When the Russians launched the first artificial satellite into space in 1957, Americans quickly responded by focusing their educational efforts on STEM studies — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That focus eventually led to a new era during which the United States led the world in engineering and technological breakthroughs.
While not nearly as dramatic as Sputnik, your article, “Baton Rouge ranks first in STEM jobs report” should be a local siren for educators. The article is good news for qualified individuals looking for a job in the region, but it raises questions about the job we have done in preparing for this economic upturn. Louisiana has attracted many industries to the area recently, and those industries bring good-paying jobs to our citizens. But when we learn that Baton Rouge is first in the nation in the number of unfilled STEM jobs, we have to ask why the demand for skilled workers is far beyond the supply. What message does this send to other companies and industries that are looking to relocate or expand?
It will take a concerted effort by schools, government agencies, industry, community organizations and higher education to increase the supply of STEM-educated workers. As the Brookings Institute report pointed out, these are good-paying jobs that do not require a college degree, but they do require some basic understanding of STEM principles.
Research tells us that by the time students get to high school, they have already started closing off certain career paths as options. That is why it is critical that our educational system focuses on STEM studies very early in students’ careers. Learning science, technology, engineering and mathematics is no longer an option to students who will compete in tomorrow’s economy. As we can see by the newspaper headlines, we’re already a little late gearing up for the game.
Tevfik Eski, superintendent
Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School