Talk about the Internet of Everything and the mind soon starts to boggle. Gartner says 26 billion non-PC, tablet, and smartphone devices could be connected by 2020. IDATE forecasts  80 billion.

Already, around 25,000 new things are connecting to the Internet every quarter of an hour, adding up to about 30 million devices a week. This rate of growth is said to be around five times faster than the adoption of electricity or the telephone.

Clearly, an awful lot of new infrastructure will be needed to support this growth. But who is going to build the Internet of Everything?

“We need to fill 200,000 new jobs a year, or 2 million by 2022,” says Wim Elfrink, Cisco Chief Globalisation Officer and executive vice president of industry solutions.

That 2022 figure could represent around eight percent of the global IT workforce. “The biggest problem we have is how to attract talent,” Elfrink says.

Things aren’t made easier by the fact that technical skills are in short supply around the world. About 67 percent of manufacturing employers in India have problems finding labor, says Elfrink. In Brazil, the figure is 57 percent. Globally, 10 million manufacturing jobs are unfilled.

Faced with this challenge, a number of education and business leaders are taking action to promote learning in so-called STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The aim is “to reverse the global STEM crisis,” says Ellis Rubinstein, President and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences. “Almost every country has the concern that if children aren’t excited about math in schools, they won’t be prepared for the knowledge economy.”

In association with the State University of New York, or SUNY, the New York Academy of Sciences has a program where doctoral students volunteer to help 11-to-14-year-olds with math and science work after school.

The teenagers “get a role model that’s a young scientist,” Rubinstein says. “The children get a sense of the excitement of science and for the first time realize a scientist doesn’t look like Albert Einstein.”

So far the program has extended across six university campuses in New York State and New Jersey, United States. Scaling it up to a global level is problematic, though, which is why the Academy last year joined forces with Cisco to create The Global STEM Alliance.

The nation of Malaysia and the City of Barcelona in Spain joined the Alliance on its inauguration in October 2013. SUNY and the City of Buenos Aires in Argentina followed suit in November.

The Global STEM Alliance aims to build on the New York Academy of Sciences model by combining it with the education and learning programs that Cisco has developed to foster IT skills worldwide.

Cisco has a certification program that provides an industry benchmark for skills across 50 technology specializations. The program is supported by a learning network that delivers independent study tools and materials around the world.

In addition, the Cisco Networking Academy program provides blended learning tuition for IT students worldwide. Together, the Networking Academy and the Cisco Learning Network reach more than 2 million students in 195 countries.

As well as focusing this educational firepower onto the challenge of creating the Internet of Everything, Cisco is joining forces with organizations such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

A further collaboration with industrial automation leaders such as Rockwell Automation, through the Industrial IP Advantage community, is expected to yield up to 10 new certification schemes, starting with accreditations relevant to the oil and gas sector.

Delivering the technical skills needed to build the Internet of Everything would be good news for society. The infrastructure could help save 30 percent of the energy and 50 percent of the water we use, while cutting traffic congestion by 30 percent and crime by 20 percent.

In terms of the economy, says Elfrink: “We see an opportunity of USD$14.4 trillion in the private sector alone.”

Those who receive training to build the Internet of Everything will share in that economic upside. Engineers with relevant certifications will be able to command higher salaries and executives at chief information officer-level will become real brokers of innovation. 

And one thing is almost certain: they won’t have problems finding work.