In the next decade, there’s an anticipated shortage of skilled STEM workers. In fact, an estimated two million jobs in STEM fields are expected to go unfilled. It’s no wonder then that the House of Representatives recently made a unanimous decision to approve a bill to help bolster the STEM workforce.

This legislation supports education and workforce development programs in STEM fields, authorizing grants to expand and improve two-year STEM degree and certificate programs, apprenticeships and other pathways into rapidly-evolving STEM fields. The bill directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide awards to academic institutions for innovative approaches to STEM education and related workforce development programs in hopes of strengthening the workforce pipeline

The bill also requires NSF to conduct research to improve our understanding of the skilled technical workforce, comparing and contrasting workforce development between the United States and other developed countries.

According to an article by Sue Bickford at Directions Magazine, research shows that the return on investment in technical skills in the labor market are strong when students successfully complete their training and gain credentials sought by employers. Bickford notes that “the integration of academic education, technical training and hands-on work experience improves outcomes and return on investment for students in secondary and post-secondary education, and for skilled technical workers in different career stages.”

The United States requires a workforce with the right skill set to meet the diverse needs of the economy in order to remain globally competitive, foster greater innovation and provide a foundation for shared prosperity.

According to James Brown, executive director, STEM Education Coalition on the Innovations in Mentoring, Training, And Apprenticeships Act, “Our economy is demanding more technical skills at every level and federal agencies need to respond more aggressively to emerging workforce needs. This bill moves us forward in that direction.”