Our world is increasingly interconnected and digitally driven, ushering in a new era of challenges and opportunities.

As technology continues to shape our present and future, meaningful investments in science, technology, engineering and math—STEM—have become indispensable for driving innovation, while safeguarding economic prosperity and national security.

Our national defense systems must adapt to rapidly increasing technological changes as we combat cyber threats, advance military technologies, and navigate emerging global conflicts. Simultaneously, the STEM workforce faces an urgent demand for highly skilled professionals to stay competitive in an era in which technology adaptation continues to grow as a key driver of business. To meet these demands, we must look to our nation’s youth, who represent future innovators and leaders who will address these challenges.

U.S. students lag behind in STEM skills and knowledge when compared to global peers, with evidence that “the U.S. has the worst-educated workforce in the industrialized world.” However, this is not for a lack of interest. A 2023 survey showed that a majority of American K-12 students are interested in STEM-related careers, including areas of critical and emerging technologies such as biotechnology or AI; but, one-third of these students say their school is not preparing them for a STEM future.

Educators agree, with nearly 40% expressing that U.S. schools are not adequately preparing students for future jobs. For example, the average American student is 15-24 weeks behind in math, a foundational competency fueling most STEM fields.

Out-of-school time (OST) learning environments are some of the best ways to address these issues and develop the talent we need to bolster our national security against evolving threats while also cultivating a resilient, inclusive and technologically adept workforce.

Here are three reasons why leaders should invest more in out-of-school learning spaces.

Read the full article about how STEM education helps the technology workforce by Ron Ottinger at Forbes.