Nov. 8 is National STEM Day, an opportunity to recognize and promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education, and to emphasize the importance of these subjects in our schools.
Encouraging kids to pursue their STEM interests early on not only helps them to develop important critical thinking and problem-solving skills, but helps build the foundation for a successful future after graduation. From medical and computer science to biomedical technology, software engineering and other fields, STEM-focused career opportunities are increasing nationwide and here at home in Louisiana. Over the next decade, we will see a surge in jobs in high-tech, high-demand fields, and we must work to make sure our students are in position to take advantage of these opportunities.
ACT’s 2018 State of STEM report showed that 51 percent of Louisiana students have an interest in STEM majors or careers, but currently only 10 percent meet the academic benchmark demonstrating their readiness for math and science coursework in college. If our kids are to compete for the best STEM jobs and postsecondary education opportunities, it is crucial that we do all we can to support STEM learning in our K-12 schools.
BESE, the Louisiana Department of Education, the Louisiana Board of Regents, the LaSTEM Advisory Council, and the Governor’s office have teamed up to support and strengthen STEM education and career preparation in our state. The aim of this collaborative effort is to ensure that Louisiana’s students have exposure to STEM courses and credentials starting in elementary school and continuing through college.
While work remains ahead, progress is being made in prioritizing STEM education in Louisiana. BESE has strengthened academic standards in math and science in particular as part of the state’s overall push to raise expectations and better prepare students for college and careers. STEM diploma endorsements have been established to recognize high school students who demonstrate achievement in STEM discipline subjects, and policies have been approved to equip our educators with the right resources, training, and information to help students succeed. STEM course pathways are now available through the state’s Jump Start career training initiative. These pathways consist of specialized progressions of courses designed by school systems, industry, and higher education institutions to better prepare students seeking a STEM degree in college or to enter the workforce with industry-based credentials in related career sectors.
My personal career journey as an engineer opened up so many opportunities for me and fuels my desire to ensure that all students in Louisiana have access and exposure to STEM skills and careers. Increasing awareness and emphasizing the importance of STEM education is the motivation behind National STEM Day. It is also a necessary and important objective in Louisiana as we work to help our students to reach their full academic potential and successfully pursue the exciting career opportunities of the future.