I have STEM religion now. I have heard the facts, been working with the experts, and now I am fully on board. A couple of years ago, I didn’t know what STEM meant (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and I certainly didn’t get why it was becoming such a buzz topic. Now I get it. The fastest growing sectors of our economy are in the science, tech, and engineering fields. By 2020 the US Dept of Labor estimates that there will be 1.4MM jobs in these areas and currently there are only 400,000 kids enrolled in these majors. That’s 1MM job openings that our kids won’t be qualified to fill. Sheesh.
As a country, our stats are not so impressive. Globally we are ranked 25th in math, and 17th in science. why? Some point to a shortage of teachers in these fields. When is the last time your kid came home and talked about how great her math teacher is? If you have one of those – count that among your blessings. According to the Department of Education fewer than 2/3’s of today’s math teachers were trained to teach math. Companies across America are in a bit of a panic about getting kids involved in STEM to create a pipeline of future employees. Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and scores of others are promoting after-school STEM activities to stimulate more students to focus in these critical fields. It is certainly why my company, Sylvan Learning, teamed up with LEGO Education and Tynker to offer classes in Robotics and Coding to elementary school kids with our new Sylvan EDGE brand.
So, last fall I was prepared to start walking my talk. I came home and suggested to my daughter, who is a Junior in High School, that she sign up for the coding classes for Spring Semester. She looked at me and said “No way. I am so loaded up with AP classes right now, that if I had to start something totally new like that, it would blow me up”. AAAAGGGGGHHHH! I was too late! Now I feel like Jacob Marley in The Christmas Carol giving Scrooge advice. Here’s my 2 cents – Moms, don’t make the same mistake I did. Start Early!!!! Now, in the end, your kid may still shun numbers and love words, but at least you will know it wasn’t for your lack of trying. Our Sylvan EDGE spokesperson, Bill Nye,(Yep from Bill Nye the Science Guy!) told me that longitudinal studies show that if kids aren’t engaged in STEM by the time they are 10, then its highly unlikely to happen.
So here’s my unsolicited advice. Get your kids in a robotics class or a coding or engineering “makers” class when they are young. Especially your daughters – because women are way under represented in these majors as students and in these fields as professionals. Your goal is to promote interest and STEM confidence while they are still young. You want them to think -” I have done that! That was fun! and I am actually good at that!” It will keep them pushing ahead in these core areas as they advance into middle school and high school.
And then they can take care of you in your old age with one of the 1.4 million jobs. Mama Says So.