US: Colorado students not prepared for STEM jobs
WORLD / Colorado, U.S. – The Colorado Education Initiative (CEI) has recently launched a “Roadmap” to further STEM education throughout the state. According to the report, statistics are alarming when it comes to qualifications and careers in STEM.
- Only 22 percent of 2009 high school graduates are on track to attain postsecondary credentials.
- National trends show that only half of students who earn STEM credentials actually enter STEM fields.
- The STEM pipeline in Colorado is notable for its lack of diversity. Females and Hispanics are vastly underrepresented in STEM occupations, yet females make up nearly half of the overall workforce, and Colorado’s Hispanic population is the fastest-growing population in the state.
- Colorado has an aging STEM workforce – over 16 percent of Colorado STEM workers are nearing retirement
The roadmap also indicates that while nearly 100 percent of Colorado schools have 8th-grade science labs, just 73 percent of schools with majority minority populations have them. The CEI calls this “one of the starkest disparities in this regard in the country.”
STEM in Colorado
This is a surprising situation, given the vibrant STEM ecosystem in Colorado. According to CEI’s roadmap:
- Colorado has one of the highest per capita concentrations of science, research, and engineering facilities in the nation, with 24 federally funded research labs.
- Colorado is a national leader in sector partnerships and career pathway legislation.
- Colorado is a charter member (one of 20 states) of STEMx, the newly developed multistate STEM network aimed at connecting state STEM networks to generate and share new knowledge, promote clear indicators of quality, develop high-quality tools, and connect innovative policies and practices across the country.
- The Hickenlooper administration is a member of 100Kin10, President Obama’s initiative to prepare 100,000 more STEM educators in 10 years.
STEM schools, programs, and partnerships are present throughout Colorado, but students who live in rural areas, Hispanics, and females are extremely underrepresented in these efforts. CEI wants to change this. CEI’s Lesley Dahlkemper told Mike Lamp of Colorado Public Radio, “We know that diversity helps to drive innovation in STEM industries. That’s why it’s important to ensure that all of our students have access to high-quality STEM education.”
Stemming the decline in STEM
CEI’s Road Map suggests possible solutions for growth in STEM. The CEI believes STEM talent development can be led by the state if Colorado:
- builds community awareness and support for STEM, and fully coordinates and aligns STEM policies, practices, and partners to increase student interest, participation, and achievement in STEM
- focuses on ensuring all students achieve STEM literacy
- reduces its STEM talent and skills gap
With that in mind, the CEI’s “current best thinking” has drafted three goals and strategies for action.
CEI hopes to increase the number of STEM-trained educators and STEM educational opportunities for female and rural students, and it recognizes efforts to do so are already underway in Colorado. For example, Girls Inc. National and Lockheed Martin partnered with the Girls Inc. Denver affiliate and provided 50 girls in elementary school a six-week mentorship program with Lockheed Martin employees.
The program consisted of field trips, hands-on activities, guest speakers, and a rocket science curriculum. The students build and launched their own rockets at the end of the program. CEI notes that the results of this program were very encouraging, stating the “girls’ enthusiasm for and skills in STEM were enhanced through activities that allowed them to explore, ask questions, persist, and solve problems – and view STEM careers as exciting and realistic options for their futures.”
Do you think Colorado has it right? What can be done to encourage talent development in STEM?