Samsung emPowers Women in STEM

Samsung_Logo_Wordmark_CMYK_13Ask any scientist and, chances are she’ll tell you she is where she is today because another scientist empowered her to follow her childhood dreams. Samsung’s emPOWER Tomorrow program is exactly about that: getting young girls excited about STEM.

Samsung launched the after-school program called emPOWER Tomorrow for 4th and 5th grade girls that teaches the basic principles of electrical engineering and computer programming in a fun, project-based way. The five-week pilot program took place at Miller Street School and Peshine Avenue Elementary School in Newark, New Jersey, where guest speakers – women working in the field of computer science – helped the girls see that interesting careers in engineering and programming aren’t just for boys. The curriculum also included experimenting with coding and electric circuits in concrete ways they could see and touch.

Studies show educators most influence girls at an impressionable age – usually in the fourth and fifth grades – to get them interested in pursuing STEM studies.

At the two elementary schools in Newark, N.J., Samsung emPOWER Tomorrow is designed to do just that and supports that finding.

Samsung heard from one participating student who said, “You learn and have fun at the same time. I would love to work with computers someday!”

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Making learning fun is the goal, so Samsung’s women scientists volunteer to work directly with the young girls. Samsung takes it another step by donating technology products, so students can interact with the latest technology, the future and their place in both. And it’s working.

Miller Street Elementary School’s technology coordinator, Joanne Pringle, said that, “The emPOWER Tomorrow program…definitely encourages the girls who are here because they’ve been able to see, face to face, real live scientists that are female, and actually talk to them about their upbringing and how they got into the field.”

Female engineers from Samsung visited the schools to talk about their personal motivations to enter their respective STEM fields. They shared stories with the girls about overcoming obstacles in their careers as well as the stimulating projects they’ve had the opportunity to work on throughout their careers that keep them excited about their jobs–all in the hopes of inspiring these girls to consider the same path.

Through the mentorship of true scientists, girls interact with women who have successfully pursued STEM fields. This coupled with the practical application of the skills helps the girls see that these subjects are much more than solving complex equations or working through a lab exercise. They are attainable career paths that lead to exciting careers in fields like mobile app and software development that power all the latest and greatest technology we can’t seem to get enough of today.

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Samsung is one of the largest technology companies in the world and in order to keep growing, we need qualified and diversified candidates to fill these jobs. Reaching girls early on and exposing them to real-world, hands on STEM experiences helps make the subject matter relatable. By engaging girls this way, teachers and mentors are reaching them before the age old stigma – science, technology, engineering and math are subjects for boys – stands a chance of setting in.

The day is upon us when the gender gap in STEM fields is closing, and it can’t be soon enough. Programs like emPOWER Tomorrow help students gain practical knowledge but most importantly they gain confidence. They are empowered by their own abilities and a feeling that they can do this if they want to. They see that STEM isn’t too hard and there is room for them in STEM – even as girls and women.

emPOWER Tomorrow is just one of the many Samsung initiatives focused on engaging students in STEM subjects. You can learn more about this and other STEM initiatives at www.Samsung.com/hope.

Girls Inc. Provides Hands-On Experiences and Mentoring to Encourage Girls to Pursue STEM

By: Andrea B. Wolf, Director of Public Policy at Girls Inc.

Untitled“Inspiring girls to build STEM careers is one of the best ways for them to succeed and to contribute to society. Role models and mentors are critical to attracting and retaining girls in STEM. By connecting STEM mentors with girls, Million Women Mentors and Girls Inc. are paving a path for today’s girls to grow into tomorrow’s innovators, pioneers, and leaders.” Judy Vredenburgh, President and CEO of Girls Inc.

Girls Inc. is committed to ensuring that girls – especially those from low-income and diverse families – view themselves as potential STEM professionals and innovators. Girls Inc. is well on its way to making this a reality for over 138,000 in 30 states and Canada through dynamic partnerships and the Girls Inc. Operation SMART experience. Girls Inc. provides girls with hands-on activities and diverse role models to prepare them for rigorous work, potential barriers, and enormous rewards in STEM careers.

