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Workforce Readiness Requires Stronger STEM Education

Numerous business articles and reports share concerns that the US is falling behind in building a strong global workforce. For example, reports that the US will need to fill 3.5 million STEM jobs by 2025, with more than two million going unfilled due to a lack of highly skilled candidates, have some calling it a crisis.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics workers play a critical role in the sustained growth and stability of the US economy. STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators - all vital components of the products and processes that sustain the US economy and contribute to its ability to be a global force.

Innovation and science literacy depends on a solid knowledge base in the STEM areas and most future jobs will require a basic understanding of math and science. But, recent reports show that US students lag behind other developing countries' mathematics and science scores. So what can we do to create a strong STEM workforce?

Strengthening STEM Education

While education is not solely responsible for the county’s inability to develop a strong STEM workforce, it does provide hope. School administrators and educators can take steps to encourage students to pursue STEM subjects and better prepare them for a STEM career.

Provide Development Tools for Teachers

Quality STEM education begins with teachers who are confident and prepared, and preparation calls for proper support and resources, so teachers can engage their students in STEM.

NMSI 365 equip educators with the skills and expertise to create outstanding STEM classrooms that encourages all students to succeed. Through NMSI 365, teachers gain access to a plethora of resources including exclusive classroom resources they can immediately implement in their classrooms, engaging professional development that leaves educators feeling rejuvenated, coaches, content workshops, and so much more.

To date, we’ve served over 4,600 schools across the country, where teachers and district leaders are using their expertise to advance student achievement at all grade levels.

Develop a Framework to Engage students at an Early Age

Research indicates that young children benefit from learning STEM subjects. Furthermore, it shows that learning these disciplines play a fundamental role in building strong foundations for future learning.

Creating opportunities for hands-on, STEM-focused education in an engaging setting at an early age helps students cultivate problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, and teamwork skills that will put them on the right track to a successful career.

Ensure That STEM-Focused Education Is Equitable and Inclusive

Students’ knowledge in STEM fields is essential to build an equitable and inclusive workforce to meet the demands of a dynamic and evolving world. That means that all students have access to STEM educational options regardless of income, race, ethnicity, gender, or zip code.

The gender opportunity gap, which unfortunately begins at a young age, has been and continues to be a major contributing factor in the low number of women interested in pursuing STEM careers.

Research findings show that only 29 percent of females between seven and eleven have positive perceptions of jobs in engineering. The number continues to drop, and between girls 15 and 16, that number dips to an alarming 20 percent. In comparison, 52 percent of boys between seven and eleven and 65 percent of boys between 15 and 16 see engineering as a viable career option.

Another vital component of equitable and inclusive education is culturally responsive teaching. Not only does it offer many benefits to students, but it also addresses the systemic inequities associated with the “achievement gap.”

Practicing culturally responsive teaching in classrooms can greatly expand student employment potential and makes it possible to achieve a diverse workforce. There is ample evidence that workforce diversity delivers a competitive advantage to companies. In addition, research has shown that diverse teams are more creative, innovative, and work better together, often leading to better decision making.

A STEM education approach can help bridge ethnic, racial, and gender gaps; it can remove barriers to ensure all students can access a high-quality education.

Promote a Collaborative United Front

Teamwork among educational organizations, administrators, and policymakers is needed to prepare students for a STEM career. NMSI provides leadership development and implements vertical teaming strategies so the entire school community is aligned in delivering strong STEM education.

A united, concerted effort is especially valuable in underserved and marginalized communities that might otherwise not have access to the advantages of a STEM education and its many benefits.

Funding STEM Education Development

Of course, steps to improve STEM education require financial resources. The American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Fund (ARP ESSER) provides an infusion of federal funds to states and local school districts. While most of the funding is earmarked to diminish the negative impact of the pandemic, there may also be opportunities for STEM education.

For example, funds can support professional development, including NMSI’s Laying the Foundation and the College Readiness Program.

Deciding how to appropriate this vital asset can be confusing. To assist you, NMSI has developed a guide and companion workbook. In addition, NMSI can work with schools to build the required evidence-based plans detailing how they will allocate the money.


Building the STEM Workforce the Country Needs

There’s no question that STEM education is needed to provide the qualified workforce we so desperately need. Equipping all the stakeholders - teachers, school administrators, parents, and students - with the skills and tools to advance STEM education for all is unquestionably the best path forward. You can count on NMSI to provide you with the resources you need.