One of the largest economic revolutions of our time is unfolding around us. Technology, innovation and automation are redrawing the career paths of millions of people. Most headlines focus on the negative, i.e. machines taking our jobs. But in reality, these developments are opening up a world of opportunity for people who can make the move to a STEM career or upskill in their current job. There’s also another part to this story: How AI can help boost the economy by improving how we learn.
In 2018, 2.4 million STEM jobs in the U.S. went unfilled. That’s almost equal to the entire population of Los Angeles or Chicago. It’s a gap causing problems for employers trying to recruit and retain workers, whether in startups, small businesses or major corporations. We just don’t have enough workers.
The Unspoken Barrier
The barrier preventing new or existing employees from adding to their skill set and filling the unfulfilled jobs? Math. Calculus to be specific. It has become a frustrating impediment to many people seeking a STEM career. For college students, the material is so difficult that one-third of them in the U.S. fail the related course or drop it out of frustration. For adults, learning calculus is not always compulsory for the day to day of every STEM job, but learning its principles can help sharpen logic and reasoning. Plus, simply understanding how calculus relates to real-world scenarios is helpful in many STEM jobs. Unfortunately, for many people, the thought of tackling any level of math is enough to scare them away from a new opportunity. We need to stop looking at math as a way to filter people out of the STEM pipeline. We need to start looking at it as a way to help more people, including professionals looking to pivot careers.
How AI Can Change How Employees Learn
How do we solve this hurdle and fill plug the pipeline? Artificial intelligence. We often discuss how AI can be used to help data efficiencies and process automation, but AI can also assist in personal tutoring to get people over the barriers of difficult math. The recently released Aida Calculus app uses AI to create a highly personalized learning experience and is the first of its kind to use a very complex combination of AI algorithms that provide step-by-step feedback on equations and then serve up custom content showing how calculus works in the real world.
While the product is important, the vision behind it is much bigger. This is a really impactful application of AI for good. It also shows that math skills can be developed in everyone and technology like AI can change the way people learn difficult subjects. The goal is to engage anyone, be it a student or working adult, who is curious about how to apply math in their daily lives. By making calculus relevant and relatable, we can begin to instill the confidence people need to take on STEM careers, even if those jobs don’t directly use calculus.
Leveraging AI Through Human Development
When people boost their complex math skills or even their general understanding of basic math concepts, there’s a world of opportunity waiting. STEM jobs outearn non-STEM jobs by up to 30 percent in some cases. A 2017 study commissioned by Qualcomm suggested that 5G will create 22 million jobs globally by 2035. The U.S. Labor Department says that IT fields will add half a million new jobs in the next eight years and that jobs in information security will grow by 30 percent. Job growth in STEM is outpacing overall U.S. job growth. At the same time, Pearson’s own Global Learners Survey said that 61 percent of Americans are likely to change careers entirely. It’s a good time for that 61 percent to consider STEM.
To equip themselves for this new economy, people will have to learn how learn. Whether it’s math or any other subject, they’ll likely need to study again, and that is hard. But we can use innovation and technology to make the tough subjects a little easier and make the whole learning experience more personalized, helping a whole generation of people take advantage of the opportunity to become the engineers, data analysts and scientists we need.