We all read the news – many U.S. businesses lack the technical talent they need to remain competitive in an increasingly global landscape. In response, there has been a major shift in the last decade in corporate philanthropy, as companies recalibrate their social responsibility initiatives to focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education in order to address the supply shortage. This attention extends to the national stage, where President Obama has articulated a clear priority for STEM education, stating that within a decade, American students must "move from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math."
Yet companies, and ultimately a nation, that zero-in on STEM education without investing in other core academic subjects are missing the bigger picture. In order to cultivate a diverse tech workforce, we must grow student proficiency in reading and writing, as well as math and science. Taking a computer science course can certainly bolster a student’s university application, but without having built a solid foundation of English language arts and math to steward him or her successfully through academically rigorous courses in high school, will that student even be eligible to apply for college?
As a company built by innovators, Applied Materials understands the importance of investing in the entire education pathway. Whether in San Jose, California; Central Texas; or other U.S. locations where the company has a significant presence, our Education Initiative focuses on key inflection points in a student’s academic trajectory: entering kindergarten ready to learn and succeed, performing at grade level in English language arts and mathematics in early elementary school, staying on academic track in middle school, and pursuing a college-preparatory curriculum in high school.
None of this is to say that STEM education is not important – Applied supports a variety of STEM-focused programs throughout the United States. However, we must get beyond our current mindset that STEM education alone will solve the issues faced by the current American education system. Only with investments across the entire education continuum, from reading and writing to math and science and from teacher professional development to project-based learning, will we be able to increase educational equity and workforce diversity in the United States.
To learn more about the Applied Materials Education Initiative and impact to date, read Applied’s 2016 Education Initiative report.