Industry, Educators Build In-roads to Stem Success

Industry, Educators Build In-roads to STEM Success

Source: U.S. News

By: Vince Bertram (President and CEO of Project Lead the Way)

America has a crisis. First, of the 3.2 million students who earned high school diplomas this year, at least one third of those who attend college from this group will require remediation. Second, while the news is better for students earning diplomas, over 1 million students who should have graduated in 2012 did not. These underprepared and disengaged graduates and dropouts are part of a crisis in the United States. If our nation is to maintain or regain its economic and leadership status in the world, it must address the threat of poorly educated and underskilled young people.

As was noted at the recent U.S. News STEM Leadership Summit in Dallas, a crisis exists and Americans must act now to address the gap in jobs and available talent. Estimates show the U.S. will have over 1.2 million unfilled jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math by 2018. The crisis we face pits these unfilled jobs against a population that is not qualified or prepared to do them.

The data is clear. Students prepared in STEM-related disciplines enjoy higher starting salaries and lower unemployment rates than the population at large. The benefits of a quality STEM program transcend gender, ethnicity, geographic region, and education level. Many communities recognize the value of STEM education for regional economic development and are forging meaningful partnerships between schools and nonprofits as well as business and industry leaders. The time for action is now, and the work in California and Kentucky exemplifies real, scalable solutions.

Project Lead The Way, Chevron, and Linking Education and Economic Development are working together to address the STEM jobs gap in California—an issue of critical importance to Chevron, a California-based company that relies on some of the world's smartest scientists and engineers to solve the challenges facing us today and in the future. Through the partnership, Chevron aims to get kids excited about STEM fields and subjects. To that end, the company has increased student access to PLTW's project- and problem-based curriculum. Chevron's support has touched 2,500 students and more than 60 teachers with programs in more than 20 schools in the last three years. Additionally, LEED's involvement has helped teachers share successful practices and encouraged legislators to know and do more about improving STEM education. Further support has created extracurricular opportunities including the Chevron Engineering Design Challenge—a competition for student teams centered around a design problem. This collaborative effort is affecting thousands of students with incredible potential for scalable impact.

Toyota, Bluegrass Community and Technical College, the University of Kentucky, the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers, and PLTW present another example of a scalable solution addressing the STEM education and workforce needs of Kentucky. The University of Kentucky trains teachers and supports the 100+ PLTW schools in the commonwealth. Toyota actively recruits from these schools so it can access the workforce it needs. PLTW students who are recruited to Toyota enter the Advanced Manufacturing Technician program and start working toward a two-year degree on the Bluegrass Community and Technical campus, specially designed for more effective technical education. Toyota and the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers have outlined a model that not only works for Kentucky but is being expanded to other states with Toyota operations. By working together, these industry and educational leaders are meeting local and regional needs for education and economic development.

Communities can and must prepare students more effectively for both post-secondary education and workforce experiences. The examples in California and Kentucky are replicable and proven, and present a much-needed solution to America's STEM education and jobs crisis. The time for action is now. Working together to understand local and regional needs, we can deliver relevant, engaging educational opportunities. When we do this with proven programs like PLTW, students stay connected to meaningful learning and leave high school prepared to compete in the global economy.

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