The U.S. will have more than 1.2 million job openings in STEM-related fields by 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and, unfortunately, there will be a significant shortage of qualified college graduates to fill them. Why do we keep underperforming on what should have been our core skills by now? Microsoft conducted two online national surveys (carried out by Harris Interactive) of college students currently pursuing STEM degrees and of parents of K–12 students. The goal of the surveys was to gain insight about what can better prepare and inspire students to pursue post-secondary education in STEM subjects.

A look at some  key findings:

  • Although most parents of K–12 students (93 percent) believe that STEM education should be a priority in the U.S., only half (49 percent) agreed that it actually is a top priority for this country.
  • Even though many parents (50 percent) would like to see their children pursue a STEM career, only 24 percent are extremely willing to spend extra money helping their children be successful in their math and science classes.
  • Nearly four in five STEM college students said they decided to study STEM in high school or earlier (78 percent). One in five (21 percent) decided in middle school or earlier.
  • More than half (57 percent) of STEM college students said that before going to college, a teacher or class got them interested in STEM (20 percent).
  • Only one in five STEM college students felt that their K–12 education prepared them extremely well for their college courses in STEM.

As part of its corporate citizenship approach, Microsoft has made significant investments in STEM education. You can find the company’s press release here.