Over the past 20 years, the workforce has undergone a dramatic shift – a shift where STEM literacy and problem-solving skills are paramount. In western Pennsylvania, where I live, an influx of jobs in technology, medicine, and cutting-edge manufacturing has completely transformed the region from the steel capital of the world into one of the top regions for STEM careers. So what’s the problem? The problem is we’re looking at a workforce pipeline crisis where 15 to 16 million jobs are going to go unfilled over the next decade. What are we doing to solve that problem? Well, educators are doing what they always seem to do – pulling up their bootstraps and doing their best to keep up with yet another change in their mission.
However, studies point to the need for additional support. Over half of students surveyed in a recent study on STEM Education in the Western PA region said they never heard of STEM* – our own informal study showed that most students think that STEM stands for Sports, Technology, Entertainment and Music – and many have no idea of the careers that are available in STEM, let alone have any knowledge that the colleges and employers who can lead them to an in-demand STEM career can be found right in their own backyard.
We have amazing teachers in our region and across the country who want more than anything to show their students how important STEM education is to their futures. Yet, studies show us that they simply don’t have the training or resources necessary to make those connections between their classroom and STEM careers.
A study by the Carnegie Science Center found that “Teachers are inexperienced with STEM and students are unprepared — Many teachers simply lack knowledge about STEM, and too few have received training.”
Parents also want to help support STEM, but don’t know enough about what STEM is, or how to encourage their children to pursue careers in those fields. In fact, 90% of parents surveyed in the region agree that their children would be more interested in STEM courses if they could participate in engaging activities.*
As a former math teacher, I know how hard it can be to answer the question of “When am I ever going to use this?” Even when I had an answer, it was a coin-toss as to whether the career I chose would inspire that student to learn, or make them even less likely to care about my class.
Additionally, education is still reeling from budget reductions over the past decade that cut programs to the bone. The same study found that many schools feel that “STEM is way too expensive to implement— Many teachers perceive STEM to be so expensive that they give up or do not reach out to the district.
One school district in Aliquippa, PA, a district with whom my company has worked with closely over the past few years echoes this same sentiment, saying, “We would love to provide more classes or after school opportunities, clubs, field trips in the STEMS fields. Unfortunately, lack of funds are a big issue.”
In response to their requests for help, STEM Jobs is announcing our new regional STEM sponsorship program. Beginning with Western PA, this program will provide colleges and employers with the opportunity to build a relationship with local high schools by providing them with the STEM Jobs resources and materials teachers are asking for to support their STEM programs.
Starting on December 9th, a limited number of schools who have asked for our help will be available to be sponsored. Colleges and employers who step up and sponsor high schools will be recognized as sponsoring partners – on the forefront of making a difference in the lives of our children – in various media events, publications, and promotions throughout the next year.
Our students are ready, but our schools need help. Are you ready to help them?
to get started.