McKernan Pushes for Partnerships at STEM Summit

October 8, 2014

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation President John R. McKernan, Jr. said the nation is in danger of falling behind if more people are not employed in highly technical jobs.

Speaking on Oct. 8 at a conference on STEM jobs, the former Governor of Maine noted the lack of young people graduating with degrees in science or math-related majors, despite a plea from companies looking for qualified workers in high-tech fields.    

“Businesses know all too well that the number of students coming out of school prepared to take on the highly technical jobs in our fastest growing sectors does not match the amount we still need,” McKernan said.

McKernan delivered a keynote address at the “Advancing a Jobs-Driven Economy” summit hosted by STEMConnector’s Higher Education Council.

The event at the Carnegie Institute for Science featured more than 80 business and education leaders, with a particular focus on how to develop partnerships that lead to employment in STEM jobs.

According to the National Math and Science Initiative, only 38% of college students graduate with a STEM degree. The United States could be short 3 million high-skilled workers by 2018.

“We need students to understand the benefits and opportunities within STEM fields, and we must have strong partnerships between local chambers, businesses, education partners, and particularly the leaders within the schools like some of you here today,” McKernan said.

Through its Center for Education and Workforce, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has developed and supported programs to promote STEM learning and upgrade the skillset of the labor force. The efforts are part of a broader effort by the Foundation to strengthen America's economic competitiveness.

McKernan said STEM education is something he worked on during his time as Governor of Maine between 1987 to 1995.

“As Governor, I said to my economic advisors that we cannot continue to maintain our standard of living and pay competitive American wages if our skills do not continue to improve and keep up with the high level of skills needed to merit those wages,” he said.

The STEM summit is expected to serve as inspiration for a book, due out in February of next year. The book will will highlight participating organizations and offer summaries of industry partnerships. 

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