The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that we need science, technology, engineering and math more than ever. From the rapid development of the Covid-19 vaccine to new technologies, STEM has helped us overcome the various challenges posed by the global pandemic.

Most of us seem to agree. According to 3M’s Global Perception of Science Study, the State of Science Index 2021, almost all respondents in Asia-Pacific (APAC) agree that the world needs more people pursuing STEM-related careers ( 91% compared to 90% worldwide).

In addition to improving lives, the business case for developing the next generation of thinkers, leaders and creators is strong. From better R&D investment ratios to more disruptive products, companies can reap many benefits.

STEM talent pipeline

First, youth development builds a much-needed talent pool of skilled workers who bring higher productivity, innovation and competitiveness.

However, in recent years, countries have faced shortages of STEM talent and this poses challenges for companies, especially those in the STEM field.

The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) estimates that by 2025 the country’s STEM supply-demand gap will reach 569,903 engineering places; 13,964 workers in life sciences; 9,689 in physical sciences; and 13,285 in mathematics and statistics.

Fortunately, this trend is changing. The same 3M study found that two-thirds in APAC are more inspired to pursue a STEM career (66 percent vs. 60 percent globally). And 63% in the region also believe that during the pandemic, scientists and health professionals are inspiring a new generation to pursue scientific careers in the future (compared to 62% globally).

Businesses must take advantage of the growing popularity of STEM and act now to encourage more young people to pursue their education and careers in this field.

New perspectives

Second, youth development allows businesses to tap into the ingenuity and innovation of young people. Seasoned leaders already have the proven formula, but new insights are needed every now and then. Young people bring new ideas and challenge the limits of what can and cannot be done.

This trend is supported by neuroscience. Research has shown that the brain’s prefrontal cortex regulates planning and decision-making and does not mature until around the age of 25, causing young people to take more risks, which helps them learn better. learn skills faster and be more creative.

It is for this reason that many companies are launching accelerator and incubator programs, and the case challenges target young people.

Valorize the meaning of work

Employees are increasingly looking for meaningful work. A 2019 global study found that meaning and purpose were the most important aspects of work for employees. Those who found their work meaningful were also four times more likely to value their industry.

By exploring the implications of meaningful work on employees in Asia, the researchers also found that it not only had a positive impact on productivity and performance, but also encouraged employee loyalty.

By describing their purpose more clearly, companies can attract more young people to their talent pool.

Youth development programs

The case for STEM companies to support youth development is strong. But how should they do it?

3M State of Science Index results suggest the answers. Among those who believe that businesses should get involved in supporting STEM education, the main actions they want businesses to prioritize include creating resources for children to get involved in science from their earliest stages. younger age (46% vs. 44% worldwide); investing to inspire children to love science (42% vs. 39% worldwide); award grants / scholarships to under-represented students (41% vs. 43% worldwide); and accommodation programs such as internships, summer camps and workshops to help students continue their studies in STEM (40% vs. 43% globally).

3M takes these discoveries to heart. Globally, we have set new goals for youth development. We aim to create five million unique STEM and skilled trades learning experiences for underrepresented people by the end of 2025.

In Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, we launched The 3M Inspire Challenge, a regional case challenge calling on undergraduates to contribute their best ideas in technology, sustainability and innovation.

In the Philippines, one of the ways 3M supports STEM education is its recent partnership with multi-award-winning nonprofit, Mano Amiga. Together, they launched the STEM Warriors program, a virtual camp that aims to make STEM more accessible and encourage young people to take an interest in the field..

But these programs are only the tip of the iceberg. After all, as a science-based company, we have an important role to play in investing in our next generation. We want to be the catalyst for this spark and hope to encourage more businesses to join us in this effort.

Jim Falteisek is Senior Vice President of 3M Asia Corporate Affairs and Managing Director of 3M Korea.

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