Advancing STEM Education
The acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) has really started to gain traction across the globe, and while the number of students that are interested in STEM fields has increased, only 20% of the 2015 ACT-tested students are actually ready for their first-year STEM college courses. This is an unsettling statistic, especially considering that right now the number of STEM related careers is expected grow by 18.7% compared to 14.3% for all occupations.
I am fortunate to be involved in a group of like-minded individuals through STEMconnector. Together, we are trying to answer the question “how do we help elevate student readiness for the jobs of tomorrow?” While there is no silver bullet, three ideas have risen to the forefront during our conversations: Mentoring, Access and Equity, and Real-World Experience. I admit none of these things are earth shattering revelations, however they are all necessary for a student to be successful in a STEM career.
Mentoring: Anyone who has become someone in his career has had a mentor. Whether it is a parent or guardian, a teacher or a coach, everyone needs someone they can go to for advice and to help open doors for them. A mentor wants to bring out what is best in their mentee. Instead of only asking the famous “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question, mentors follow up with “what do you need to learn in order to get there?”
Equity and Access: In order to increase the number of college ready STEM students, each individual - regardless of race, gender, disability or income – must have access to a quality STEM education. An alarming 70 percent of our population is considered under-represented (non-white, non-male, or disabled) yet the majority of STEM degrees go to white-males who have at least one parent who attended college. The learning environment shouldn’t change based on where a student lives, what income level their parents make, or their race.
Real World Experience: More opportunities for students to get their hands dirty in the career they want to pursue will help inspire the next generation of innovators. With only two-thirds of those in STEM fields staying in those fields through graduation it is even more important that these students know what they are getting into before they start their college careers. Business partners that provide real-life learning environments give students a glimpse into their future. I wish I had that opportunity when I was in school!
My hope is that as the discussion around STEM education maintains momentum, the number of students that are readily prepared for this rigorous study continues to rise. With mentorship, higher levels of equity and access to education, and real-world experiences, more and more students will seek those highly coveted STEM careers. I can only imagine the possibilities for students over the next decade and beyond. What are you doing in your career to advance STEM education and talent?