IMAGE: Kanda Euatham — 123RF

Computer Science, STEM and integration

An article in Quartz called “You probably should have majored in computer science” encourages young people to sign up for computer sciences in particular, and in STEM subjects in general (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), given the huge difference of uncovered jobs in the market compared to the current availability of graduates in the field.

The evidence is clear: as we live more and more surrounded by programmable devices, and these define our ecosystem more clearly and the way we carry out more and more tasks, the demand for professionals capable of dealing with the new reality grows incessantly.

Does this mean more young people should opt for computer sciences? The simple fact is that jobs requiring skills within the so-called STEM disciplines have more than doubled the growth of others and are consistently among the best paid. But it’s not quite so simple.

Firstly, because the structure of many of these studies is far from perfect, having evolved very little over past decades in terms of content and methodologies, and as such is far removed from what the market seems to demand. And secondly, because when all is said and done, society needs professionals of many types and with varied skills.

Obviously it makes no sense for everybody to study computer sciences. It is logical that demand for professionals in this area grows as technology evolves and forms a larger part of our lives, but not all jobs will be covered by computer science graduates. What is happening though, is that computer sciences are extending naturally into more and more disciplines: the work of the biologist, the doctor, the architect, or the farmer of tomorrow will require developing computing skills.

The solution, obviously, is to incorporate STEM into education at all levels. It’s not just that there is high demand for STEM professionals, but also that graduates from many other disciplines lack sufficient knowledge of STEM. Training to be a farmer has traditionally not involved STEM, and yet today, efficient agriculture means managing technologies ranging from autonomous tractors to drones, production planning, or integrating into producer networks such as the Farmers Business Network (FBN), an initiative participated by none other than Google Ventures. And if that applies to an activity as traditional as agriculture, imagine other areas. In medicine, doctors carrying out surgical procedures through a robotic assistance system will have undoubted advantages over those operating in the traditional way, and although the discipline is still in the phase of proprietary and non-modifiable technologies, that will soon change and the doctors will have to define and parameterize their needs by interacting with machines. Likewise, Law graduates should be able to understand, use and interact with AI systems such as Ross, that could clearly signal the difference when it comes to invest time and effort in the preparation of a given case.

Technology is penetrating into so many disciplines that the demand for trained professionals must be met not only through the creation of more STEM graduates but also through the integration of STEM into a large number of disciplines where it has been previously absent, in addition to teaching these skills from the earliest stages of education.

When education is separated from the reality of the world we live in, society has a serious problems adapting. This is not about learning “new technologies” (how much longer will we keep using that term, given that we all use smartphones now?), but instead integrating them into the educative process at all levels, with complete normality. No educational curriculum should be considered complete or adequate without the necessary dose of computer sciences, without understanding how technology will affect all activities in the future, and without preparing the professionals for it. We need more STEM graduates, but also more STEM materials in all subjects at all levels. In short, more STEM, and much more STEM integration.

(En español, aquí)