STEM Education: Connecting the Classroom to Careers

Over the past few years, there has been a focus on math and science education and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Since President Obama has been in office, it seems like almost everyone is jumping on the “how important math and science education is and/or we need our kids to help us create our future STEM workforce” bandwagon. It seems like more resources are being put into enhancing math and science education programs. However, with all this attention on math and science, people are really not paying attention to the hows and whys we have gotten to this point in education and in our economy.

If you pay attention to economies of the world’s wealthiest countries; they have a strong educational system where there kids excel academically in all or most disciplines. The reason why education is linked to a strong economy because it is with education that you are able to have workforce that has the skills for the jobs in your economy. When the United States had a strong economy and was the global leader, we had a great educational system. However, the current state of our educational system is that students aren’t graduating with the skills for the jobs that are currently available in our economy. There are various reasons for this, however my main theory behind this is not enough kids or parents think about their future as it relates to connecting their education with their future careers.

I remember when I was growing up, I remember always knowing that I was going to get good grades so I can go to college and get a good job. Even my peers, who didn’t have any aspirations to go to college, had some plan in mind for a career, job or business after high school graduation. However, today’s K-12 students and parents are missing that connection to their education and their place in the future workforce; this disconnect takes place in all socioeconomic levels. So why are people asking where are all the jobs going? The question we should be asking is I am preparing myself and my children to get the jobs that are available in the current and future economy?

We prepare our children to become a part of the future workforce in two ways; researching the industry trends in the US and global economy and encouraging them to achieve academically and enhance the classroom experience with extracurricular activities. In the United States and global economy. It is true that jobs are disappearing as well as sectors, but there are sectors in the economy where there are plenty of jobs that go unfilled. The reasons why jobs in some sectors go unfilled is because there aren’t individuals with the skills and knowledge to do the job. The world is moving towards an educated workforce; which means individuals in the future economy will need to have a particular skill set or knowledge base to be employable. Most jobs in this new economy will require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, however there are some sectors that require only technical training. The key to ensure that your child will have a spot in the future workforce is researching the trends and sectors in the economy; most of which can be found on the department of labor and other government websites. Once you find the job trends, look at the academic subjects your child is strong in and their interests and guide then toward a career path that is a part of the current and future economy. In the STEM sector, there are plenty of jobs that are available now and being created as new fields in STEM emerge daily.

The second thing we need to do is have our children see the connection between what they do in the classroom today and their career options in the future. There are great benefits for students that achieve academically and participate in extracurricular activities. Classroom grades and standardized test scores are the tools that are utilized to measure student achievement. Students and parents shouldn’t wait until high school to see the importance of grades and standardized test scores. There are public policy decisions for the society as a whole that are made based on the standardized test scores of third graders. In addition, your child’s educational path will be determined by their teachers and principals based on the third grade test scores as well. Therefore, parents must encourage and support academic achievement from the first 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. It also includes finding tutorial support for subject areas that students may struggle in to ensure academic success in all subject areas. The final part of encouraging academic achievement is being a part of your child’s standardized test preparation. There are countless studies that show that when parents are an active part of their child’s education, children perform better academically.

The classroom should not be the only place where students have learning experiences. Children should participate in extracurricular activities that support their interests and strengths. Students that are interested in math and science should participate in math and science competitions and clubs. Students should also participate in summer and after-school programs in their area of interest. Finally students should participate in as many events as possible in their area of interest such as visiting museums, attending career fairs, etc.

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