The push for high-quality STEM learning in the out-of-school time space is incredible. Have you ever wondered “why?” A recent report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce entitled simply STEM, has some answers. This report talks about the importance of advances in science and innovation and the American economy. It states, “The economic value of innovation has shifted toward applications customized to meet critical individual and social needs. American STEM workers are becoming part of an increasingly global innovation system and workforce.” In economic terms, in world leadership terms, in continuing to expand globally terms, STEM is essential.
The report identifies five major subgroups in STEM occupations: computer occupations; mathematical science occupations; architects, surveyors, and technicians; engineers and engineering technicians; and life and physical science occupations. The report shares that new STEM jobs are being created every day and there will also be significant job openings due to baby-boomer retirements. It also talks about industry-based certifications that are common in STEM occupations, and in some cases take the place of advanced degrees.
They quote interesting facts such as “STEM majors make substantially more over their lifetimes than non-STEM majors, and that less-educated STEM workers can also earn more than other non-STEM workers. It also shares that STEM majors are being lured from STEM occupations because the systematic way STEM majors “think” and their approach to critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making, is made up of an incredibly desirable set of skills.
So where does afterschool fit into this need for STEM-focused learning? We are a perfect incubator for project-based learning, giving youth an opportunity for “messy exploration”, and facilitating learning—because typically our afterschool staffs don’t see themselves as instructors—which can get in the way of investigation and inquiry. So even if you don’t see yourself as a STEM expert, build your skills in asking questions and be open to providing opportunities for youth to learn and you’re on your way. Learn more about STEM by checking out the California Afterschool Networks website and looking for The Power of Discovery, STEM2.