Are STEM Grads Really Prepared for the Workforce?

Traditional job classifications and career cluster models don’t adequately or appropriately represent the true (and growing) demand for STEM skills and competencies required of our future workforce. In many cases these misconceptions are causing us to produce highly skilled graduates who still are not equipped to excel in the workplace. Some schools are starting to cross pollinate curriculum – as is the case with the University of Michigan incorporating computer programming as a core requirement for first-year engineering students. Laredo, a second-year electrical engineering student from Michigan states, "Nowadays, in the workforce, you need to know how to code, you need to know how to use programming languages in order to be successful." But what if you are outside the engineering school and pursuing a degree in the sciences?

We asked our role models to talk about their personal skill gaps after completing their degree programs and were surprised how many of them readily cited incremental STEM competencies even though they were studying within STEM fields. And these aren’t individuals just seeking 4-year degrees. In repeated scenarios, postdocs were talking about big gaps they had to plug in order to complete the job functions required of them. Consider one climate change analyst who found out on the job that she needed to be able to write code in order to study the coral reefs so pertinent to her research. She hunkered down and taught herself how because she’s determined. But not everyone perseveres when met with those types of challenges.

Brookings defines a STEM job as one that requires an extraordinary level of STEM knowledge in one or more core STEM knowledge domains. Repeat – one or more core STEM knowledge domains. This definition and approach is strongly supported by Couragion and greatly expands the number and diversity of occupations that one may deem as STEM related. The demand for STEM skills extends well beyond the narrow definition of STEM jobs. Couragion highlights these fast growing STEM careers under the broader Brookings definition. We drive awareness around potential careers that require STEM competencies in order to inspire kids to shape their academic pathways around amassing those skills in science, technology, engineering and math. This will better prepare them for the future regardless of the career path they choose.



Jonathan Rothwell, July 2014, “Still Searching: Job Vacancies and STEM Skills”, Brookings,

US News and World Report, September 2015, “Not Everyone with a STEM Degree Chooses and STEM Job”,

Melissa RisteffComment