STEM Education: A Necessary Component for Modernizing Government
By Nancy Collins, group president, State Enterprise Solutions, Xerox
According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, in the next five years, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs are projected to grow twice as quickly as jobs in other fields. In fact, by 2018, the U.S. will have more than 1 million job openings in STEM-related sectors, but only 16 percent of U.S. bachelor’s degrees will specialize in STEM. At Xerox, we’ve supported STEM education for decades and advocated for students to consider careers in math and science because they are integral to our company – we develop technology to simplify the way work gets done. Our CEO, Ursula Burns, is an engineer with a passion for innovation and a champion of STEM. We see possibilities that can only happen if we continue to encourage young people with passion and aptitude for the sciences to pursue careers that use those skills.
Scientists and engineers solve problems in unique and disruptive ways. Instead of creating a candle that burns longer or is less of a fire hazard, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. Rather than embracing the time-intensive process of handwriting document copies, Xerox created the photo copier. It’s not about building a better mousetrap, but taking a whole new view on the challenge at hand.
I see opportunities to bring this same kind of disruptive thinking to government services, where new technologies can help to modernize processes, lower costs and bring better services to citizens. Many states are using IT infrastructure from the 1980s and 1990s. Not only are these older systems often incapable of keeping up with today’s intense IT demands, they can also be expensive to implement and maintain. Though there are limitless opportunities for governments to tap today’s technologies – like cloud, mobile and data analytics – they are challenged to modernize at an affordable price.
Innovation is an important part of Xerox’s heritage and its future. We’re finding ways to bring disruptive technology to governments while saving them significant amounts of money, so they can use their tight budgets to improve services for their citizens. For example, our electronic payment solutions digitize public benefit payments and use mobility to make a real difference to benefits recipients. A prepaid card solution for food stamps gives people easy, speedy and secure access to money that helps them feed their families.
Exposing students to STEM education early gives us the best chance to come up with more disruptive and life-improving technology. Xerox supports the efforts of organizations that strive to improve STEM education and encourage young people to enter scientific careers so they can benefit from and contribute to the countless possibilities that innovation brings. Xerox is sponsoring the 2013 STEMathon, a conference in Harrisburg, Penn., that brings together STEM education professionals to network, collaborate, learn, and share ideas in order to improve and enhance STEM education at the local level. This is one more measure toward even more robust STEM education in the U.S.