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SW La. needs more STEAM

Posted by: George Swift on Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Our region needs more S.T.E.A.M. in the New Year. That is, we need more emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. And the “A” stands for arts. Future jobs and the future of our region depend on education and training in these categories. STEM is an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Discussion of STEM-related programs has become a necessity because too few college students are pursuing degrees in these fields. STEM job growth is projected to increase by up to 23 percent by 2020. Many people would agree that STEM is the key to innovation and job creation in the United States.

The National AfterSchool Association says the theory and research behind STEM education has continued to mature, and today there are a growing group of advocates who believe that STEM is missing a key component. That component is the arts. Art encourages creative thinking and innovative interpretations. The word art is used to represent the full spectrum of the liberal arts: language, social studies, physical art, fine art, music and design. Exploring the use of art can provide young people with new and imaginative opportunities for communication and expression. The creative processes behind art can be used to drive innovation and find inventive solutions to problems.

According to the Smithsonian Science Education Center, the United States ranks 17th in science and 23rd in math among developed nations. Seventy-eight percent of U.S. high school graduates do not meet benchmark readiness for one or more college courses including math, science, reading, or English.

We are fortunate in our region to have both a technical community college and a university. The engineering program at McNeese is one of the top rated in the nation for return on investment. Calcasieu Parish schools have been recognized nationally as leaders in technology. Many areas do not have these resources as building blocks.

Getting U.S. students interested in studying STEMrelated fields is only part of the picture. Educating the best and brightest international students in STEM fields should also be a major priority for the United States.

In Louisiana, STEM jobs will demand a total of over 66,000 jobs this year. Thirtyseven percent of STEM jobs in the state will be in engineering and technicians occupations. Eighty-three percent of these jobs will require post-secondary education and training. Eight percent of all B.A. and M.A. jobs and 12 percent of all Ph.D jobs in Louisiana will be in a STEM field.

Are you interested in the chance to study in a STEM field? The U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net is a great place to learn about the possible fields you can go into by studying in a STEM major, such as computer science, life and physical sciences, health care, social sciences, technology and engineering.

The Alliance is going to push for a SWLA STEAM Initiative in the New Year. We hope to work with our five parish school systems, McNeese State University, and Sowela to develop relevant programs to attract our young people towards these studies, which, in turn, will lead to careers to make our region competitive.

As a kick-off, our annual Chamber SWLA Banquet will feature a leading technologist, high-tech entrepreneur, and disruptive thinker. Linda Bernardi is a former IBM chief innovation officer and Watson co-lead. She will bring us pertinent information to help our area compete in these changing times. Details for the Jan. 24 banquet at the Golden Nugget are available at allianceswla.org.

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