Women CEOs from several US companies traveled to Capitol Hill on Monday to deliver a message to a group of female lawmakers: We’ve got science and technology jobs to fill; where are the qualified candidates? A big part of the problem, panelists agreed, is a lack of job applicants with adequate skills in STEM fields. For example, Lisa Hook, CEO of Sterling-Va-based Neustar Inc., a telecommunications company, pointed to a solution. “We need a lot of federal assistance in encouraging children to go into STEM, we need to make it accessible and available starting in the ninth grade,” she said.
Archive for STEM Careers
Massachusetts businesses that rely on workers with specific technical skills are finding that potential employees are in short supply. A lack of machinists, for example, and a dearth of mechanical engineers, are making it difficult for manufacturers to staff up. Some have observed that occupations traditionally considered “beneath” young college graduates are now requiring intelligent workers with problem-solving skills and the ability to work with their hands. “Those used to be skills that were passed down from generation to generation,” said Mary E. FitzGerald, human resources manager for Saint-Gobain Corp.’s ceramics and high performance refractory operations in Worcester, MA. “You just can’t find those skilled people anymore.”
A multi-country survey conducted by personal technology company Lenovo concludes that students in emerging countries like India, Mexico, and Russia, are significantly more likely than students in developed countries to pursue STEM careers.
The 2011 Global Student Science and Technology Outlook “[calls] attention to the differences in how students around the world view science as a career aspiration,” said Michael Schmedlen, the worldwide director of education at Lenovo. “While the study shows some interesting disparities, the outcomes suggest possible solutions for how to engage students and foster their passion for science.”
The survey reveals that students in India ranked highest (82 percent) among those who believe it’s very important for their country to lead the world in science. Mexico ranked second (81 percent) and Russia third (78 percent). In response to the same question, students in the U.S., Japan, the U.K. and Canada came in at 73, 61, 60 and 55 percent, respectively.
Students in the emerging countries also ranked highest in their intentions to pursue careers in STEM fields. Mexico came out on top, with 69 percent of students stating their wish to go into a STEM career. India and Russia weighed in at 62 and 55 percent, respectively. Compared with 54 percent of U.S. students, and 42 and 35 percent of the students surveyed from the U.K. and Japan, the developing countries would appear to be positioning themselves for earning an edge in the sciences down the road.
A glimmer of hope: the vast majority of the students surveyed indicated the opinion that science is “cool.” The disparity between this majority and the relative dearth of students with STEM career aspirations in the U.S. is where the rubber meets the road. Whether due to lack of confidence, to the perceived strenuous demands of higher education in the sciences, or to another unidentified factor, students in the U.S. are overwhelmingly hesitant to act upon the enjoyment they got from STEM subjects during their K-12 education.
According to Lenovo’s Schmedlen, “…programs like our partnership with YouTube Space Lab will do this by providing world-class judges as mentors along with phenomenally cool incentives like astronaut training and technology prizes.”
Programs like science fairs inspire and reward students, too!
Community colleges from across the nation are recognizing the need to spark students’ interest in STEM subjects early in their education as a way of enticing them into science-, technology-, engineering-, and math-related professions.
Science fairs, STEM-focused summer camps, and specialized teacher training are among the opportunities made available by community colleges to students and teachers interested in pursuing STEM subjects. Central Community College in Nebraska, for example, has a program called Project SHINE (Shaping High-quality Integrated Nebraska Education) that has both a teacher-training component and a STEM summer camp for 9th and 10th graders. Project SHINE director Dan Davidchik says that he has noticed “tremendous changes in the way teachers connect STEM with what goes on in business and industry.”
The “WOW Initiative,” a new Massachusetts-wide campaign to raise awareness among students in the state of the numerous and varied career opportunities in STEM fields, features 15 inaugural honorees. Among them: Meteorologist Mish Michaels, Red Sox Statistician Bill James, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute Researcher Amy Kukulya. These three, along with a dozen other “WOWsters” — professionals with interesting careers in STEM fields — are featured in the colorful poster below. (View PDF)
The California State University (CSU) system is looking to graduate more students with majors in STEM disciplines — a reponse, administrators say, to concerns about the quality of the U.S. labor force. One aspect of CSU’s initiative: a focus on service learning. “It brings STEM to life in a meaningful way,” said Judy Botelho, CSU’s director of the Center for Community Engagement.
On a percentage basis, fewer African-Americans are earning degrees in STEM subjects today than at any other point in the last decade. What’s behind the declining numbers? While the U.S. currently is not known for churning out as many STEM professionals as it used to, there is a particularly notable dearth of new mathematicians, engineers, and scientists among African-Americans.
A study conducted by Georgetown University shows that 65% of people with bachelor’s degrees in STEM subjects make larger salaries than those with master’s degrees in non-STEM subjects. Holders of STEM certificates are sitting pretty, as well; many earn more than people with non-STEM degrees.
MSSEF’s Curious Minds Initiative offers three courses that form the STEM Certificate in Inquiry. Curious Minds builds on nearly six decades of experience and success with more than 28,000 students in Massachusetts. Developed in collaboration with the Education Development Center (EDC), the STEM Certificate in Inquiry is offered in partnership with Framingham State University.
Funded by seed money from the STEM Advisory Council, Massachusetts’ “WOW Initiative,” announced by Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray at Tuesday’s STEM Summit, aims to increase awareness among students of career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. It celebrates 15 “WOWsters” — local professionals applying STEM skills, including Red Sox statistician Bill James and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute researcher Amy Kukulya. This video introduces the WOWsters.