Some Assembly Required: STEM Skills and Canada’s Economic Productivity

The Expert Panel on STEM Skills for the Future, Council of Canadian Academies, May 01, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes
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The arguments around the make-up of Canada's education system continue (there's a surprising lack of consensus which is either a precursor to a national policy, or an argument against one). In this report, the "Expert Panel on STEM Skills for the Future" argues that they had  "difficulty finding direct and robust evidence that STEM skills are unique ... as central to innovation and productivity growth." They contend that "the fundamental skills required for STEM literacy, such as problem solving, technological proficiency, and numeracy, represent essential components of working smarter."

They write, "STEM skills are necessary for many types of innovation, as well as productivity and growth, but they are not sufficient on their own. Other skills such as leadership, creativity, adaptability, and entrepreneurial ability may be required to maximize the impact of STEM skills. Further, the Panel did not find evidence of a current imbalance in advanced STEM skills nationally, suggesting that the source of Canada’s productivity problem is not a shortage of advanced STEM skills."

This is a really good report that will reward a much closer reading, because it offers not only a surface-level analysis of the stem skills needed for productivity, but a look at how these skills are developed and where they are needed. This is an excellent example of an evidence-based analysis of learning and development issues and trends. More coverage: Globe and Mail, news release. As Academica notes, the National Science Board reached similar conclusions in a report in February.

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