Science, technology, engineering, and math AKA STEM not only underpins the economy but also our general well-being. If you thought STEM was just about coding and lab coats, you're in for a surprise. It is the foundation of manufacturing, food production, health care, and so much more. The bottom line - our world depends on STEM.
Now that you know the bright prospects of your child's career in STEM, you might want to inspire them as early as possible. But the real question is just what skills do students need today to excel and pursue a career in STEM in the future? Well, as parents, you will have to instil a mix of 'soft' and traditional academic skills - ranging from creativity to statistics - often inadvertently undervalued by educators and parents. Here are five such skills:
The notion of modern skills binds together the STEM movement. Hiring managers everywhere expect their employers to know problem-solving; society needs it; doing your tax requires problem-solving. This is one skill that really matters. Any practicing engineer would confidently reveal that learning calculus to solve problems on paper doesn't come to use in real life but the way it teaches one to solve problems and to think about them is really important.
One skill that is simple and complex at the same time, is creativity. Thinking out of the box isn't always taught. One needs to look at a problem from a different perspective every now and then. As parents, you can nurture this by asking open-ended questions. Showing different science and math models to your child can push them to come up with varying ideas of what it means to bring together one idea. Or don't show a model at all and let them think of a solution of their own without any restrictions. Questions like 'Why do you think this is?' can help them reflect on what they did to solve a problem. This self-explanation can ignite creativity and collaboration in them.
Arguing is not always bad - while your kids must refrain from baseless, behavioural debates - in STEM fields, using evidence to support a claim can prove to be a crucial practical skill. Reasoning lets your kids use analytical and critical thinking skills to observe patterns in data, understand what that pattern means, and then to use it to back an assertion. For example, let your kids have varied experiences with noisemakers - from tuning forks to speakers to whoopee cushions - which helps them collect data right in elementary school. And they will be able to use this data to put their abstract thought to good use and deduce that sounds are caused by vibrations.
This one specific skill applies across all STEM fields. Not higher levels of calculus or physics are needed for all STEM careers, but statistics. Deep diving into statistics lets kids explore probability and error rates - models that cleave to any type of problem they will need to solve in STEM.
5. Intellectual Curiosity
Gone are the days when people used to stick the same role in an organisation for years. Millennials are preferring modern career paths - ones that involve short stints in one role and moving on to another one. They are not just interested in mastering content but are also training to be innovators, learn from failures and keep moving on. Cutting across disciplines and asking questions that help networking is something every kid looking for a career in STEM should know how to do. And intellectual curiosity can help them be lifelong learners and try to figure things out in all walks of professional and personal lives.
If there's one other ability that students pursuing STEM education should possess, it is the flexibility to quickly adapt to new demands and circumstances. Versatility also helps them learn a broad set of skills to be viable in the job market. The trick for parents is to give their kids original problems to tackle at home, problems that require children to use different areas of knowledge and skill.
Parents, if there are any more focus skills that you particularly encourage your kids to have, please share in comments.