In order for our region to be globally competitive in this innovation-driven economy, we must have a reliable STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) talent pipeline producing well-qualified STEM-competent workers. Yet national studies are showing a continued lagging interest among students in STEM disciplines. To meet the demand of graduating the more than one million STEM professionals estimated to be needed in the next decade (as stated by the 2012 PCAST report) we will need to see more than 23% of college freshman declaring STEM majors and 40% of those actually receiving a STEM degree within 6 years.
In South Carolina we have experienced significant growth in high-tech, aerospace, and defense industries over the past several years and it is projected that we will continue to see the STEM industry grow, thus producing an increased demand for STEM competent workers. By 2018, South Carolina will need to fill a minimum of 85,000 STEM-related jobs (STEM ED SC 2011) but unfortunately, our students are not be equipped with the skills to enter into or be successful in these high-demand, high-paying jobs. As shown by the 2009 NAEP scores in which only 33% of South Carolina 8th graders scored at or above proficiency in mathematics and only 23% scored at or above proficiency in science.