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STEM Education the Building Blocks for a Well Prepared Workforce

The U.S. faces many challenges in its K-12 education system, with one of the most prominent issues today being American students falling behind in the critical subjects of math and science.
Indeed, fifty four percent of high school graduates aren’t ready for college math and lack the skills required by employers; NMSI was quoted in a recent article in McClatchy Newspapers which highlights the importance of even the most basic math skills.
At a manufacturing company in Tacoma, Washington, applicants must take a 30 minute math test with 18 questions. The company is very careful to select only high school graduates, but still only one in 10 actually the pass the test. “You could think that even for production, do you really need to know math?” said Jacey Wilkins, a spokeswoman for the Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers. “But the truth is, you do, because these jobs are incredibly complex and integrate multiple functions and systems.”
Policy makers, educators, and private sector stakeholders alike are taking notice of the STEM crisis and engaging in serious dialogue to address the American education system, workforce, and future competitiveness of the American economy.
It is evident that the STEM crisis is reaching its tipping point by the increasing number of hearings and proposed legislation related to education at the state and federal level. Just two days ago, the Congressional Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education held a hearing that specifically addressed federal STEM education programs. Some of the key themes of the discussion included:
•Creating and implementing a coherent approach that allows for complementary programs at the federal level to maximize resources;
•The need for relevant, hands-on curriculum in the classroom and the benefits of public-private partnerships in STEM education; and
•Recognition of the importance of STEM teachers in impacting students at an early age and the need for teacher training programs and professional development.
The U.S. Department of Education also held a briefing this past Wednesday on the President's Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request which highlighted the priorities for the coming years. The briefing confirmed the importance of STEM education in ensuring that students are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. The budget allocates:
•$35 million to launch a pilot program for STEM Master Teacher Corps;
•$150 million to create STEM Innovation Networks between school districts, colleges, and regional partners; and
•$80 million in the Effective Teachers and Leaders state grants to expand professional development for STEM teachers.
As Representative Carolyn McCarthy (Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education) stated in Wednesday’s hearing, education is the “building block for well-prepared workforce.” The U.S. will continue to lose its competitive edge in math and science without critical changes in its education system.
NMSI understands why STEM education is so important and knows how to achieve favorable results. Of course, it starts with effective policies, funding formulas, and teacher training programs that lead both teachers and students on the path to success.