(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Opinion

Opinion: Humanities and emotional intelligence will evolve into necessities for future STEM workers

Everything is a brand. The brand for STEM workers is changing. It is starting to become more selective while gradually losing its humanity.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/shaunthomas18/" target="_self">Shaun Thomas</a>

Shaun Thomas

January 30, 2022
Everything is a brand. The brand for STEM workers is changing. It is starting to become more selective while gradually losing its humanity. It is going harder into the sciences as it develops a more competitive environment.

But is this the direction we really want to keep heading in?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution puts a lot of jobs at risk as this world evolves towards a more interdisciplinary workforce. Despite this, the amount of STEM majors is exponentially increasing and it doesn’t look like that is stopping anytime soon.

STEM salaries are also increasing due to the increasing demand, making them attractive for students. Even though many jobs will be replaced by automation, it is important to note that overall STEM fields are expected to see a net increase in jobs. However, it should be important to note that these STEM jobs are rebranded differently from what most of us know. 

Monodisciplinary STEM doesn’t work anymore because of the ongoing FIR and its acceleration due to COVID-19. Parents and educational institutions ask children whether they would choose a major in STEM or the humanities.

Why do they do this?

Many parents and schools genuinely believe that STEM students are more successful and have a higher chance of finding jobs. With the encouragement of STEM jobs, and the discouragement of jobs in the humanities, we are doomed to fail in tackling problems such as the coronavirus. By doing this, we also create a generation of STEM students who think that everything they know will automatically translate to the real-world.

Instead of setting STEM vs the Humanities against each other, we can use them more efficiently by combining their purposes in an interdisciplinary lens through some skills such as emotional intelligence.

Many STEM students don’t see the point of the humanities, especially since they want to spend more time studying material that is increasingly becoming more competitive. Why should they “waste time” studying philosophy, art, literature, or even soft sciences like psychology and sociology? Scientific writer for Scientific America, John Horgan, states that humanities gives science beauty because of their ambiguity as they don’t have STEM’s certainty.

As STEM continues to leave its mark by making our lives more sustainable, the humanities are, simply to put it, what makes us human. We question the purpose of life. Theoretically, science tells us that the purpose of our life is to biologically reproduce and survive, but the humanities challenges that and really question what our role is here in this world. A lot of us believe that we all have our own separate purposes; that’s something STEM can’t definitely answer.

The World Economic Forum predicts that Emotional Intelligence will be one of the most critical skills job employers will be looking for during the recruitment process in this post-pandemic workforce. Six years ago, it didn’t even crack the top ten. Emotional Intelligence is so important for workers because it’s one of the few skills that differentiates us from the emerging automated machines.

Believe it or not, research suggests that emotionally intelligent people tend to be more successful in the workplace than those that have higher IQs. More advanced levels of social skills, empathy and emotional awareness allow people to collaborate and connect much more efficiently. Workers and entrepreneurs with this coveted skill will be able to not only have the skills a lot of these robots will have, but also be able to understand the social dynamic, the emotional climate and both their own and others’ emotions.

Science isn’t everything. The current brand of the STEM fields isn’t sustainable enough to tackle challenges in the post-pandemic world.

When looking at this current pandemic for example, it’s not a monodisciplinary problem where we just have to tackle the virus itself. It’s understanding how masks/vaccines have been politicized, it’s understanding the marketing that companies use to sell their product along to tackle issues that the pandemic creates, it’s understanding the design that goes behind COVID tracing programs, it’s understanding socioeconomic factors that create inequality created from the unsustainable healthcare system in the United States.

This dilemma, for example, is one of many issues that are too big for solely STEM to solve. Humanities allow us to culturally study ourselves while emotional intelligence gives us that awareness when it comes to both our social skills and emotions.

Combining that with STEM, who knows how far our ceiling is for creating solutions to challenge any future global issue.  

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