For several years, policymakers in Washington, academic and other experts, and industry leaders have emphasized the importance of the so-called “STEM” fields—science, technology, engineering and math—for economic growth, national competitiveness and security, and job creation. Yet we still know little about how this crucial sector of the economy works, and in particular, why industry demands ever more foreign workers even as many US workers are leaving this vibrant sector, and how US workers keep their skill sets current in the face of continual change. Most broadly, we need to understand what STEM actually means. It is a term that is used widely, and even forms the basis of legislation, yet it resists a clear definition.
These are some major conclusions from a workshop held at the University of California-San Diego on July 12 and 13, 2013. The workshop, sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, brought together academic specialists from fields as diverse as economics, education, management, public policy, and sociology to meet with industry leaders representing biotech, finance, software, telecommunications, and tech journalism, for a results-oriented and wide-ranging discussion of these important issues. Several key conclusions, as well as related readings by workshop participants, are included.
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