STEM Education Teacher Training Programs
Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professions are vital forces in our nation's economy. The broad category of STEM workers encompasses the innovators, problem solvers, inventors and creative thinkers, within firms that generate new products, services and solutions demanded by a growing world population. As the U.S. calls for more of these workers, qualified teachers to educate the next generation of STEM professionals are in demand as well.
STEM Workers Are in High Demand, Short Supply
STEM professions are among the fastest growing of all industries, projected to grow 17% between 2008 and 2018, according to a July 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration. STEM occupations also pay well – about 26% more than non-STEM jobs, according to the Commerce Department.
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While these figures sound promising, there is an element of uncertainty accompanying them. Countless high-paying STEM jobs are going unfilled because U.S. employers are often unable to find skilled workers to hire. Across the nation, businesses face increasing challenges to sustain growth, produce new products and services, and expand markets, simply because they lack a steady supply of qualified STEM workers.
U.S. businesses are competing with overseas firms for the best and brightest workers. If the supply of qualified STEM workers continues to dwindle, companies will have few choices; they may find themselves outsourcing work overseas or bringing in talent from other countries.
Shortage of STEM Teachers Spurs New Incentives and Training Programs
Educating more STEM workers is a long-term solution to this major problem. Simply put, the STEM worker shortage can be solved by training more people in the U.S. for these jobs. But training more workers presents an additional challenge: there are not enough qualified STEM teachers to prepare kids, high school and college students, laid-off workers, and career changers to fulfill the opportunities presented by STEM occupations.
The severe STEM teacher shortage in the U.S. is well recognized, even to the top level of our government. In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama highlighted the issue, calling for an additional 100,000 STEM teachers over the next 10 years. And, his fiscal year 2012 budget includes a proposal for $206 million in STEM training programs, to develop teacher training for grades K-12 and conduct research on effective STEM training.
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Additional STEM teacher training initiatives include:
- 2009's Educate to Innovate campaign, which was designed to increase student participation and success in STEM subjects.
An investment of $250 million-plus in private/public funds to help prepare 10,000 new math and science teachers and boost training in math and science for 100,000 existing teachers.
The Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship program, which supports experienced engineers, chemists, scientists and mathematicians, along with recent college graduates, who commit to becoming STEM teachers in high-need urban or rural classrooms. With three states already on board and over $30 million in committed funds, more than 500 new math and science teachers will soon be ready to bring their expertise to high school students.
The California-based Bay Area STEM Teacher Pathway Initiative aims to improve the quality and diversity of math and science teachers, provide STEM training to new learning leaders and expand after-school programs offering STEM learning in grades K – 12.
In Minnesota, Hamline University hosts K – 12 science teachers for free workshops to develop their proficiency in Earth science, biology, chemistry, physics, inquiry and other STEM topics.
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What Does a STEM Teacher Do?
STEM educators combine problem solving and problem posing with project-based learning across disciplines. Students and teachers may work together on advanced classroom activities that develop students' critical thinking, communication, assessment and inquiry skills. Educators may teach a single subject – math, science, engineering or technology – or they may combine two fields to bring to life learning opportunities like weather-related phenomena, computer system development or sustainable construction projects.
In their roles of educating and inspiring the creative thinkers of the future, STEM teachers contribute to advancements in technology, sociology, healthcare and numerous other aspects of our society.
STEM Teaching is a Bright Spot in the U.S. Jobs Outlook
It is clear that in order to maintain its standard of living, the U.S. must remain competitive in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields. Supporting economic growth greatly depends on filling existing high-wage STEM jobs with qualified workers, which in turn will require developing tens of thousands of STEM teachers every year.
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Opportunities for individuals interested in becoming STEM educators should be plentiful. As investment in STEM education continues to grow, now could be the time to look into STEM training, enroll in certificate programs, and research available education options. As STEM professions shape the future, the need for qualified STEM workers will continue, as will the need for teachers to educate them.