CNN is reporting that the U.S. is lagging behind goals set three years ago by a consortium of business groups to increase college graduations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields by 2015. Apparently, the number of bachelor's destrees awarded in the U.S. each year in those fields has stalled at about 225,000, well short of the groups' goal of 400,000.
However, it's only been three years. The people graduating this year were already in college when these goals were set. So unless part of their strategy has been to get people to switch majors, we'd be unlikely to see much in the way of results by now. As Susan Traiman, director of education and workforce policy for the Business Roundtable, points out in the article, "It still takes a minimum of 17 years to produce an engineer if you consider K-12 plus four years of colleges."
Which begs the question of how these business groups thought that they'd be able to double the number of graduates in only 10 years. Now, I agree that we need to increase graduates in these fields in order to remain competitive on the world stage—and let's not forget that many of the 225,000 graduates we're producing now in these fields are actually foreign students—but I don't think we can expect a network of business groups to say that it needs to happen and have it magically happen overnight. It's going to take time and hard work, and both of those are going on right now.
The future is coming, and the U.S., I suspect, will continue to lead the way in these fields for quite a while yet.