Educators for the last decade have been using the acronym STEM to describe a reform movement that focuses on increasing academic knowledge and skills through applied engineering and problem solving. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math; if you add the arts, it is called STEAM education.

STEM curriculum is a planned pedagogical sequence of learning objectives which connect science, math and engineering and design concepts through technological applications — learning by doing. This project-based approach has a proven track record of increasing career opportunities for youth and adult learners.

In January 2016, STEMConnector reported the United States will have more than 1 million job openings in STEM-related fields by 2018, and that 71 percent of all jobs will require STEM skills. That’s why Gateway’s partnership with Racine Unified School District is so important.

Elementary school students receive on average 19 minutes per day of science instruction from kindergarten through third grade, and 24 minutes per day in fourth through sixth grades. To compound the issue, only 8 percent of America’s college students major in engineering, and 5 percent major in computer science and math.

So what does this mean for us? It means we are in a global race for STEM talent. Gateway, in partnership with Snap on Inc., are members of STEMConnector and advocate nationally for investments in engineering and technical education.

Recently, Gateway and RUSD’s REAL School came together to partner in the development of a comprehensive STEM curriculum driving the sixth through twelfth grade learning environment for the new REAL School. This is one of the exciting new programs our community partners are working on to build a talent pipeline in STEM careers in our community.

Introduction to technological equipment and business applications — along with applied science, math and engineering — serves as a motivational catalyst for youth to pursue exciting careers in engineering, medical and health science, advanced manufacturing, food and agriculture and computer science.

Planting STEM in the center of our schools will assure a growing workforce.

Bryan Albrecht is the president and CEO of Gateway Technical College. Gateway has served Southeastern Wisconsin since its creation as the first technical college in America in 1911.

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