In 2013, 64% of Girls Inc. girls came from households with annual incomes of less than $30,000, one in eight came from families with annual household incomes of less than $10,000, 38% were African-American, 22% were Latina, and 10% were multiracial. Despite these socio-economic and racial challenges, Girls Inc. made strides towards encouraging low-income girls to pursue STEM careers. In 2014, 3,862 girls participated in Phase One of Google’s “Made with Code” initiative. Also in 2014, over 100 girls worked with Lockheed Martin employees as part of the “Creating the Future” program. Girls who participated in this program reported increased interest in studying STEM, positive experiences with female role models, and a heightened awareness that a STEM career is a good choice for girls.

In addition to expanding girls’ opportunities through partnerships, Girls Inc. creates its own hands-on STEM experiences and opportunities for girls. For example, Girls Inc. Eureka!, an intensive five-year STEM, self-development, and athletics program, uses STEM mentorship in the form of college professors, internship supervisors, Girls Inc. staff, and other female students to inspire girls to pursue post-secondary education and careers in STEM. In 2014 1,045 girls participated in Eureka!

In 2015 Girls Inc. will expand its STEM mentoring and inspiration to ensure that even more girls – especially girls of color – view STEM as a path to improve their lives and society at large. First, Lockheed Martin has contributed $500,000 to double the number of affiliates participating in “Creating the Future” program. Based on last year’s results, this will inspire more girls to enter STEM fields and view themselves as future scientists and innovators. Second, Girls Inc. will expand Eureka! to include four more affiliates. This expansion will offer instruction, internships, and mentoring to more girls. Third, Girls Inc. is embarking on Phase 2 of Google’s “Made with Code” initiative. In Phase 2 five affiliates will spend 6-8 hours training 250 teen girls to become “Coding Ambassadors.” These “Ambassadors” will organize coding parties for at least 100 girls per affiliate, resulting in 500 more Girls Inc. girls being introduced to coding. Girls Inc.’ accomplishments and plans are exciting and will certainly open doors for more diverse girls in STEM. However, we cannot forget that it is the mentors and role models, from diverse backgrounds, who form the foundation for these accomplishments and plans. Their commitment to girls’ success and to building girls’ confidence in STEM is the engine that will drive the next generation of female scientists and innovators. To them we are most grateful.

10,000 Mentors of Tennessee

The State of Tennessee is joining forces with the national movement called Million Women Mentors® (MWM) to increase the number of girls pursuing STEM careers. The national program’s goal is to provide one million mentors in STEM related fields to get more females into STEM related fields. Our goal in Tennessee is to get at least 10,000 volunteers – women and men – to serve as mentors in all parts of the state. These volunteers will mentor girls and young women to get excited about – and feel confident about – pursuing STEM education and careers.  The main goals of the program are to:

  • Increase the percentage of high school girls planning to pursue STEM careers.
  • Increase the percentage of young women pursuing undergraduate degrees in STEM fields.
  • Increase the percentage of women staying in STEM careers.

Million Women Mentors is an engagement campaign and national call to action that mobilizes corporations, government entities, non-profit and higher education groups, around the imperative of mentoring girls and young women in STEM fields.  In TN we have a strong steering committee of these organizations that has been assembled to get people involved.  In addition, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey has agreed to serve as the Honorary Chair of the state group as he believes that this effort will continue to improve the economic and workforce efforts in the state. “I am proud to support the Million Women Mentors initiative in our state and look forward to the positive results it will bring. With evidence showing a lack of women and girls entering STEM programs and careers, it is more important than ever to translate strong STEM outreach and advocacy into action. I encourage the people of Tennessee, corporations and STEM-serving organizations to support MWM by taking the ‘pledge-to-mentor’.”, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey.

Sheila Boyington, President of Chattanooga-based Thinking Media and an engineer herself serves as the National Senior Advisor to the Million Women Mentor effort and is leading the state by state effort across the country.  “This is the time for those in our country to step up to give our next generation opportunities to pursue high demand STEM careers.  Providing guidance to girls and young women toward the STEM fields will contribute to the economic growth of our country. We need each of you that can support this effort by mentoring to join us!”

“Tennessee is ready to move forward as a leader in recruiting mentors for our students who are the future workforce in our state. We must show Tennessee girls that hard work and determination in STEM education can lead to a fulfilling career.”

Lulu Copeland, Manager, Extended Technical Education and Training Engineering Technology Division Chattanooga State Community College, Lulu.Copeland@ChattanoogaState.EDU and Judith Iriarte-Gross, Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Women In STEM Center at MTSU, Judith.iriarte-gross@mtsu.edu, serve as co-directors for MWM in Tennessee.

