Earlier this summer, US News & World Report released its 2015 STEM Index, highlighting the latest when it comes to hiring, degrees earned, and general interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
STEM is not a new topic of discussion. For years, we have been talking about the STEM fields and their importance to student success. Unfortunately, many of these discussions have been disconnected from the students themselves. Just look at the 2015 STEM Index and other recent surveys (including ERCA’s annual survey), and one sees that while STEM awareness may increase, today’s students just don’t see how it is relevant to them, their educational pursuits, and their futures.
Those connections – the linkages between the STEM demands of our economy and the STEM interests of our students – should be a top priority. Every parent needs to know what STEM disciplines interest their kids, and how those interests can be steered into postsecondary and career goals. And every teacher should know how to identify student STEM interests and how to encourage and cultivate them.
To help this process, ERCA recently established a new research consortium to ensure a strong national discussion among parents, educators, and counselors on STEM career pathways. Destination Imagination (DI), the National Girls Collaborative (NGC), and the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) are ERCA’s partners in this effort.
This consortium will work collaboratively to explore students’ aspirations toward a range of STEM careers and some of the influences on those aspirations. Feedback from students will also be compared and contrasted with trends and opportunities in STEM careers. DI, NGC, NAPE, and ERCA have agreed to a multi-year engagement that will help use the data to better prepare students for their careers ahead.
As NAPE CEO Mimi Lufkin noted at the launch of the consortium, “Increasing equity in STEM and producing a skilled workforce prepared to meet the challenges of today’s high-skill, high-tech career opportunities is of paramount importance on both the education and economic fronts. NAPE’s goal in partnering in the research consortium is to provide educators with the tools they need to increase students’ interest in pursuing and completing a STEM program or STEM-related CTE pathway. Critical to the success of this effort is ensuring equal access to STEM programs for each and every student, especially for traditionally underrepresented students, such as female students, students of color, and students with disabilities.”