Getting students on the path to a STEM degree

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Last week I wrote about the problem of producing enough STEM graduates to fill jobs and keep the US competitive. According to Department of Labor‘s Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM fields have the greatest potential for job growth in the 21st century and will make higher wages. Today, let’s talk about what we can do as professionals and parents to get our kids on a path to economic competitiveness.

Educate yourself as a parent.  Frequently, parents with no background in STEM fields are not aware of the opportunities in those areas, and consequently do not educate their kids in the vast careers available in those areas.  If your child shows interest in math or science, it’s time to read up on the different career paths available.  Does your child want to be a mechanical or civil engineer? What about a career in nanotechnology, biomechanics or astrophysics?  The choices are endless and if you are not prepared to talk to your son or daughter about a career in this field, talk to your high school guidance counselor and ask them to refer you to someone who can.  You can also check out STEMCareer.com, a great resource that help explains what STEM fields are, why it’s great to pursue a career in one of these fields and lists out some of the top STEM careers.

Talk to your school district about what they are doing to promote math and science at school and what steps they are taking to encourage students to participate in these fields.  The Mineola Union-Free School District has overseen a project involving the distribution of iPads to fifth graders to extend access to educational resources in general but also specifically to encourage interest in science and math.  Matt Gaven, director of pupil personnel services, said, “Students and parents involved with the pilot program reported that the students’ interest in school increased dramatically. This was especially so in science and math.”

On a business level, talk to your local high school.  Ask them what they are doing to promote these fields and if you can help, do so.  Get involved with local programs, let high school students tour your office and “work” with you for a day.  Mentor a local high school or college student, even if it’s just providing support and encouragement.

On a national level, you can support the President’s efforts to encourage growth in these sectors.  Obama has set a goal of preparing more than 100,000 math and science teachers and training a million additional math, technology, engineering and science graduates over the next decade. Call your senators and your congress representatives.  Let them know how important education is in these fields to our nation’s growth.