Advancing STEM, Advancing Europe




We need to do a much, much better job of ensuring that education programs are well-informed by and aligned with the needs of the modern workforce. The term “STEM education” cannot just mean the four S-T-E-M subjects, but must in fact represent the myriad of different fields and skills that are required by the best jobs in the global technological economy. If we want to keep up with our global competitors, we must set up our engagement in questions of STEM education policy. Roll up those sleeves, Congress. Our future depends on it.

James Brown, Executive Director of the STEM Education Coalition, USA

Many economists seem to agree that effectively educating the youngest generations in new scientific and technological advancements is the key for re-establishing, if not retaining, global industrial competitiveness, which Europe lost as a result of the industrial slowdowns and market erosions experienced during the recent economic crisis.

But what is really the right path to regain European industrial leadership within the 2020 Horizon, or H2020 deadline?

In many ways, the push for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education appears to have grown drastically, from an initial tactical concern for the low number of future professionals that will be able to fill specific technical jobs and careers available today, to becoming the cornerstone for Europe’s future economic and educational competitiveness in all fields.

In a nutshell, the “Integralist” proponents for a stronger STEM educational foundation in Europe believe that by increasing maths and science requirements in schools of all grades and types, along with infusing technology and engineering concepts into the early stages of learning and across many more subjects throughout a student’s life span, we will prepare Europe’s  youth to perform better in the future world.

One of the fields most strongly advocating the need to improve the average STEM literacy in Europe is Manufacturing, a sector which has always been an important source of economic development and growth for the region. The economic significance of Manufacturing goes far beyond its contribution to the GDP, for which the European Commission has put forward a target of 20%. In fact, the manufacturing industry in the European Union is worth an estimated € 7.000 billion, and it provides jobs for over 30 million people directly (not to mention is also the source of twice as many jobs indirectly).

However you believe the STEM relevance axiom to be true, the future world Europe’s Youth will face will be one rapidly advancing in the midst of the 4th Industrial Revolution, a world where innovative technologies with a strong scientific foundation, such as 3D Printing, Cyber Physical Manufacturing and the Internet of Things, will demand those joining the workforce in the next decades to have a much stronger STEM foundation than was ever required of the first generation to enter the labor market during the onset of the Digital or Internet Revolution, which was markedly more interdisciplinary and abstract.

Last year, the contribution of Manufacturing to EU GDP declined to 15.1%. To be able to reverse this trend and start an Industrial Renaissance in Europe, the sector must commit to far more investment in innovation, technologies and skills (Source: Daniel Calleja, Advancing Manufacturing Advancing Europe).

In a nutshell Europe’s needs the same effect that awakened the American Space Industry soon after the launch of the Sputnik by the Soviet Union in the 60s. That of a challenge to STEM educational innovation. One that, if lost, may endanger our working species for decades to come.

The word “innovation,” which has hence become the contemporary manufacturing industry’s linchpin, can and will keep this highly-charged industry from falling off its axle in western economies. That is the reason why STEM education holds the key to manufacturing survival in Europe. Yet in order to make STEM education effective, educators also have to become more aware of the technological advancements that have shaped the young generations and better educated about today’s digitally-enamored students. They must adapt their teaching methods and learning approach to better reach and relate to their students.

In summary, in order to regain and subsequently maintain its significance, the European industry needs STEM education to advance and innovate. And furthermore, in order for the industrial field to attract the best students and stay relevant to the newer generations, STEM education needs modernization. Preparing for a career in manufacturing is no longer based on following the education standards created 50 years ago.

“It is a balance of reskilling some of the people they have in-house, and changing the profile of the people they recruit, and the way in which they recruit,” says Russ Rasmus, Managing Director for Manufacturing at Accenture Strategy. “Before, firms were more manual labor-focused. Now, people are working on machinery which needs manual skills plus digital skills. It’s very computerized – operators need to be able to analyze data and adjust machinery based on what they see.”

Many in the field of technology enhanced learning have already taken the field of  STEM education to trial their solutions and have  already showcased how  STEM concepts may be taught in innovative simulations, games and  performance support scenarios. The believed benefits of doing so are that as a result, as students experience real world problems, they make more connections to STEM fields and the ever-changing workforce, sparking their interest in STEM fields. Creating these links earlier in students’ educational careers could potentially result in an increased number of students entering into fields associated with STEM after graduation.

As William Swanson, Chairman and CEO of Raytheon, said at a Massachusetts’ STEM Summit last fall, “Too many students and adults are training for jobs in which labor surpluses exist and demand is low, while high-demand jobs, particularly those in STEM fields, go unfilled.”

