There’s no question that expanding our K–12 students’ proficiency in STEM is critical to preparing them for careers in fast-growing sectors of our economy. But top candidates for the jobs of the future will require much more. As my colleagues and I applaud the administration’s focus on boosting STEM education—and private-sector promises to help pay the bill—we urge that these efforts reach far beyond teaching coding in schools.
Today’s young people must receive a full complement of educational experiences that enable them to develop the wide range of skills they will need to adapt to the jobs of tomorrow and succeed in the STEM economy.
The priority list is long, especially for the least-served students, who may not have Internet access in school, let alone a single computer science course. But based on Jobs for the Future’s 35 years working to increase economic opportunity for lower-income youth and adults, I’d like to highlight three essentials for schools of all backgrounds:
1. Incorporate key employability skills into learning, such as communication, critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork.
2. Provide real-world work experience, such as internships and other forms of work-based learning. Students learn countless intellectual, personal, and social skills when on the job with experienced workers.
3. Develop youth-friendly career navigation resources. Learning about career options and making smart choices to reach one’s goals can be daunting for most people.
Creating better education and training pathways to the jobs of the future is a national imperative. We encourage the administration to think boldly and expansively about the full range of educational experiences our students need to help build a vigorous American economy—and thrive in it.
Maria Flynn is president & CEO of Jobs for the Future.