Role Models Matter in Tennessee

Who was your role model or mentor? Who inspired you to pursue your career path? Most of us can think of at least one person that mentored us; unfortunately, we can usually think of many more that discouraged us. Often kids are discouraged by well-meaning adults who do not possess the proper tools to effectively motivate and communicate with students. That is why is it so important for all adults who interact with children to be properly trained as an effective role model.

Role Models Matter is for parents, teachers, STEM professionals or any adult who is interested in impacting girls and all students in a positive way. The Role Models Matter training process consists of several distinct parts, each with engaging, interactive activities. You will learn and practice being effective role models, and also gain valuable tips and tools for coaching special presenters in classrooms, after-school programs or other student-centered forums. In addition, you will learn techniques to prepare other potential role models to interact effectively with students. The GRITS Collaborative Project has a certified Role Models Matter trainer on its Leadership Team. Contact Maria Toncray at mmtoncray@yahoo.com to learn more!

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Women In STEM (WISTEM) Center

As a result of the various STEM activities developed and initiated by Dr. Iriarte-Gross, she proposed and then established the WISTEM Center in July 2009. The mission of the Center is to enable the campus and the community to realize the intellectual potential and utilize the expertise of women in the STEM disciplines. WISTEM is the home for all the outreach activities such as EYH, GRITS, WISE, and now the Tennessee initiative for Million Women Mentors!

Partnerships have been established with SciGirls (PBS television) and with Role Models Matter of Techbridge. These two outstanding programs provide educators, Girl Scout leaders, industrial and government STEM professionals, and informal STEM institutions with knowledge needed to mentor young women in STEM. A collaboration with Nissan North America and Microsoft resulted in the first DigiGirlz Day in March 2013. The 2015 middle Tennessee DigiGirlz is scheduled for February 28, 2015.

Dr. Iriarte-Gross and WISTEM Advisory Board members mentor undergraduate and graduate women by providing leadership opportunities and by guiding them as they organize and host various WISTEM sponsored events on campus. Young women are encourage to reach back and mentor others as they move forward in their education and career. Providing diverse leadership opportunities for college women is just one innovative mentoring activity offered by WISTEM.

Career Exploration with Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy (CGLA)

As a mentor for CGLA, Lulu Copeland, coordinates visits for students and professionals.

On October 15, 2014, these seniors from CGLA visited Unum, a life, disability, and accident insurance company in Chattanooga. The women professionals shared their education and career experiences and chat with the girls about their hopes and dreams.

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CGLA students from left to right: Yureli Ambriz-Garcia, Luz Martinez, Evelin Xiloj, Ashlin Smith, Michaela Rafael, Mariana Hernandez

Unum women professionals are: Zary Colon, Senior Linguist, Corporate Marketing; Glenda Wilson, AVP, Enrollment Technology, Global Services International; Sandy Franklin, Enterprise Application Architect; Brooke Standefer, AVP, Financial Shared Services & Asset Accounting; Elizabeth Jessen,  AVP, Global Business Resiliency, Global Infrastructure Group

100 Girls of Code Chattanooga, October 2014

100 girls of code

As part of Startup Week Chattanooga, TN Code Academy hosted a “100 Girls of Code” workshop for Chattanooga females. The free computer programming workshop brought in 30 girls, ages 12 to 18, from across the city. Girls were mentored and instructed by other female programmers to create video games and websites. The event took place at AIR Labs, an after-school program where students can learn the basics of programming.

Society of Women Engineers and Women in Technology Chattanooga visited all girls charter school, January 2015

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Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy is an all girl charter school, and the first STEM school in Chattanooga. Lulu Copeland as board member and chairperson of the STEAM committee organized a lunch visit and tour to recruit mentors.

Attendees (not all are pictured):

Miriam Carter – IT Process Integrationist Specialist – VW; Jennifer Ellis – Asst Professor, UTC; Janet Felton – Director of IT & Operations, Southeast TN Development District; Penny Hughey – Regional Relationship Center, AIM; Dawn Hjelseth – Director of Development Greenspaces; Jessica Ivins – Facilitator/Maker of Awesomeness  – Center Centre; Ronna-Renee Jackson – Executive Director, Technology Council; Leslie Jensen-Inman; Emily Maxie – Marketing Director Signix; LaNea Rogers – Kenco Group

Pennsylvania – 3,000 Mentors in 3 Years

Pennsylvania STEM Girls Collaborative Project

The Pennsylvania STEM Girls Collaborative Project is committed to engaging 3,000 STEM mentors over the next three years across Pennsylvania as part of the Million Women Mentors movement. We are working to build a strong group of STEM professionals ready to mentor and serve as needed role models to encourage girls to consider STEM majors and careers.

