Math and Science

Confronting the coming American worker shortage

May 20, 2011: 10:18 AM ET

Predictions of a shortage of American math and science professionals have grown dire. What can be done to bridge the gap?

By Elizabeth G. Olson, contributor

FORTUNE -- With the job market inching toward recovery, most of America's collective attention is set squarely on the here and now. But signs of a coming shortage of skilled American workers have begun to draw concern from leaders in the public and private sectors, and for good reason.

High school students working on an end-of-semester simple solar car project in the Manor New Tech High School

High school students working on a simple solar car project in the Manor New Tech High School in Manor, Texas.

So dire are the predictions about the unprepared American worker that a group of executives from major companies appealed directly to state governors earlier this month, urging them to set higher standards for student proficiency in science and mathematics.

The group of executives, called Change the Equation, notes that only one fifth of today's 8th graders are proficient or advanced in math, citing figures from national educational assessments.

Late last month, the group gave each state a report card on its science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education based on various factors including teacher licensing test results and student advanced placement test scores. If states do not set a meaningful bar for assessing these skills, the group warns, they risk contributing to the dilution of America's global competitiveness. More

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