March 13, 2024



SkyHive has been honored to participate in the National STEM Challenge, sponsored by the White House and U.S. Department of Education. A team of SkyHivers, including my colleague and SkyHive's Head of Strategy, Alison Lands, served as judges in the challenge. The seven-month program of activities for youth education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) culminates in April 2024 at the National STEM Festival.

Last week I had the pleasure of discussing STEM skill development in Austin, Texas at a South by Southwest Education (SXSW EDU) 2024 panel. Photographed below (from left to right) are the panelists Brienne Bellavita of the Walton Family Foundation, computer engineering college student Camila Lopez-Ortiz of Million Girls Moonshot, myself, and Jenny Buccos of EXPLR. The panel celebrated the thousands of 6th to 12th graders who participated in the National STEM Challenge and advocated for diverse STEM participation.

Bledi Taska discussing STEM at SXSW EDU

The organizer of this year’s National STEM Festival, Jenny Buccos, described during the panel how STEM “personal identity” comprises more than a job degree or software certifications. This personal identity develops by acquiring relevant STEM knowledge and skills, applying those skills in STEM contexts, and envisioning oneself thriving in science, tech, engineering, and math fields.

SkyHive is proud to play a role in nurturing youth innovator STEM identities. The thousands of young people who entered the challenge receive free access to the SkyHive AI-powered STEM Career Finder, customized specifically for the competition, where they may connect their recent STEM Challenge experience and the skills they’ve developed to the formation of their long-term STEM identity.

As we get ready to meet next month in Washington D.C. for the National STEM Festival, it’s important to consider the changing needs for skills in science, technology, engineering, and math, whereby we face a critical question: How do we equip an agile workforce for new STEM jobs that are just now emerging from the realms of imagination and innovation?

1. Demand for STEM Skills Continues to Grow.

In an age characterized by swift technological evolution, the STEM sectors emerge as pivotal to economic growth and scientific development. Over the past decade, the U.S. STEM workforce expanded by 5.9 million, from 29.0 million to 34.9 million, increasing its share of the total U.S. workforce from 21% to 24%, per the National Science Foundation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected in September 2023 that U.S. employment in STEM occupations will grow by 10.8% from 2022 to 2032, significantly outstripping the modest 2.8% job growth anticipated across all other sectors. This expansion is not merely numerical but also economic, with U.S. STEM roles earning a median wage of $97,980, over twice the $46,310 median of non-STEM positions. Economies in Europe and Asia/Pacific see similar shifts as global demand grows for STEM skills.

How do we equip an agile workforce for new STEM jobs that are just now emerging from the realms of imagination and innovation?

2. Skill Changes are Disrupting STEM.

The allure of STEM careers, underscored by robust growth and wage statistics, is nuanced by the shifting realities of the labor market.

Research by David Deming and Kadeem Noray highlights this complexity, focusing on how swiftly changing skill requirements impact STEM graduates' career paths. New skill requirements are significantly higher for computer and engineering jobs, as shown in the following figure from Deming, D.J. and Noray, K., 2020, “Earnings dynamics, changing job skills, and STEM careers” published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics135 (4), pp. 1965-2005.

Initially, STEM graduates command higher starting salaries due to their acquisition of job-relevant skills. Yet, the rapid pace of change in STEM fields soon necessitates new skills, making previously acquired ones less relevant or even obsolete. This highlights the importance of continuous learning and adaptability for STEM professionals. Meanwhile, university and employer STEM education programs struggle to keep pace, with some courses out of date after just a few months.


Deming, D.J. and Noray, K., 2020,“Earnings dynamics, changing job skills, and STEM careers”

3. Generative AI is Accelerating this Disruption in STEM Skills.

Generative AI is dramatically accelerating the evolution of skill sets within STEM fields and reshaping the essence of STEM professions. As tasks in software coding, product design, and medical diagnostics become increasingly augmented and automated, there's a pivotal shift in educational priorities towards understanding AI algorithms, their applications, and implications. This necessitates a comprehensive reevaluation of STEM curricula, teaching methods, and core competencies to include:

a) Embracing Human Skills

The integration of AI in technical tasks underscores the importance of soft skills and interdisciplinary knowledge. This includes a shift toward valuing skills where humans excel in comparison to AI systems:

  • Problem-Solving: Focusing on developing skills for applying judgment to nuanced situations and thinking outside algorithmic constraints through complex, real-world problem-solving scenarios.
  • Creativity and Innovation: Emphasizing creative thinking, exploration, and the arts within STEM education to foster innovation, recognizing that human creativity drives innovation beyond AI's capabilities.
  • Emotional Intelligence (EI): Incorporating EI training to improve teamwork, leadership, and customer service, leveraging the uniquely human ability to understand, empathize, and interact effectively with others.
  • Ethical Reasoning: Integrating ethics as a core component of the curriculum to navigate the moral and ethical implications of technology, focusing on the societal impact of technological advancements.

