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Equipping the Nation’s Future Innovators

Some of America's most innovative scientists explain how a STEM education transformed their lives.

In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama issued a call to better equip American graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. Specifically, he called on the nation’s high schools to forge new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math—the “STEM” subjects – calling them  “the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there in the future.”

Indeed, students with STEM skills are a driving force that keeps America competitive, creative, and innovative. As just one example—the most common educational background of CEO’s in the S&P 500 companies is not finance or business… but engineering. Whether it’s by unearthing new discoveries, inventing new technologies, or starting innovative companies—STEM-educated students are well-poised to make an enormous positive impact when they enter the workforce.

Earlier this month, at a White House ceremony where some of the nation’s top scientists and innovators were awarded the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation, President Obama spoke about this tremendous potential of STEM-educated Americans to make a difference. He marveled at the honorees’ great range of extraordinary accomplishments, including new discoveries about the depths of space and our oceans, the invention of batteries that today help power everything from cell phones to cars, and the development of the LASIK eye surgery technique and other medical innovations that have improved countless lives.  

With the right tools, skills, and opportunities, the next generation of coders, inventers, explorers, and engineers will help form the backbone of a strong American economy.  In the President’s words:

…today, it’s clearer than ever that our future as a nation depends on keeping that spirit of curiosity and innovation alive in our time… In a global economy where the best jobs follow talent -- whether in Calcutta or Cleveland -- we need to do everything we can to encourage that same kind of passion, make it easier for more young people to blaze a new trail.

He went on to point out that today, only about a third of college students are graduating with STEM degrees. We can do better.

That’s why this administration is taking bold steps to make college more affordable, train 100,000 new math and science teachers in the next 10 years, and increase the number of students who receive undergraduate STEM degrees by 1 million over the next decade. It’s also why the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is collaborating closely with partners through initiatives like Change the Equation and Digital Promise to improve STEM learning experiences and opportunities, and accelerate innovation in education with technology.

And, to ensure that the next generation of innovators is enriched by and reflects the full diversity of America, we are working to inspire all students—including  women, girls, and minorities underrepresented in the sciences –to learn tech skills, pursue STEM careers, and give back in their own communities.

Share our enthusiasm? There are steps you can take right now to inspire and support the next generation of National Medal winners and help drive our Nation’s engine of exploration and discovery, including:

Together we can continue building America’s STEM momentum—one student, one class, one school at a time.

Becky Fried is a Communications and Policy Analyst at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.