The first “STEM Report Card” for North Carolina examines the state of science, technology, engineering and math education, notes the increasing number of future jobs that will require STEM-related education, and identifies “several deficiencies that need to be addressed” ranging from greater inclusion of lower income and minority families to more teacher preparation and wider broadband access.

The report, which was compiled by the N.C. Science, Mathematics and Technology Center as well as the NC STEM Learning Network, was unveiled Thursday at the NC Science Summit hosted at N.C. State University.

“North Carolina has the possibility of a very bright economic future by building on its strengths and assets,” the report says. “ However, research uncovered several deficiencies that need to be addressed.”

The report, titled “Strategies That Engage Minds: Empowering North Carolina’s Economic Future,” warns that the state “stands at a crossroads in its economic and educational development. The proud, traditional businesses that fueled our economy in the past, especially those requiring minimal skills and education, are playing a diminishing role in our state. A new fast-paced economy is emerging that requires higher levels of knowledge and skills based in science, mathematics, engineering and technology achieved through strategies that engage the mind.”

Citing data compiled in “North Carolina: The Shape of Its Change” from The Program on Public Life at UNC-Chapel Hill, the report notes the opportunity of STEM-related jobs:

  • “By 2018, approximately 1.4 million job vacancies are projected for North Carolina, either from new job creation or from retirements.
  • “Of those vacancies, about 833,000 will require some post- secondary education. Indeed, approximately 59% of all jobs (2.9 million) in 2018 in North Carolina will require post-secondary education. Most of the state’s economic engine will be fueled by these jobs.
  • “North Carolina will have more job growth requiring post- secondary education than most of the South and Southwest.
  • “The occupational areas anticipated to grow most rapidly include medical and allied health and computer technology.”

After laying out numerous facts and highlighting opportunities as well as problems, the report calls for STEM-focused attention from the governor as well as the General Assembly.

Key Recommendation

The “Capstone Recommendation” reads:

“The Governor and/or the General Assembly should appoint and empower a new Commission on STEM and the Economy,
with the specific responsibility to drive and coordinate state initiatives to make the findings and recommendations in this ScoreCard actionable. This Commission, similar to other state boards and commissions, should be vested with the authority to engage and guide state leaders towards improving the connections and the benefits between STEM capacity and economic development. This Commission on STEM and the Economy should be broadly representative of the state organizations that have vested interests in building these

The “Realities”

The “realities” that hinder STEM development include:

  • “While people are somewhat aware of each other’s work, better collaboration across business, government and formal and informal education sectors would help promote broader prosperity across the state.
  • “Too many middle and high school students are receiving STEM knowledge and skills from well-meaning, but ill-prepared adults through alternative and out-of-state preparation programs. The state needs to invest in increasing the supply of highly-qualified STEM teachers that are being prepared by our colleges and universities.
  • “As is true across the nation, North Carolina has increasing health care and allied health care needs that are not being addressed comprehensively. Part of the issue is the under-supply of allied health professionals and the shortage of primary care physicians produced within our institutions. The community colleges, public universities and independent colleges are well aware of these conditions and need to be supported to address the issues with greater success.
  • “High speed Internet access is truly the essential ingredient for a vibrant and equitable economic future for North Carolina. Our state and business interests need to ‘double-down’ on their investments and leverage federal funding to extend this critical asset across the state.
  • “Most critically, North Carolina, like many states, does not ensure that underrepresented minorities, females, and children from low-income homes are as able to make their way through the STEM pipeline as anyone else. The persistent achievement gaps and the lack of access and opportunity for racial and ethnic minorities and for low-income and poor families is not just a social justice issue, it is a critical economic issue for North Carolina. The 2010 U.S. Census reported that the state has approximately 1.3 million citizens between the ages of 15-24 and this included more minorities than at any time in modern history. They are the North Carolinians  we must attract and prepare for the STEM jobs of the future.”

The full report can be read online.