Turning STEM into STEAM Can Turn Grads into Employed Adults


Recently I talked about something that is probably hitting home hard for a lot of you right now: sending kids and grandkids off to college. My son, Devin, has started at the University of Missouri – Science and Technology, and even though Devin is my third child, practice doesn’t make this process any easier. Letting go is tough. All you can do is trust that the examples you’ve set will point your kids in the right direction.

Still, if you want to send a freshman out the door with one last bit of good advice, try slipping STEAM into the conversation, especially if your child is undecided about a major. You’ve probably heard how STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and math – represent the biggest growth areas in business, and the biggest needs in the workforce. But adding that A, for art, is a relatively new phenomenon that could attract a whole new group of millennials to available, higher-paying jobs out of college.

So how can STEAM keep a 22-year-old struggling to “adult” out of your future, and your basement?

1. STEAM is growing – fast.

According to the US Department of Education, the number of STEAM jobs will grow 14% by 2020, which outpaces all other fields by 5-8% on average. It sounds crazy, considering how much of our lives revolve around computers and the internet, but programming and IT jobs are the ones that top companies are having the hardest time filling. There are so many vacant tech jobs in the US right now that the federal government continues to extend work visas for foreign STEAM students and recent grads.

Companies are fighting tooth and nail to get the best STEAM people on their teams, even outside of Silicon Valley. I can tell you from experience that a good STEAM background is very valuable in the financial advisory field. Our team at Keen Wealth is well-versed in math, financial modeling, data analytics, and econometrics. We are also well-versed in “connecting the dots” between the moving pieces of the economy and our clients’ plans – crafting a comprehensive financial plan is also an art. STEAM skills are a big boost to the services we offer our clients, and it’s the same story in many other industries too.

These are jobs – real, paying, JOBS – and yet we don’t have enough college grads to fill them!

2. The (A)rt of learning.

So why aren’t more millennials flocking to STEAM and its exploding job sector? The Department of Education thinks that not enough of our kids have access to quality science and math programs when they’re in high school, and so they don’t understand how their algebra and chemistry classes can lead to lucrative careers. Despite progress, lots of schools and families haven’t eliminated old gender biases that dissuade young girls from excelling in these subjects. This might also be one of those areas where we parents aren’t always the best example.

But perhaps adding an art component to STEM gives more students an “in,” especially those who might not flock to science and math outright. Anyone who has ever held an iPhone knows that design and the tech behind it go hand-in-hand. Tomorrow’s successful artists are going to paint in digital bits. Their canvasses are going to be websites, apps, and the next generation of must-have tech. Turning STEM into STEAM will help creative young people appreciate what goes into making the things they love and rely on, and find a place for their own interests and talents in exciting new careers.

3. #Adulting made easier.

At Keen Wealth, we try to limit surprises for our clients in retirement, and make informed decisions about what we can control. Time and time again, this has proven to be a reliable approach to successful retirement planning.

Few 18-year-olds are thinking that far into the future; some aren’t even thinking four years into the future. But I believe that a strong STEAM background can provide the same kind of safety net for young adults that we try to provide retirees. That’s because even though we don’t know what the economy will look like in the next few years, we can still plan effectively by thinking critically and creatively.

I don’t know what Devin’s long-term plans are, and from the talks we’ve had, I’m not sure Devin does either! And that’s great! I want the next four years to shape him in ways that surprise us both. But I’m proud that he’s already plotted one important coordinate towards a successful future.

About Bill

Bill Keen: College graduates with a strong STEAM background are going to have a leg-up in their job searches.

Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 24 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.

Keen Wealth Advisors is a Registered Investment Adviser. Nothing within this commentary constitutes investment advice, performance data or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Keen Wealth Advisors manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed here. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

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