The president delivered his State of The Union last week at a time when unemployment is still high and people all over this nation are worried about jobs and the future. There were some strong themes running through his speech—education was one, as was investing in research and science because these will be key to creating new industries and jobs.
A recent study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce
showed clearly that there is a problem of scarcity of workers with basic STEM competencies across the entire economy. The study also shows that the demand for these competencies is only increasing, along with compensation and employment prospects that are very attractive. However, as things stand now, there are some sectors with unfilled jobs because the employers can’t find people with the required skills to fill those jobs.
|Source: ESA calculations using current population survey public-use microdata and estimates from the Employment Projections Program of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
We all recognize that this issue cannot be tackled by institutions of higher education and workforce development alone, but must begin with how we educate our children and youth during their K-12 years. I recently spoke at the Kansas Workforce Summit
on the importance of STEM to our economy and the role afterschool plays in workforce development. The presentation was extremely well-received by the attendees, mainly comprised of representatives of workforce boards, Chambers of Commerce, city and state legislators, and businesses from all over Kansas. I believe the message really resonated because afterschool programs can and do play a vital role in developing critical STEM skills and proficiencies. Our recent report showing the impact and outcomes of STEM learning in afterschool
demonstrates this in a very tangible way.
Couching what we do in terms of addressing a national need brings new players and stakeholders to the table. Once they become engaged in this conversation, they quickly see that the youth-centered, hands-on, engaged learning approach of afterschool not only has incredible youth development outcomes but also develops STEM competencies.
So I would like to encourage everyone to seek out partners in the workforce development community and talk to them about afterschool as an integral strategy for developing STEM literacy and proficiency. We need an all-hands-on-deck approach to solving our nation’s economic woes—and afterschool is an essential partner in this effort.