The need to increase student interest in STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is profoundly important in order to meet the future demand for over 16 million jobs, according to a new report released by STEMConnector.org and My College Options.
The report – Where are the STEM Students? What are their Career Interests? What are the STEM Jobs? – connects survey data from over 5.5 million students in the U.S. with the STEM employment outlook data from the Bureau for Labor Statistics and Economic Modeling Specialists International.
The survey data from students comes from a two-page questionnaire developed by My College Options and is given in school. It gathers data on every student based on information they provide, such as academic performance, co-curricular activities, location, and general college preferences.
Alabama should take great interest in the STEM report as it shows that the Southern region of the U.S. has the highest concentration (36%) of students interested in STEM topics, and Huntsville is listed among the top 20 U.S. cities with the highest number of STEM jobs.
“We have the students and the jobs right here in Alabama,” said Mary Boehm, president of A+ College Ready, a division of A+ Education Partnership. “Our challenge is to help maintain the students’ interest in STEM subjects throughout high school and encourage their continued learning and skills development for the high-paying careers within our own state.”
The report reveals that by 2018, the majority of STEM jobs will be in computing (71%), which includes the rapidly growing fields of cloud and mobile technologies. Other STEM-related jobs include engineering, physical sciences, life sciences and mathematics. 110,000 of these jobs are projected to be in Alabama, with average earnings of almost $75,000 annually.
The University of Alabama recently partnered with A+ College Ready to develop an Advanced Placement computer science course, and is recruiting and training teachers to launch the course by 2016. Funded by a three-year grant from The College Board, the goal is to increase student interest in computer science education and better prepare students for college STEM majors.
Jeff Gray, an associate professor of engineering and the University of Alabama, said in a recent article, “There’s a mismatch between what we’re doing to prepare our students and where the actual jobs are. We’re not raising our own people to take on these jobs,” which is why he is working with The College Board and A+ College Ready on this project.
According to Gray, job positions in computer science, particularly in software development, will rise by 32% over the next 10 years. With Huntsville leading the nation in per capita engineers and among the top five cities in the U.S. with the highest concentration of software developers, Alabama has significant job potential for our students with STEM interest.
In addition to recruiting and training more computer science AP teachers, the University of Alabama conducts outreach through mentoring for science fair competitions, summer camps, field trips, school visits, and a robotics competition in order to help boost student interest and experience in STEM education.