Regional partnerships join educators, community leaders, and corporations to improve STEM learning and career readiness
(Washington DC – April 3, 2018) – STEM Learning Ecosystems from across North America meet this week to address a pressing need: equipping youth with valuable science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills for coming workforce needs.
Why is STEM education so vital and such a prevalent topic among educators and business leaders? Data from the U.S. Department of Commerce projects 8.9 percent growth in STEM occupations from 2014 to 2024. Even jobs in other areas are impacted: according to Fast Company, in the next decade 80% of professions will require a deep understanding of STEM skills.
To address these current and future needs, representatives of 56 regional STEM Learning Ecosystems across North America will gather in Washington DC to share ideas and programs for STEM education. Each Ecosystem is comprised of partners from K12 schools and afterschool programs, colleges, museums and science centers, non-profit organizations, and local business and industry representatives.
The STEM Ecosystems Initiative connects all 56 regional networks in a thriving Community of Practice. These Ecosystems are guided through development of productive partnerships to enact real change in their communities. In just three short years, STEM Ecosystems encompass:
- 1,322 school districts representing rural, suburban, and urban areas
- More than 850,000 preK-12 teachers and informal educators
- 4,350 philanthropic, business, and industry partners ranging from the United Way to local Girl Scouts to 4H and YMCA, from local schools to community colleges to universities, from Dow Chemical to AT&T to Intel to the Mid-America Industrial Park, from the STEM Funders Network to Community Foundations and Chambers of Commerce
In the STEM Learning Ecosystems, partnerships are not loose connections. To date, leaders have invested significant dollars and time into cultivating action-oriented relationships (at no cost to the Ecosystems):
- 2,184 hours developing individuals for STEM leadership roles
- 332 opportunities for building national collaborations for peer-to-peer learning
- 6,260 hours devoted to cultivating regional Ecosystems
Those numbers are about to increase! This week, STEM Ecosystems will spend three days discussing local needs and opportunities and gathering ideas from related groups across the country. Rural districts will talk with others from rural areas. Urban leaders will learn from urban leaders. Corporate members will discuss their role and pipeline needs with other companies and with the educators in their area. And following the Ecosystems action-oriented strategies, next week, many of the ideas discussed will be set in motion.
“A few years ago, a few forward-thinking individuals recognized that individual communities had pockets of educational excellence,” said Gregory Washington, Ph.D., Dean of Engineering at UC Irvine. “People were doing really good work but only impacting a small segment of society. By creating STEM Ecosystems and bringing these leaders together to be seen by others, effective ideas and programs can expand beyond their own communities and have a substantive impact on education nationwide.”
“We simply do not have time for archaic education systems to evolve slowly,” said STEM Learning Ecosystem co-chairs Gerald Solomon, Executive Director, Samueli Foundation, and Ron Ottinger, Executive Director of STEM Next. “Technology is changing at a breakneck pace. Education systems must move just as quickly or our youth will not be prepared for meaningful work. The cross-pollination between innovating, hiring companies and educators is vital to the process. We’re making sure those groups aren’t just talking, they’re working closely together.”
“Learning increases exponentially with quality support. That applies for a youngster learning basic math, for a teenager learning to question results of a science experiment and design a revised theory – and it applies to our education system,” said Jan Morrison, President and CEO of TIES, which provides technical assistance and program oversight. “We support communities in developing learning objectives that are relevant for their local workforce needs and tap the strengths of their community members.”
Also this week, leaders from the STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative will be presenting their experiences at the U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference. “Developing a national workforce skilled in science, technology, engineering and math is a complex task, but at its heart is one fundamental goal: jobs. As we have sharpened our focus to address the pipeline into STEM careers and workforce development, we have recognized the quality work being done by STEM Learning Ecosystems,” said Brian Kelly, Editor and Chief Content Officer of U.S. News. “The Ecosystems have a wealth of applicable knowledge to share with the wide range of attendees at the U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference.”
STEM Ecosystems supporting members of the STEM Funders Network include: Broadcom Foundation, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Overdeck Foundation, Qualcomm Foundation, Samueli Foundation, Schusterman Foundation, Simons Foundation, Steinman Foundation, STEM Next (supported by the Noyce Foundation), and the TGR Foundation.