The United States is not only falling behind other countries on many key science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) indicators, but our public investment in STEM education has steadily declined at the same time that other countries—including our biggest global competitors—are making substantial investments. The choices we make now will impact America’s global competitiveness and economic growth for years to come.
Workers with STEM skills play a hugely important role in driving innovation and economic growth, particularly for the biopharmaceutical industry—in manufacturing alone there is projected to be a need for more than 1 million additional STEM workers in the next decade.
A new survey of American teens from the Amgen Foundation and Change the Equation highlights a key opportunity to engage and develop the next generation of STEM workers. More than 80 percent of teens surveyed reported they are interested in science yet rate their science classes lower than all other classes. These teens indicated they want more hands-on experiences, such as field trips and lab experience, as well as the opportunity to explore what interests them. And for low-income students, the survey shows that most are unaware of potential STEM career opportunities and have the least access to those who work in these fields.
The survey findings confirm what Amgen and other PhRMA member companies have known and have been focusing on through their own STEM programs and initiatives—the need to give youth real-world experiences. A 2014 survey found that the vast majority of PhRMA members are supporting STEM efforts with a particular focus on K-12 through equipment donations, use of company laboratory facilities and access to company scientists and other researchers to give them hands-on, real-world experiences that will excite and energize them.
PhRMA and its members are committed to working with others to continue to improve the quality of STEM education in the United States. We all must do more to inspire and develop the next generation of innovators who will develop new treatments and cures against our most costly and challenging diseases.
Anne McDonald Pritchett, PhD Anne McDonald Pritchett, Ph.D., is Senior Vice President, Policy and Research, at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Her primary focus is overseeing the development of legislative and policy analysis and research studies on a range of issues impacting innovative biopharmaceutical companies including intellectual property issues, FDA policy issues, and other issue areas impacting the environment for innovation. In addition to her public policy work, she and her team lead the development of a range of educational and other materials focused on explaining the R&D process, the value of innovation, and the role and contributions of the innovative biopharmaceutical industry.