The US economy is growing.
The stock market has soared.
And the technology sector is thriving.
But one major group of workers is doing a little less well.
According to a recent study by the US Government Accountability Office, about 8% of the US workforce is unemployed.
That’s up from 5% a decade ago.
The problem, says Steven Mufson, the GAO’s deputy director, is that many of these jobless Americans don’t have a high-paying job in the first place.
It’s the same problem many Americans have faced in recent decades: They’ve lost their jobs.
That includes people who were laid off from manufacturing, retailing, or service industries, or who lost their job in sectors like retailing or healthcare.
And those workers are disproportionately young, black, and male.
But it turns out that this group has something to worry about, too: Many of these people are in STEM fields, which involve building, operating, and maintaining computers and other computers.
In addition to engineering, STEM fields include computer science, statistics, and mathematics.
These jobs aren’t as glamorous as, say, a corporate secretary, but they’re essential to the health of the economy.
“There’s this disconnect between STEM and the rest of the job market,” Mufsey says.
STEM fields have long attracted students from the humanities, like Shakespeare and history, and business, like manufacturing and accounting.
The US has an exceptionally high percentage of STEM students: A 2016 study by Oxford University found that just 3% of college-age adults between the ages of 18 and 29 did not have a college degree.
That means that, overall, more than 60% of Americans hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
(The US has the highest proportion of STEM majors among advanced economies: China, India, and South Korea come in second.)
“You have this big population that has this incredible demand for STEM work,” says Paul Pfeifer, the president of the Association for Computing Machinery, which advocates for the advancement of computer science and math.
In the late 1990s, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) launched a national STEM literacy campaign, which targeted colleges and universities with large numbers of students who lacked a college diploma.
“It was very clear to the teachers that, as a society, we needed to do more to help students who had very little education,” Pfeiffer says.
That led to the launch of the National STEM Challenge, a national competition that aims to raise STEM literacy rates among students.
And over the past decade, there’s been a massive increase in STEM training and education.
In 2015, the US Department of Education began paying students from more than 150 colleges and colleges and technical schools a stipend to help them complete STEM-related courses, or to earn degrees in STEM subjects.
(This year, the federal government is giving $10,000 to $25,000 annually for students to take courses in engineering, biology, chemistry, physics, and computer science.)
The new funding has led to some notable changes: Schools are now required to have labs with labs for students with disabilities, which are increasingly becoming common in the US.
And schools are starting to hire more STEM teachers.
“We’ve gone from having a very low number of teachers in STEM education to a number that’s very high,” Pefile says.
As for the issue of sexism in STEM, Pfeife says it’s something that needs to be addressed by education policy, not just by the government.
“I think it’s important to take these things seriously,” he says.
And, he adds, “We need to do something about it.”
For now, the focus has been on ensuring that young women in STEM don’t get left behind.
But for now, some of the most prominent advocates of STEM education are making a different tack: The White House is launching an initiative to make college more affordable for students.
This is a move aimed at ensuring that low-income students, including women, can go to college.
In an email to ThinkProgress, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said, “At a time when we are dealing with an epidemic of student debt and other burdens on our country, college is one of the best investments we can make to help those who need it most.”
The initiative includes an array of initiatives that could help low- and middle-income Americans afford to attend college.
It includes extending Pell Grants to students with incomes up to $60,000 per year, expanding the eligibility for federal student loans, and boosting Pell Grants for students who want to work toward graduate degrees in engineering or computer science.
But there’s also a new initiative called “Build Our Future” that aims at providing grants to colleges and other institutions to make sure that their graduates are prepared to make a career in STEM.
The initiative is aimed at helping young women and girls take STEM courses, even if they’re not interested in a career as a