Other Western educational systems have also recognized this challenge and are rapidly expanding their investment in STEM education innovation.

According to a recently released study from Change the Equation, an organization that supports STEM education in the United States, there are 3.6 unemployed workers for every 1 job in the United States. That compares with only 1 unemployed STEM worker for every 2 unfilled STEM jobs throughout the country.

Many STEM-related jobs are going unfilled simply for lack of people with the right skill sets available on the labor market. Even with more than 13 million Americans unemployed, the manufacturing sector cannot find people with the necessary skills to take nearly 600,000 unfilled jobs, according to a study last fall by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte. The hardest jobs to fill were skilled positions, including well-compensated blue collar jobs such as machinists, operators, and technicians, as well as engineering technologists and scientists.

In 2009, the Manufacturing Institute in US launched the cornerstone of manufacturers’ answer to the skill gap challenge – the NAM-endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System (SCS)  that provides a voice for the industrial sector and the necessary expertise in leveraging change and helping schools provide competency-based, customized education and training calibrated against the skill standards of the industry.


One key point for improving STEM educational efficiency is to measure the impact and outcome of innovative STEM  educational approaches within national curricular redesign programs.

By using Learning Analytics, which seek to capture data regarding educational efficiency and effectiveness, national policy makers can monitor and fine-tune their STEM literacy appraisal strategies. Learning Analytics enable educational decision and policy makers to evaluate the real benefits and return on STEM‐specific educational plans and strategies.

This is achieved by measuring STEM-specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), monitoring how students perform into newly designed STEM curricula.

In particular, the   STEM-specific KPIs used to measure the Return On Investment (ROI) of regional or national investment policies in STEM educational programs may be the following:

  1. Improved attitudes toward STEM-related fields and careers, indicated by:
    1. Increased enrollment and interest in STEM‐related courses in school
    2. Continued participation in STEM programs
    3. Increased self‐confidence when tackling science classes and projects
    4. Shift in attitude about careers in STEM-related fields or industries
  1. Increased STEM knowledge and skills, indicated by:
    1. Increased STEM test scores, as compared to non‐participants in STEM programs
    2. Increased knowledge about STEM-related fields and careers
    3. Increased computer and technology skills
    4. Increased general knowledge of scientific subject matter
    5. Increased skills in communication, teamwork and analytical thinking, as compared to skills of 20th century students
  1. A higher likelihood of pursuing a STEM-related field and career after graduation, indicated by:
    1. A higher rate of high school graduation
    2. A higher rate of pursuing college/university study after high school and a higher rate of selecting STEM-related majors and courses of study in college/university

LACE ( is the new European Learning Analytics Community Exchange Initiative funded by the European Commission which aims to identify, promote and expose the use of Learning Analytics in K-12 and higher education as well as in industry training.

sedApta Group ( is a new European IT organization that specializes in supporting the development of innovative IT solutions and startups for manufacturing IT. sedApta’s mission is the advancement of smart manufacturing and the manufacturing eco-system, as well the design, development and positioning of a competitive European IT offering for manufacturing into the global market.

Skillaware is one of sedApta’s newcos, specifically designed to achieve the blending of innovative performance support and learning analytics for optimizing the support and performance of contemporary manufacturing workforces whilst using new IT processes and tools. By leading the Manufacturing Workplace Learning WorkPackage 5 in LACE, sedApta Group is committed to detect, highlight and promote best practices worldwide, exposing data in order to achieve innovation, efficiency and effectiveness in STEM education.

If you have a case study, experiment or evidence case relating to analytical data and KPIs to report and expose STEM innovation in general and/or related to Industry and Manufacturing, please send your report to the LACE website with the “workplace learning” tag, or write to Fabrizio Cardinali, WP5 Project Manager,  at

Advancing STEM, Advancing Europe

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About Author

Fabrizio Cardinali is one of the EU's leading technology enhanced learning solutions entrepreneurs and interoperability standards experts. After helping to start, position and sell several learning technologies companies world wide (e.g. Giunti Labs, eXact Learning NA in the US and Harvestroad Hive in Australia), Fabrizio is today CEO of Skillaware ( a new generation Performance Support & Learning Analytics solution for workforce training and engagement during the roll out of new software platforms and procedures. The Skillaware innovative design is natively based on open standards interoperability such as XAPI, DITA and BPMN. Fabrizio leads the Work Package 5 of the LACE project, dedicated to the promotion and awareness of the use of learning analytics solutions and standards in workplace learning and performance support scenarios.