"American students have fallen far behind students in other countries in these fields," said Claus von Zastrow, chief operating officer of Change the Equation. "It's a matter of real concern.
"As the world gets smaller, it's easier to ship jobs to where these skills are. . . . We see that other nations have passed us by in the last 20 years. . . . That raises concerns that at a time when you can export work, we might lose that competitive edge."
Statistics bear out von Zastrow's concerns.
According to the National Academy of Engineering, the United States ranks 28th among all nations in placing students into the science, technology, engineering, and math pipeline from high school to college.
Meanwhile, the Department of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration reported earlier this month that jobs in such fields are projected to grow by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018 compared with 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations.
Girls and minorities are a particular focus of Change the Equation. While women are 48 percent of the U.S. workforce, only 24 percent hold STEM jobs, the Commerce Department said.
"Girls and students of color are less likely to go on in STEM fields," von Zastrow said. "We're talking about a large and growing share of the population."
Students of color also lack role models in those fields, and many have achievement gaps because they live in low-income neighborhoods with schools that are not high-performing, von Zastrow said.
Change the Equation grew out of Obama's Educate to Innovate campaign, which asked government, business, nonprofits, and science and engineering societies to address the issue of getting students to perform better in the STEM subjects and to provide more opportunities for them to achieve.
Of its 110 members, companies with significant operations in Pennsylvania include Alcoa, Bayer Corp., Eaton Corp., GlaxoSmithKline, ThermoFisher Scientific, Rand Corp., Google, Comcast, and Verizon. Founding members of Change the Equation were the top executives of Intel, Eastman Kodak, Time Warner Cable, Xerox Corp., and Sally Ride Science.
Contact reporter Joyce Gannon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1580.