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A National Imperative: Make Engineering a Requirement for Every High School Student

By University of Maryland President Darryll J. Pines:

As a nation, our economic competitiveness, military strength, public health and standard of living depend on cultivating more engineers.

One of America’s greatest and most enduring strengths has been its ability to attract global talent to strengthen our economy and bolster technological competitiveness. In January 2022, the White House announced new actions and pathways for international STEM scholars, students, researchers and other experts to contribute to innovation and job creation efforts across the United States.

But our nation’s current STEM shortages within research, development and innovation communities cannot be addressed solely by attracting more global talent.

The US is also facing a serious crisis in its K-12 pipeline. According to National Student Clearinghouse Research Center data, the percentage of high school students enrolling directly in college in 2020 has shown an “unprecedented” decline of between 4% and 10%.

Experts estimate that during the next decade, fewer students will graduate from high school, and as a result, fewer will pursue STEM majors. The percentage of high school seniors pursuing engineering over the past 40 years has remained relatively constant at 4%, or between about 120,000 and 145,000 high school graduates each year.

The gap in the US STEM pipeline is exacerbated by the large proportion of international graduates who return overseas or else work for foreign companies that compete with US companies, according to the 2020 Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress (p. 102).

The report points out that the US is graduating far fewer students with STEM degrees as a percentage of population compared to China — and the trend continues to worsen.

Read the rest of the article on Elsevier Connect.