Why STEM fields are critical to our future workforce needs.

January 24, 2018 Sheila Buttery

As a scientist, I can’t imagine a world that isn’t powered by science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. It’s like asking me to live in a world that stands still – one where we don’t move forward or advance.

That’s not the kind of world I want the next generation to inherit.

We know Canada’s future workforce needs skilled workers educated in STEM fields. Yet more and more, we see that interest in these disciplines is declining. To make sure today’s youth have the tools to solve tomorrow’s problems, we need to show them the value of pursuing STEM fields now.

That’s why programs like Canada 2067 are so critically important.

Watch what happened when we met up with over 200 Vancouver students, to explore STEM in schools and how it will power Canada’s future workforce needs.

In the 3M Lab, our scientists and engineers use our diverse STEM backgrounds to collaborate and harness our 46 technology platforms. We create solutions to problems and improve the businesses, homes, and lives of people across the globe. For us, it’s about finding new ways to make a positive impact on the world.

This could mean building with materials that are lighter, but not weaker. It could mean making better use of energy and resources. Or, it could mean doing the same activities, but with less waste.

But, technologies are just tools. We can’t make a positive impact without people who have the skills required to use them.

Why business needs to be powered by STEM fields.

That’s where STEM fields come in.

Training in these disciplines teaches us to ask “why.” STEM fields give us a framework to break things down and figure out how they work. We can then use our STEM learnings to put things together in a new way, a more efficient way, a more sustainable way, or an unexpected way.

For example, when developing new materials, there are so many opportunities to make an impact. We think about the desired physical properties, the performance tolerances, and the ingredients we can use. We also consider the manufacturing process, the need for energy and resources, and the sustainability of those supplies. Every element gives us a new opportunity to think differently.

Our training in STEM fields gives us the critical skills to deliver these solutions today. And, they are what our future workforce needs to continue to deliver tomorrow.

“We need people that can think scientifically, go out, critically appraise a bunch of evidence, synthesize it, arrive at their own informed decision. That’s the type of public that we need if we’re going to be a successful society, a society that overcomes challenges like climate change.”
Dr. Jennifer Gardy
Senior Scientist, British Columbia Center for Disease Control
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia

Canada 2067: driving the skills our future workforce needs.

While the demand for STEM trained workers is on the rise, interest in pursuing those disciplines continues to decline.

Seventy per cent of the careers that Canada is going to offer our youth will require STEM education.1 But, only 37% of Canadian students (ages 16-18) are interested in pursuing STEM in post-secondary education.2

As today’s leaders, we need to understand why interest is dropping, and why students don’t want to engage. That’s why programs like Canada 2067, that engage students in a meaningful conversation about STEM fields, are so powerful.

At the first Canada 2067 Regional Youth Event in Vancouver, I saw firsthand the spark ignite for students as they imagined what was possible for their future, what they might be able to create.

By mentoring tomorrow’s leaders, we can help take some of the intimidation out of STEM pursuits and let them see that a STEM career is within reach.

Learn how 3M is encouraging STEM learning.

A brighter future is within reach with a strong STEM workforce. 



1: http://www.letstalkscience.ca/Portals/0/Documents/RPS/Spotlight/SpotlightOnScienceLearning-2013.pdf

2: http://www.letstalkscience.ca/Portals/0/Documents/RPS/Spotlight/Science_Learning_Booklet_web_version.pdf


About the Author

Sheila Buttery

[enBio=For Sheila Buttery, no two days are the same. As a scientist in regulatory affairs, she does everything from working on policies with the Canadian government, to building compliance systems with global IT technicians. The wide scope of her job has given Sheila unique insight into 3M’s research and development community, and how the company responds to emerging trends. A firm believer in the power of collaboration and science, Sheila served a two-year term as the 3M Canada Tech Forum Chair, helping to connect the company’s technical community across Canada and around the world.],[enJob=Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate, 3M Canada],[frBio=Scientifique de formation en affaires réglementaires, elle s’occupe de tout, que ce soit l’élaboration de politiques avec le gouvernement du Canada ou la réalisation de systèmes de conformité avec des techniciens de TI à l’échelle mondiale.],[frJob=Responsable principale de la réglementation, Compagnie 3M Canada]

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