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Each year tens of thousands of open jobs at technology companies go unfilled as a result of a workforce that is falling behind on the skills needed for these high-paying jobs. The reality is today’s global marketplace is extremely competitive, and for the U.S. economy and American workers to win that competition, investments are needed to improve quality and participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. STEM skills are key to a 21st century workforce: New approaches in education policy are needed because, unfortunately, the current education model is not always up to the task. Too many American schools are arming students with the skills of yesteryear instead of polishing the tools they will undoubtedly need in tomorrow’s global marketplace.

The skills gap is reflected in the employment market where vacancies in STEM fields outnumber qualified applicants by nearly two to one. Without skilled applicants to fill the void of STEM knowledge, we cannot keep the fast-growing occupations requiring these skills headquartered in the United States or provide American students to fill those vacancies. In short, STEM skills are needed today, and they will be even more sought after tomorrow. The U.S. and our students should not be left behind.

To address the skills gap, ITI advocates for long-term policy solutions that 1) empower American students from primary to higher education to excel in STEM fields; and 2) invest in basic research in U.S. universities, which often lead to next-generation innovations and new businesses and jobs.

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