The following figure shows the growth in demand for these human skills in online job postings from 2020 to 2023, drawn from SkyHive’s knowledge graph of real-time labor market data.

Human skills are important for employers rethinking their skills inventory and skills taxonomy for a more modern job architecture.

STEM education must evolve to deeply integrate these human elements into the curriculum, preparing students for complex, AI-driven environments. These human skills are important not only for formal STEM education in K through 12 and universities but also for employers rethinking their skills inventory and skills taxonomy for a more modern job architecture.

b) Emphasizing Project-Based and Experiential Learning

Aligning with the shift towards dynamic competencies, STEM education is increasingly adopting project-based and experiential learning paradigms. This approach encourages students to engage with real-world problems and apply AI tools in practical, complex scenarios. For Generative AI (GenAI), this includes practice in how to write AI prompts as well as ways to recognize when AI hallucinations result in errors generated by AI models.

Such hands-on experiences are invaluable, fostering an environment of experimentation, innovation, and resilience. This project-based, experimental learning method not only enhances technical proficiency but also develops adaptability and builds a profound understanding of the iterative nature of scientific and technological progress. 

4. STEM Skills Are Reshaping the Jobs of Tomorrow.

The advent of AI and digital technologies is not just reshaping the landscape of existing STEM fields; it's creating entirely new occupations that reflect the diversification and specialization required for the future. These emerging roles span a wide array of disciplines, underscoring the dynamic intersection between technology, ethics, and societal needs.

  1. AI Ethicist: These specialists are at the forefront of ensuring AI systems are developed and implemented in ways that uphold ethical standards, addressing critical issues such as bias, fairness, and transparency.
  2. Digital Biomarker Specialist: Experts in this field develop algorithms capable of identifying disease markers from digital data sources, such as wearables and smartphones.
  3. Augmented Reality Architects: Designers in this area create immersive AR experiences that have the potential to transform education, training, entertainment, and retail.
  4. Drone Traffic Analyst: As drones become more prevalent, specialists in drone traffic management are essential for ensuring safe and efficient operation in shared airspace.
  5. Urban Agriculturalist: These specialists employ high-tech farming techniques suitable for urban environments, such as vertical farms and hydroponics.
  6. Ecosystem Regeneration Engineer: Professionals dedicated to restoring damaged ecosystems, utilizing a mix of bioengineering and conservation science.
  7. 3D Printing Architect: Innovators in this field specialize in creating structures and components using 3D printing technologies.
  8. Renewable Energy Technician: Specialists focused on the installation, maintenance, and repair of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and battery storage systems.
  9. Nanotechnology Engineer: Engineers who operate at the nanoscale to design and develop new devices and systems.
  10. Smart Grid Technician: Technicians responsible for the infrastructure that supports smart grid technology, enabling more efficient distribution and use of electricity.

5. It’s Time to Redefine STEM Education with a Skills-based Approach.

As we get ready to meet in Washington D.C. as part of the National STEM Challenge, it's evident that the journey ahead is both daunting and thrilling. Meeting the demand for STEM skills requires a reevaluation of educational curricula and training programs to ensure that the next generation of STEM professionals is equipped with the skills and knowledge to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

Mastery of a static skill set is no longer enough. Today's workforce should strive to be adaptable, lifelong learners who are as comfortable with change as we are with technology complexity. We need to be ethical thinkers, innovative problem solvers, and effective communicators.

We need to create a more inclusive economy where skills become pathways to success. Sadly, groups that continue to be under-represented in STEM jobs include women, youth, newcomers, indigenous peoples, veterans, and physically disabled persons.

Rapid technological advancements, especially in Generative AI, necessitate a redefinition of what it means to be prepared for a STEM career across university education, employer skills-based workforce planning to upskill and reskill STEM knowledge, and alternate ways to teach and learn STEM skills.

As noted by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, “An increasing number of jobs that require STEM skills do not require a bachelor’s degree, and other education and training pathways — such as Registered Apprenticeships, fellowships, and other work-based learning models — are increasingly instrumental in meeting the urgent demand for a STEM-capable workforce.”

Adopting a skills-based approach helps bridge these gaps between human needs and technology. A skills-based approach allows companies and communities to work together by focusing on people’s skills instead of just their jobs. It gives organizations the tools to expand and adapt workforces by identifying and addressing internal skill gaps. And a skills-first approach to job requirements gives everyone the same opportunity to demonstrate their match, regardless of education, titles, or credentials.

We invite you to join SkyHive in this journey.

As a mission-oriented team recognized by the World Economic Forum and Gartner for our contributions to the future of work, here at SkyHive we help organizations and communities transition to a skills-based workforce. To learn more, visit us at and find a convenient time in your schedule to talk with us.

Compiled by Bledi Taska, VP, Head of Analytics, at SkyHive, and Matej Mavricek, Senior Manager, Data & Product Analytics.