Colin Macilwain wields too wide a brush in painting US federal funding of STEM education (for promoting 'science, technology, engineering and mathematics') as having the sole purpose of bolstering the workforce (Nature 497, 289; 2013). This funding also achieves general science literacy, particularly when it is directed towards children in primary and secondary education or undergraduate students.
No matter how far they are pushed, most teens and young adults will not become scientists. Fortunately, many STEM programmes familiarize students with the scientific process and with the natural world. Learning fundamental concepts also teaches them how to interpret and handle scientific information.
Science literacy subsequently benefits individuals throughout their lives, from forming opinions about proposed government policies to making health-care decisions. A well-informed citizenry, in turn, pays dividends to society as a whole.