Editorial: To boldly go and get a job

Parents who gripe about the lethargy of their teenaged offspring should be glad they aren’t working for NASA.

The progeny of a giant team of scientists has spent over two weeks on the surface of the planet Mars, and just a few days ago got around to doing one of the chief things it was designed to do: firing a laser at rocks.

“Whoopee,” you might think. Well, the scientists who spent about eight years developing the laser attached to the “Curiosity” Mars rover that will help us understand the composition of Martian rocks think it’s pretty cool. And the rest of us should, too.

In its quest to better explore the universe, NASA has come up with some pretty good ideas. Scratch-resistant glasses lenses, memory foam, water filters and cordless tools are the kind of everyday items that had their beginnings with the space program. Progress requires innovation.

Of course, the backstory we’re reminded of every time NASA does anything spectacular (like blast a 1-ton dune buggy some 60 million miles through space to blow up a rock with lasers) is how badly the agency is starved for money and how this could very well be the very last “cool space thing” the country ever does.

That is indeed a big problem, perhaps an insurmountable one even, but all the money in the universe won’t mean diddly if there is no one equipped to use it.

We speak, of course, of brain drain. Well, that isn’t really the correct term for it. Our workforce educated for technically demanding jobs in the world of tomorrow isn’t leaving — it just doesn’t exist.

Consider: According to a study conducted by Change the Equation, a group that supports STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, there are 3.6 unemployed workers for every job in the United States. But for STEM-educated workers, there actually exists a surplus of jobs — two for every worker.

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