Gaps in Access to Disciplines of Study: Technology & Innovation Skills

Access to specific disciplines of study is unequal across the world, with gender and race emerging as key determinants. A recent US study, for example, found that while about 21 percent of males earned credit in engineering and technology at the high school level, just 8 percent of females did the same. The percentages are closer in computer and information sciences—49 percent of boys earn credits in those areas and 45 percent of girls do. White students were more likely than students of any other race to earn credits in either engineering or computer and information sciences. These patterns are repeated around the world, with lack of preparation and pre-requisites for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) courses the key limiting factor in whether students proceed to STEM studies in higher education.

Yet the demand for technology and innovation-related skills is growing rapidly. Workers in STEM occupations use science, math and technological innovations to solve problems. Among the drivers of STEM skills demand cited by employers: technology explosion; an aging and growing worldwide population; renewed focus on innovation; conservation and green energy; heightened security measures; the adoption of nanotechnology. Women are grossly underrepresented in STEM jobs at only 25 percent.

Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) makes up 49% of STEM employment. STEM jobs are expected to grow by 16.9 percent by 2020 and ICT jobs by 21.8 percent, of which the fastest growing are:

  • Software developers
  • Systems analysts
  • Computer support specialists.

A world STEM gap is emerging as new jobs are being created without the skills to fill them. It is projected that, by 2020, STEM jobs will have a 50 percent gap in talent to fill them.

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