Air Date

October 4, 2023


Students Need To Develop Technological and Soft Skills to Succeed in STEM

According to the former Chief Innovation Officer at the U.S. Department of Labor Chike Aguh, students need to build both technological skills and soft skills to thrive in future careers in STEM.

“[It will be necessary to master] new cutting-edge technologies and tools that are going to be a part of every single job,” explained Aguh.

However, pandemic-era changes in schooling have widened the achievement gap for students across the country, impacting the development of both academic skills and crucial soft skills like communication, problem-solving, and collaboration.

“[This] is a national emergency in a way that's just not getting covered,” asserted John Bailey, advisor at the Walton Family Foundation.

The Federal Government Can Help Support the Next Generation of STEM

The federal government can help support student skill development and broaden candidate pools — especially in underserved communities like people of color, recent immigrants, and impoverished and rural areas — by providing incentives and programming.

“Here is where you see a big push around … apprenticeship,” explained Aguh. “It’s hard to just learn those [skills] in a classroom… it's a different thing to go on the job, sit with someone who's done this before, learn in real-time, screw up, and learn.”

The Private Sector Can Develop New Talent

The private sector can also help equip students through training and onboarding new talent.

“When you have quality training programs, you make it easy to go from that training program through HR into a job,” said Aguh.

When evaluating candidates, skill-based hiring can be both helpful and limiting.

“Companies need to be really clear on the skills that they need for each job,” said Bailey. “[Using] degrees and years of experience [to evaluate candidates] is a crutch… and it screens out a whole bunch of untapped labor pools.”

Teaching Critical Thinking Is a Crucial First Step

“[Critical thinking] is the most important thing [to develop] before kids can learn anything,” emphasized Kari Byron, co-founder of EXPLR and co-director of the National STEM Festival.

Programs like the National STEM Festival help foster students’ critical thinking by providing experiential learning opportunities.

“[This] can give them the confidence that they feel like they belong in STEM jobs,” Byron said. “Connecting… to real-life examples and real-life professionals can help invigorate both a core curriculum, but also help inspire kids for the career pathways that they want to explore in the future.”