STEAM vs. STEM is an ongoing debate about the importance of art and design courses offered in public education institutions and whether or not they improve student behavior, test scores, and so on. The STEAM side argues that Art plays a vital role in letting students express themselves and helps them engage in critical, “outside the box” thinking. Even after 42 seasons of STEM-only teaching, famous children’s show Sesame Street decided to finally integrate the arts into its 43rd season. That said, pro-STEM advocates aren’t necessarily calling for the elimination of art and design classes in school, but instead wish to retain a higher focus on science, technology, engineering, and math, the core subjects that make up STEM.

Some facts that come out of STEM-only research shows that students who progress through at least Algebra II in high school are twice as likely to complete a four-year degree as opposed to those who don’t. Of 15 Major categories, Engineering has the highest median earning, yet less than 20% of students choose a STEM path. Lastly, women make up 23% of STEM workers, but make up 48% of all occupations. More information and summarized research can be found on this round-up by the National Math + Science Initiative.

While brilliant with technology, there are some personalities who STEAM advocates feel were the best of both worlds, such as Albert Einstein, Marissa Mayer, and Steve Jobs, the latter who revolutionized how marketing is done today. William Yu, an economist with the Anderson Forecast at UCLA, states that as more jobs become machine-reliant, alongside economic shifts from agriculture to mechanical, “robots and foreign labors will never be able to replace creative people in creating sectors making new and desirable products and services.”  Alongside this, this piece by explores exactly what skills apply to adding the “A” in STEAM. The program mentioned includes the Four C’s: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. By breaking these segments down, professors are more capable of allowing students to take advantage of their education; something that is evidenced by research showing more students wish they had learner agency in STEM education.

Shifting gears, as more machines are developed to help industrial markets and manufacturers, it’s important to note what jobs STEM-geared education creates. For example, in the die-casting industry, half of the jobs wanted require four years of education or more just to reach entry level. While not all of these jobs fall into this spectrum, they include engineering, IT staff, drivers, mechanics, nurses, machinists, and operators. According to this 2015 report by the North American Die Casting Association (slide 20), as the volume of castings required grows, the minimum number of workers hired annually will also increase. This will eventually lead to a need for, at minimum, 2,500 new operators and technicians.

Job processes for these careers include operating machinery, casting, maintenance, safety and energy management, tool designing, and melting and handling. With such an array of specialized job functions, it’s easy to see why half of the top 10 most difficult positions in die casting are hard to fill. Where STEM seems to fall short is within the creation process of prototypes or newly realized tools. The “A” in STEAM better serves those who seek to change how tools work and the convenience they bring to the table, while STEM focuses more on bringing those concepts into reality.

Regardless of the side chosen, education drives markets forward. STEAM vs. STEM may still be an ongoing debate but it’s important to know where to draw the line in the sand and focus on the benefits of each. Does your business grow and prosper more from a creative or mechanical standpoint?

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