For corporate training departments and in particular for those in the C-Suite who are concerned about the skills of incoming employees, read The U.S. Technology Skills Gap by Gary J. Beach. Beach speaks from his position as an influencer in the tech world as publisher emeritus of CIO Magazine, a Wall Street Journal columnist of CIO Journal and editor of The Skills Gap Journal. Thanks to Michael Milutis, Director of Computer AID’s IT Metrics and Productivity Institute (our chapter sponsor) for bringing this book to our attention.
Let me attempt to reduce Beach's roughly 300 well-researched pages into a few succinct sentences: The U.S. has a historic and endemic shortage of competent math and science teachers in the public K-12 school system which has led to our country being, at best, mediocre in head-to-head comparisons with other industrialized nations. For the last 30 years on the heels of several damning reports on the U.S. poor performance, corporations have been attempting to address this shortcoming by patching together alliances with educators in pockets of innovation around the country.
Unless we want to become a nation of second-rate, me-too’ers, our primary and secondary public educators need to become experts in the STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and math. Sadly, more than two-thirds of our math and science teachers do not have a professional background in these critical subjects that they are tasked with teaching. As Beach so eloquently points out, it is important to our national wellbeing, security and prosperity because it is our research and development capability that will keep us firmly in the First World.
Beach finds several culprits in this ongoing educational travesty. To find out where the most serious problems lie, and for his recommendations to cure the ills, I recommend the book . For our purposes as the Association for Talent Development, it is clear that we are left to shoulder some of the responsibility for making sure that our employees are up to the tasks assigned. We know that. We’ve been doing it. We’ll continue to do it. We need employees who show up prepared to work, or at least prepared to learn the jobs that need to be done.
A lot of public and public-private training partnerships here in the Lehigh Valley and elsewhere around the country have put together programs that squarely address our STEM deficiencies. Beach’s prognosis is that it will take 30 years to catch up to our global competitors. The pace of technological change is so rapid that I think such a prediction is dire. My thought is that we fought and won a world war in four years; we put a man on the moon in eight. A massive, educational STEM Moonshot can probably cut that down substantially.
Our national ability to compete and stay on the cutting edge is on the line. While we can bemoan the erosion of the middle class, we need to shift some of that energy to building the value of our human resources to earn those incomes starting, as Beach proposes, with entry-level teacher’s salaries competitive enough to attract the best college graduates. For those of us in the field of talent development, it is in our wheelhouse to partner with primary educators to help them ready the 2020 workforce.
Our Eastern PA ATD chapter is looking forward to hosting a panel of corporate executives to discuss the value of training to the business. What kinds of questions would you like to ask a group of executives? We look forward to your input in the comment section below.