According to the Pennsylvania STEM Girls Collaborative Project Team Lead, Lisa Kovalchick, “Our Collaborative works first hand with a variety of STEM organizations that are interested in including mentors in their activities; we are excited about the opportunity to support STEM mentoring throughout the state.”

In 2015, the Collaborative will continue to engage mentors in Pennsylvania by participating in NGCP social media campaigns to promote the MWM initiative; partnering with local business, industry and government entities also participating in the MWM initiative to maximize mentor pledges in our region; supporting local mentors with opportunities to actively role model/mentor through the FabFems Project and our local NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award Affiliate; and promoting opportunities to pledge through the Million Women Mentors initiative via the PA STEM Girls Collaborative e-newsletter, email messaging, events, and social media platforms; and last, but certainly not least, actively providing opportunities for mentors to receive quality training through the dissemination of programs like Techbridge’s Role Models Matter training program. Over the past 2 years, we have provided eight Techbridge Role Models Matter training workshops, where we have trained over 200 people from over 100 different organizations throughout Pennsylvania. Many of these people have used the train-the-trainer model provided by Techbridge to educate others in their organization.

myCollegeOptions Creates Resources for Students in Engineering and Technology

mcoWebLogoOne mission of myCollegeOptions.org is to ensure every student has access to the information and resources they need for a successful future. That mission is uniquely challenging when it comes to students with an aptitude for engineering and technology. Some causes for this are, the related industries are constantly evolving, high school and college level courses and degree programs are less prevalent, and students are less likely to have adult influencers in their lives that are professionals in those fields. For these reasons and more, in 2015, myCollegeOptions.org is dedicating tremendous time and resources to increase awareness, access and connections for high school students interested in STEM careers.

“We know that many secondary students, especially young women, never receive the encouragement to pursue or even the awareness of careers in a STEM field. Working with MWM is one great action we can take in changing that reality.”

– Ryan Munce – myCollegeOptions

“Where are the STEM Students” Online Data Visualization Platform

Understanding the landscape of past and current secondary student interest in STEM disciplines is critical to impact the future STEM workforce in America. Using cutting edge data visualization and web technology, myCollegeOptions is launching a tool that will provide unprecedented access to national student interest data, and the power to create actionable intelligence that can help programs like Million Women Mentors achieve their missions.

STEM Edition of the myCollegeOptions Outreach Program

In June of 2015, myCollegeOptions is launching a national, cooperative campaign to promote and increase attainment of college degrees and careers in STEM disciplines. This cooperative effort will provide the right content, support and engagement while building a measurable pipeline of motivated students. The program is a multi-channel, targeted campaign design for maximum impact and engagement. It includes a career encouragement “kit” delivered to the home, electronic communications, online engagement portal, and more.

7th Annual myCollegeOptions.org Education Research Summit

On May 15, 2015 a summit focused on “Shaping our Nation’s Future Workforce” will highlight and seek to replicate and grow the impact of successful initiatives across the country that are currently achieving this shared mission. The event is from 9:00am to 2:30pm at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington DC.

For more information about myCollegeOptions.org and any of these programs, go email us at shapingourfuture@mycollegeoptions.org

BP’s Commitment to Mentoring and STEM Education

BPPc4lbgBP is committed to playing a leading role in securing America’s energy future. This will require cutting-edge innovation as well as the brilliant minds of the next generation of innovators. Today’s students need a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.

As part of that commitment, BP is proud to support Million Women Mentors because mentorship can have a powerful, lasting effect on a young person’s life. This partnership provides BP employees the opportunity to pledge to be a mentor – and make a difference by putting their pledges into action. The program also provides meaningful connections and opportunities for those considering volunteering as a mentor for the first time.

“BP employees have a wealth of experience and knowledge in STEM-based subjects,” said Kathleen Martinez, senior director, national strategic relationships. “As energy professionals, we exist to inspire and instill confidence in young women while empowering them to pursue a career in a STEM-based industry.”

