The unemployment rate for Americans under the age of 25 hit a high of 22.9 percent this year -- that's nearly double the rate for the population as a whole.
If conventional wisdom tells us that "children are our future," these statistics are alarming and demand immediate attention. What can we do to better prepare young adults for the workforce and ensure that the unemployment rate decreases? There is no magic wand; however, we can begin to take necessary steps by arming the next generation with the skills they need to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
According to a report compiled by Cisco and STEMConnector, STEM-related occupations are projected to grow at more than double the rate (20.6 percent) of the overall US labor force (10.1 percent) through 2018. This is a huge opportunity. However, we're lacking the qualified candidates needed to pursue these careers. In fact, to meet the demand, we need more than 8.65 million students to pursue STEM careers by 2018.
If the answer is simply to prepare students for STEM careers, create a healthy workforce, etc., then why is this so hard to accomplish? That brings us to the underlying issue: Students are losing interest in STEM careers long before they enter college.
By freshman year of high school, more than 57 percent of students lose interest in pursuing STEM-related careers and a recent report prepared by the White House indicates a lack of preparation and inspiration as key reasons why students lose interest in STEM. To reverse this scenario, students and teachers need to be armed with engaging learning programs and "cool tech" that will motivate and hold the attention of today's connected, digitally savvy youth.
Our students need access to tools that enable them to imagine, design, and create a better world. Vendors like Autodesk are committed to preparing the next generation of STEM professionals. One way to do that is to provide easy access to tools, and put the technology into their hands.
Autodesk's 2014 Education Suites offer students access to professional-grade software for free. Hence, they can engage and develop their skills using the same tools, like AutoCAD, Autodesk Revit, and Autodesk Inventor, that professionals are using.
Thom Tremblay is the Industry Manager for Manufacturing in Autodesk Education.