The P.A.

A weekly address from Patrick Adams,
President of St. Louis Community Credit Union

We need STEM Graduates

On September 5th, 2017, posted in: Just Because, Uncategorized by

ruler and notebook on deskBig news! No, not that Taylor Swift released her new album. No, not that the Cardinals are barely above .500. No, not that one lady won north of $750 million. Nope! The big news that should be grabbing all of the headlines is that most of the smart kids are not in America. 

All joking aside, I was appalled to learn that America is running empty on talent. I know, talent is a relative term, and each of us can provide anecdotal evidence of a half-dozen really smart kids we know. But on a grand scale, only one out of every four American workers score in the top one-third globally on comparable tests of academic skills. Relatively speaking, that’s a small number. Who says? The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, that’s who.

When it comes to American students, 45 percent score in the bottom 33 percent. For those of you bad with numbers, that’s not good. One high score for every two low-scorers isn’t going to cut it in a world demanding new skills in science, technology, engineering and math, i.e. STEM. Germany and Scandinavia whip us in smarts, and Japan smokes us all.

What’s all this mean? Well, the economic effect is that when there is deficient talent in high skills, people with low skills get hurt. Huh? Without high-skill workers to design and manage competitive products and processes, and to create new jobs, low-skill workers find themselves without opportunities, i.e. they don’t have jobs.

While I just became acutely aware of the problem, it is not new. There has been this concern for decades. Sadly, there has been no significant increase in academic scores over all these many years.

Baby boomers, especially those in the STEM world, are not stepping down from their positions because there is no one to replace them. A larger talent pool of young people would provide economic growth and increase productivity. Baby boomers could then get out of the way without damaging the country.

Believe me. I’m a baby boomer (just started my 61st year), and we want to be on the sidelines. You hear of the fringe guy or gal who wants to work until they’re eighty. The rest of us want to get the heck out of dodge tomorrow. Good succession is necessary, so let’s go young people, get on the stick. Time to knuckle down.

By logic, more talent drives more productivity that drives more innovation which drives growth. Furthering that logic points to the idea that if the best and the brightest (the top five percent for sake of argument) doubled, then the U.S. economy should proportionately increase as well.

We have lots of business and law students. Enough already. We need STEM graduates that can create, design and implement new ways of doing things that provide for greater opportunity for all workers. High-skilled specialists are needed to give low-skilled workers the best shot for the future. We’re all in this together.

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