STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. These disciplines are often referred to collectively, especially in government policies, education / employment statistics, and news articles - you've probably seen a lot of headlines like these:
STEM jobs were hardest to fill in 2016
Women still under-represented in STEM industries, report finds
New STEM education programme rolled out in selected schools
As you'll know if you've ever read any of the stories attached to those headlines, STEM as a whole has a lot of problems at the moment. Many organisations have great difficulty finding qualified workers to fill demanding science jobs, and in addition to the much-publicised lack of diversity in STEM fields, there simply aren't enough young people participating and pursuing a future in STEM, which means that the problems faced by these industries will likely get worse as time goes on.
But is that an issue for everyone else? Just how important is STEM to the world at large?
Why STEM should be important to everyone
The answer, of course, is that STEM is very, very important for the whole planet, and crucial to the continued prosperity of the human race. It hopefully goes without saying that modern society as we know it relies heavily on STEM industries and the talented workers within those industries. Here are just three examples:
- Computers - The modern world relies on computers to an extent that would have been virtually unimaginable just a few decades ago. We use computers to talk to friends, do the shopping, listen to music, and learn about everything from the history of the world to the correct method for laying a floor. Computers tell us where to go and what's happening there. You probably use computers in any number of different ways over the course of an average day, and it's all because of skilled people in STEM roles who worked hard to make this possible.
- Medicine - While it's unlikely that mankind will ever eradicate all diseases, it cannot be understated how much safer we all are today thanks to modern medicine. In the last century alone, talented STEM workers saved countless lives by curing smallpox and developing vaccines for polio, measles, diphtheria, and countless other illnesses. One expert has predicted that we will see a "sudden surge" in effective cancer treatments within the next five to ten years. At this very moment, countless people are living and breathing and going about their lives because of the medical advances made by STEM workers.
- Transport - It's easy to take modern transportation systems for granted. Cars allow you to travel miles in minutes; railways keep entire countries connected; aeroplanes take thousands of people from one side of the world to the other every day. Once again, all of this is thanks to STEM visionaries who never stop working to bring the world closer together and create more and more efficient ways to get from A to B.
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