STEM Education: The Future of the U.S. Economy NOT Universal Income

Uber-entrepreneur and genius Elon Musk shocked many last week by declaring that “there is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation.” Vanity Fair puts together a nice profile on where Musk is coming from… last Christmas, Elon Musk, Sam Altman, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, and Jessica Livingston announced the founding of OpenAI, a nonprofit research venture aimed at developing “digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity.” Well done and innovators AND educators should focus on empowering and training knowledge workers and students. In mobility fields, for example, PPI states that AppEconomy jobs doubled to nearly 1.7M this year from 2013. TechoPedia frames the AppEconomy as a mobility phenomenon stemming from the range of economic activity surrounding mobile applications . VentureBeat forecast that the AppEconomy market will rise to over $100B by 2020. But STEM education is much more than delivering knowledge to users at any point of delivery – structure will have to come from the setting and the silos for delivery to (what HBR calls) frontline workers in context.

Gary Shapiro of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) gets the importance of STEM, but sadly politicizes it. in a CES post in November 2014, he points out that STEM should be an important and constructive element of immigration reform: “U.S. global competitiveness is being threatened by our outdated legal immigration policies, costing our economy hundreds of thousands of jobs a year. We urge the White House and the next Congress to work together toward a legislative solution that decouples bipartisan, high-skilled immigration reform from overall reform efforts.” He does, recently, also try to address the inevitable job displacement in advance of the annual ultra-popular CES extravaganza,”The most common complaint I hear from our more than 2,200 consumer technology member companies is that they need many more qualified graduates with technical and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) backgrounds – the supply does not meet our expanding demand. ”

BI Intelligence offers their analysis of each area that could offer elements of a STEM curriculum in a business school setting:

In order to take STEM education to the next level, the deployment of self-service, cloud-based business intelligence tools that is underway must also occur in educational institutions, training programs and in sponsored programmatic competitions such as the wonderful NASA Space Race. Gartner offers a roadmap for the digitalization of education here. Rita Sallam, Research Vice President at Gartner Group elaborated in PC Magazine, “The BI&A market is in the final stages of a multiyear shift from IT-led, system-of-record reporting to pervasive, business-led, self-service analytics. Organizations will continue to transition to easy-to-use, fast, agile, and trusted modern BI&A platforms deployed across the enterprise to create business value from deeper insights into diverse data sources.” The 2016 Gartner Critical Capabilities report is a definitive guide to understanding which BI and analytics vendors offer the best products (the report is free for download here).


Picture Credit: NASA Space Race

Corporations are driving spending on cloud-based BI technology which is growing 4.5x faster than spending for on-premises solutions. Dan Vesset, IDC‘s Program Vice President for Business Analytics and Big Data, projected that spending on self-service visual discovery and data preparation tools will grow 2.5x faster in 2016 than traditional IT-controlled tools, and said it will necessitate a fundamental IT culture change. “Responding to the demand for self-service BI technology will necessitate a reassessment of current centralized IT practices,” said Vesset. “IT will need to recognize the full range of different [BI&A] needs and ensure that the full technology stack or services are available to address the self-service needs of user group.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that STEM occupations  will grow to more than nine million between 2012 and 2022 – an increase of about one million jobs over 2012 levels. Remember our “frontline workers”? A Rice University research paper studied how creativity affected customers’ perception of customer service. HBR reports,

The researchers found that the creativity of front-line service employees (which they called “service creativity”) directly affected customer services ratings. “Service creativity allows employees to delight customers in unusual ways or solve problems that existing protocol falls short of addressing,” said Jing Zhou, a co-author on the study and professor of management at Rice University. “The findings suggest that service creativity is a powerful avenue through which customer satisfaction can be achieved.”

Apply the same approach to STEM education and we will have a much happier and engaged population of life-long learning students in our communities.


Picture Credit: Julian Kalic’s Wisdom Tower


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