teachers, states would need to mandate STEM-compliance and offer funding to avoid structural inequalities occurring between the wealthy/urban versus impoverished/rural neighborhood schools.