News & Insights for the AI Journey|Sunday, June 16, 2019
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Are Bachelor’s Degrees All They’re Cracked Up to Be? 

<img style="float: left;" src="" alt="" width="95" height="50" border="0" />As the U.S. manufacturing sector fights to stay competitive on a global scale, the issue of improving STEM education has been key. But in a recent study measuring how workers in STEM fields are putting their educations to use it was found that half didn't need a bachelor's degree.

The issue of cultivating a vast and well-equipped workforce comes to the fore as U.S. manufacturing fights to stay competitive on a global scale. Naturally, a focus on STEM education would follow. However, in a recent study measuring how workers in STEM fields are putting their educations to use, it was found that half didn't need a bachelor's degree.

"There's a sense that the only route to the middle class now is a bachelor's degree or higher, and I would say that's the surest route," says Jonathan Rothwell, the researcher responsible for the study. But it's not always necessary. Rather than accruing massive debt, Rothwell expressed that he wanted people to know that there were other ways to acquire those skills.

Quartz writer Tim Fernholz pointed to machining as a prime example of this in action. Because sophisticated automated mills are often at the heart of these processes, the workers that draft and model the designs sent to those mills need a fair dose of computing and engineering skills. And these aren't the only times of STEM professionals who passed the university system by: machinery technicians, health-care workers and mechanics were also on the list.

Whereas historically we have looked at credentials over on-the-job qualifications, this could be an indicator of changing tides. The study found that "blue collar" STEM jobs offered significant wage premiums over those of similarly educated workers, just as a bachelor's degree does in STEM fields. It also found that only 26 percent of STEM workers had a bachelor's degree.

Still, the problem remains that across the public and private sector, recruitment and investments still go primarily to four-year college programs. Instead, Rothwell says that more attention and funding should be targeted at community colleges offering vocational training for STEM-related jobs.

And this isn't the only hurdle. Surveys are showing that companies are cutting back on on-the-job training for their employees, despite complaining about a skills shortage.

But if companies were able to adjust their game plan, it could have serious implications for U.S. Manufacturing, as outsourcing hot spots like Mexico and China have already demonstrated what value an emphasis on “blue collar” STEM can add as far as competitiveness is concerned.

Full story at Quartz

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