STEM Education: Linking Classrooms to Careers
Over the past few years, there has been focus on mathematics and science education and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Since President Obamcame to power, it seems that almost everyone uses “how important mathematics and science education is and / or we need our children to help us create our future STEM workforce”. It seems like more resources have been put into improving mathematics and science education programs. However, with all this attention to mathematics and science, people really don’t pay attention to how and why we arrive at this point in our education and economics.
If you pay attention to the economies of the richest countries in the world; they have strong education system in which there are children excel academically in all or most disciplines. The reason why education is linked to strong economy is because with education you can have workforce that has the skills to work in your economy. When the United States has strong economy and is global leader, we have great education system. However, the condition of our current education system is that students do not graduate with skills for jobs that are currently available in our economy. There are various reasons for this, but my main theory behind this is not enough children or parents think about their future because it relates to connecting their education with their future careers.
I remember when I was growing up, I remember always knowing that I would get good grades so I could go to college and get good job. Even my peers, who don’t have aspirations to go to college, have plans in mind for career, work or business after graduating high school. However, K-12 students and parents are currently losing that connection to their education and their place in the future workforce; this disconnection occurs at all levels of social economy. So why do people ask where all the work is? The question we have to ask is do I prepare myself and my children to get jobs available in the current and future economy?
We prepare our children to be part of the future workforce in two ways; researching industry trends in the US and the global economy and encouraging them to reach academically and enhance classroom experience with extracurricular activities. In the United States and the global economy. It is true that jobs are disappearing as well as sectors, but there are sectors in the economy where there are many jobs that are not filled. The reason why jobs in some sectors are not filled is because there are no individuals with the skills and knowledge to do the work. The world is moving towards an educated workforce; which means that individuals in the future economy need to have certain expertise or knowledge base to be employed. Most jobs in this new economy will require minimum of bachelor’s degree, but there are some sectors that only require technical training. The key to ensuring that your child will get place in the future workforce is researching trends and sectors in the economy; most can be found on the department of labor and other government websites. Once you find work trends, look at academic subjects that interest your children and interest them and point them toward career paths that are part of the current and future economy. In the STEM sector, there are many jobs available now and are being created as new fields in STEM emerge every day.
The second thing we need to do is ask our children to see the relationship between what they are doing in class today and their career choices in the future. There are great benefits for students who excel academically and participate in extracurricular activities. Class scores and standard test scores are tools used to measure student achievement. Students and parents don’t have to wait until middle school to see the importance of standardized grades and exam scores. There are public policy decisions for society as whole that are made based on third grade student’s standardized test scores. In addition, your child’s educational path will be determined by their teacher and principal based on third grade exam scores as well. Therefore, parents must encourage and support academic achievement from the day your child enters school; as early as Pre-K. An environment that encourages and supports academic achievement means checking and doing homework with your child. This also includes finding tutorial support for areas of study that students can strive to ensure academic success in all fields of study. The last part of encouraging academic achievement is to be part of your child’s standardized exam preparation. There are many studies that show that when parents are an active part of their child’s education, children perform better academically.
Classrooms should not be the only place where students have learning experiences. Children must participate in extracurricular activities that support their interests and strengths. Students who are interested in mathematics and science must participate in math and science competitions and clubs. Students must also participate in summer and after school programs in their areas of interest. Finally students must participate in as many events as possible in their areas of interest such as visiting museums, attending career fairs, etc.
The great thing about education is that it is not only tool to train and equip students with skills, but to open one’s eyes to see possibilities. If we are going to have STEM workforce in the future, we not only have to give our children academically skills in mathematics and science, but allow them to see the possibility of having career in that field. The earlier our children see this relationship, the brighter their future will be.