Harlan Says STEM Education is Critical to Economic Strength

A key Dow executive recently told business leaders in Houston how vital STEM education is to everyone. Joe E. Harlan, executive vice president, told the Houston Rotary that the United States is in the midst of a labor crisis that could threaten the economy if we don't take steps now to strengthen the STEM skills of our students and workforce. He said the idea that we don't have enough skilled workers is difficult for many because the U.S. has millions who are unemployed.

“There is not a worker shortage anywhere in the world,” Harlan said. “We have a skills shortage. Businesses report nearly four million jobs are open because the workers who are available don't have the right skills.”

The lack of talent is not only a drag on productivity now, he said, it is also threatening future planned investments. Because of new sources of affordable energy, there are nearly 130 energy-related projects planned for the U.S. They represent more than $100 billion in potential investments, but won't happen unless we have enough skilled people to build and staff the facilities, Harlan noted.

There is a great demand for workers with college degrees in STEM subjects, Harlan said. But there is a greater need for STEM workers with associate degrees or less. He cited a recent government report which reported that nearly two-thirds of all job future job openings will come in occupations that don't require a postsecondary education. They will, however, require more STEM skills.

Harlan outlined the work Dow is doing in Texas to increase the labor force of STEM workers. And he pointed out that Dow has similar measures around the world.