In a rapidly changing world, the need for effective, high-quality STEM education has never been greater.
As we rush to keep up with a changing energy and employment landscape, and the growing influence of robotics and A.I.,a practical knowledge of STEM concepts will become critical for everyone in the developed world. Systems analysts, software developers, biomedical scientists and engineers—these are the roles of the tech-driven future.
Over the next decade, an estimated 80% of jobs will require STEM skills of some kind. In North Carolina alone, there are currently over 400,000 STEM-related jobs, and an estimated 70,000 more will appear by 2020. At both the state and national level, STEM education is the underpinning of our health, our economy, and our democracy. From vaccines and obesity, to energy production and environmental policy, issues related to STEM pervade our country, and our world.
Governments, industries, and heroic educators are working hard to meet the challenge. Top-down and bottom-up initiatives have done much to help students across North Carolina, and countrywide. But there is still much work to be done. Unfortunately, more than 20% of U.S. high schools fail to offer the full range of science and math courses. In North Carolina, as elsewhere, geography, race and socioeconomic status still determine access to STEM learning, to an unacceptable extent.
This is where support, education, and outreach come in. STEM-related programs, projects, festivals, competitions, and awards help to increase engagement and interest in STEM-related subjects and careers. They help formal and informal educators create exciting and memorable experiences for their students. And they help improve access to learning for groups still lamentably underrepresented in STEM fields.
At the local level, such programs have been shown to help reduce truancy, improve classroom behaviors, increase high school graduation and college acceptance rates, and provide a positive focus for communities as a whole.
When well designed, and adequately supported, STEM programs and resources help educators to work at entirely new levels—reaching more students, and creating more impact, than they could ever hope to do on their own.
For this reason, Burroughs Welcome Fund and the North Carolina Science, Mathematics and Technology (SMT) Education Center have been working together since 2002, with a view of supporting and connecting STEM programs throughout the state, and building the resources necessary to make NC STEM education the best in the country.