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More STEM education needed for growing jobs demands

Posted at 5:21 AM, Nov 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-15 08:11:25-05

Technology is quickly shaping every part of our lives. From the grocery store to the manufacturing floor, computers and high-tech systems have made our society more efficient and effective than ever before.

The only downside to this upside is the number of STEM jobs in our nation is far surpassing the number of STEM graduates.

To keep up with this pace, the region needs to foster interest in STEM for all ages.

Sandy Riggs, Robotics Coordinator at Collegiate High School says the demand for skilled workers in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics is becoming increasingly important because in our 21st century global economy, most jobs will require a basic understanding of math and science.

“In fact, it really needs to be mandatory because where we are. We are in the land of opportunity with innovation, and if the kids start in K-4 and go through the FIRST program for first robotics all the way up through high school and into college, they are going to be first-class innovators of our future.” said Riggs.

The growth of STEM has picked up significantly over the last few years, and we have seen just how  STEM education helps kids develop critical thinking.

“We are a growing population, and we have to figure out how to meet the needs with the masses as far as food industry, transportation, and infrastructure of our cities. We have a lot of young students that are ready to take on all of those problems that we have today,” said Riggs.

Studies show that U.S. manufacturers could create up to 3.5 million jobs by 2025, yet nearly 2 million of those jobs may go unfilled for lack of the right skills to meet modern demands.

“That is going to have to start at the foundation, and that is our kids. They need to be educated in STEM, and they need to be twenty-first century thinkers. We need to motivate their minds and get them thinking so they can take on the demands of our future. They have to meet the need, and they are not going to be able to do it if we can’t support those endeavors,” said Riggs.

Another reason we can’t keep up with the growing job demands is…

“Because there is not enough of us. There are not enough kids, not enough teachers, not enough coaches. We need more,” said Riggs.

There is a lack of necessary resources needed to assist teachers in preparing students for the jobs of the future, including those in STEM fields.  Many public school teachers not only volunteer their time, but also have to raise money for competitions and spend on average $500 of their own money every year to pay for needed supplies and materials.

“Everyone involved in FIRST Robotics has a functioning role and volunteering at that capacity. It’s really hard to operate in this way due to the level of reliability that comes with that territory. However, we actually have a lot of CCISD teachers and teachers in 6 other school districts that have been very reliable over the years, and we are all clockwork when season kicks off,  and we all come together for the kids to be part of the season and host local competitions. However, the volunteering is a lot of hard work and man hours to do what us teachers do as the team coaches. Then volunteering to run all the competitions has become more and more and more of a full time job in itself. So we need more support; we need to create more teaching positions if we are going to meet the demands of innovation,” said Riggs.