11 Jul





 min read

The STEM Skills Gap and How Video Games Combat It

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With an exponential growth of technological advances, it’s guaranteed that workers will need to utilize new tools to make use of new technology. The skills that allow them to learn how to use these new tools are known as STEM skills. This has led to the STEM skills gap, where the demand for workers with adept STEM skills have become much higher than the supply of workers who have those STEM skills. In this article, we’ll explain what STEM skills are and their constituents, why the STEM skills gap exists and is getting worse, and how video games can help kids acquire STEM skills at an early age.

What Are STEM Skills?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Together, they represent a class of both school curricula and work sectors that require knowledge in these subjects. Therefore, STEM skills are the knowledge and capabilities to be successful both in school and in the workforce under those four subjects.

,STEM skills are divided into hard and soft skills. Hard skills are the explicit knowledge of the content within those four subjects. For example, knowing how to perform calculus or code in Java would be categorized into hard skills. On the other hand, soft skills are the abilities required to both learn and utilize hard skills. It includes ,the analytical skills to research new technological advancements, as well as the ability to identify problems and test/retest theoretical solutions. Lesser known STEM skills (but just as important) are the skills to work within a group, including leadership skills, communication skills, as well as social emotional learning.

Why Is The STEM Skills Gap Worsening?

Using a Factory Model of Education

Source: Pexels

The factory model of education originates from the industrial revolution, where factories ran rampant, which naturally required an influx of skilled workers. Because factories were widely known to be the most efficient way to mass-produce consumer products, developers of school curricula thought they could create the same environment in education to create large influxes of workers.

They saw teachers as workers who would assemble and mass “produce” students into factory workers themselves. This would consist of teachers having classrooms with more than a hundred students, all being taught in the exact same way, as well as being tested in very standardized, easy-to-access methods to gauge their fit for the outside world.

One consequence of the factory model of education is an overreliance on using rote memorization as the primary method of learning, as it was the easiest method of education. All teachers needed to do is to present the information that all students needed to memorize.

The problem with exclusively using memorization in education is that it doesn’t demand or encourage deeper critical thinking beyond memorization. It also fails to teach them any processes of research and problem solving, skills that are required in STEM today.

Thankfully, the modern day US education system has mostly evolved past the factory model. However, the consequences of having a system in the first place still remain, as, the US recently ranked 38th in math and 24th in science despite being one of the most developed countries in the world.

Development of Technology Outpaces Training

The development of technology is exponentially speeding up. On the other hand, development of school curricula to encourage STEM skills are slow in comparison due to the above mentioned fixation towards memorization in learning. This leads to an overabundance of new jobs that require expertise in new technologies, but not enough graduates to fill said jobs.

Even current workers are having difficulty keeping pace with the rapid development of technology. As new technology is developed, current technology becomes obsolete, or is automated, leading to a STEM skills gap even among those who are already educated. Even though they could take the time to research new technology, the lack of STEM skills stemming from the factory model of education makes it difficult to adapt.

How Can Video Games Help Fill The STEM Gap?

Source: Pexels

Although we often attribute STEM skills with older youths, STEM skills for kids are just as fundamental to their development. While it’s true that League of Legends can’t teach you calculus, they provide another, arguably more important function: it encourages you to develop your own process in learning complex subjects like calculus.

Winning or losing a match in an online game takes a myriad of factors. Say that you just lost a League of Legends match. While there’s plenty of learning to be done during the match, due to the complexity of the game, no player will be able to identify every single reason why they lost. To mitigate this problem, a player can also watch the VOD (or replay) of the game to identify even more mistakes to correct for the future.

To watch and learn from a VOD takes a lot of attention and skill, including their fundamental knowledge for the game, as well as a process to identify, note down and internalize the information they picked up. Additionally, they also need to be able to take the internalized information and to utilize their new found knowledge in subsequent games in order to improve.

While the raw information itself won’t prove useful in STEM-related education and jobs, their learned method, process and discipline in improving at the game can easily transfer to study methods designed for long term growth instead of short term memorization. This doesn’t even include other, socially related STEM skills that online games will also develop since teamwork is an imperative factor to winning games.

It is because of all these similarities between learning games and learning STEM skills that earned Vanta Leagues a STEM accreditation from STEM.org. If your child is interested in video games, rest assured that playing a healthy amount while encouraging a learning process will lead to a career’s worth of growth. Vanta Leagues also offers both team and private coaching that encourages the development, utilization and maintenance of STEM skills through the learning of video games

Carlson is an ongoing League of Legends coach, writer and streamer at Vanta Leagues. With a Psychology and Counseling background, he hopes to highlight the mental benefits of team video games in his writing, as well as having a healthy mindset when playing ranked games.

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