BP has started a Million Women Mentors leadership council made up of several women in key roles for the company who encourage mentorship engagement. The members include:

  • Janet Weiss, regional president, BP Alaska
  • Mary Streett, vice president, U.S. Government Affairs
  • Marta Vasel, vice president, Strategic Accounts
  • Leigh-Ann Russell, vice president, Global Wells Organization
  • Terry Wood, technology vice president, Strategy, Planning & Communications
  • Khymberly Booth, director, U.S. University Relations

“Without guidance and mentors, I would not be where I am today in my professional career,” said Mary Streett, vice president, U.S. Government Affairs. “It’s crucial to have someone whose experience you value and respect. I cherish those who have been there for me, and I get as much or more out of serving in that role for others.”

BP set a global goal to have women in 25 percent of group leadership roles and 30 percent of senior level leadership roles by 2020. By fostering girls’ interest and confidence in STEM education, BP aims to increase the number of women in these fields.

BP’s STEM strategy has a combination of national and regional initiatives to equip both teachers and BP employees so they can inspire students to pursue STEM career paths.

BP has supported STEM education in the U.S. for more than 60 years, and it continues with that commitment today. Since 2012, BP invested more than $45 million in STEM education and continues to invest tens of millions of dollars to support STEM each year.

For more information on BP’s activities in STEM education, please visit bp.com/STEMed.

4-H Youth Mentoring Programs: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Leaders

National 4-H Council logo - 4-H youth development programs.What better time than the beginning of the year for our nation to recognize the immense importance and positive impact of mentoring on the lives of our nation’s youth.  For many of America’s youth, 4-H mentors are so much more than tutors or program leaders — they are hope, they are comfort, they are family. They are the pathway to a promising future.

4-H, America’s largest positive youth development and youth mentoring organization, empowers six million youth — approximately 50 percent girls — in every county and parish in the United States.

In partnership with our nation’s public universities, Cooperative Extension System and the United States Department of Agriculture/National Institute of Food and Agriculture, National 4-H Council is committed to growing the next generation of STEM experts and leaders. The sky is the limit for millions of girls who participate in a variety of 4-H science programs.  Council is proud to be partnering with STEM Connector’s Million Women Mentors initiative to collectively tell our story and to ultimately make a difference in the lives of girls and young women.

4-H National Youth Science Day
The national rallying event for 4-H science, 4-H National Youth Science Day is an interactive learning experience that gets youth excited about STEM, and spotlights the many ways millions of youth are engaging in 4-H Science programs year-round.  In 2014, National 4-H Council, in partnership with 4-H professionals and mentors, engaged tens of thousands of girls and young women through the national science experiment, Rockets to the Rescue.

4-H youth testing their rockets for the 4-H NYSD Rockets to the Rescue experiment. 4-H youth completing the 4-H NYSD Rockets to the Rescue experiment. 4-H mentor reviewing 4-H youth's rocket for the 4-H NYSD Rockets to the Rescue experiment.

4-H Tech Wizards
In 2015, 4-H will also reach thousands of at-risk youth, including girls, through the 4-H Tech Wizards program developed by Oregon State University Extension.  4-H Tech Wizards is one of several programs offered through the 4-H National Mentoring Program, which is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. 4-H Tech Wizards is an after-school mentoring program for vulnerable youth, including girls, who are under-represented in STEM fields.  The science focused program prepares young people to enter the STEM workforce by teaching web site development, geospatial technologies, and robotics.

And there’s evidence that these programs work.

4-H Mentoring Works: Measurement and Evaluation
A decade-long longitudinal study conducted by Tufts University, The Positive Development of Youth: Comprehensive Findings from the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development, revealed 4-H programming does indeed get young people more connected to science. According to the study, 4-H’ers are two times more likely to participate in science programs during out-of-school time (grades 10-12) and 4-H girls are two times more likely (grade 10) and nearly three times more likely (grade 12) to take part in science programs, compared to girls in other out-of-school time activities.

Experts believe nearly all of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in the next decade will require at least some science, technology, engineering or mathematics training, including an estimated 2.8 million STEM jobs that will be created by 2018; however, studies show only 16 percent of American youth are interested in a STEM career.

“We realize that the STEM skills gap exists because there is a STEM attraction gap. Many young people, including girls, are simply not interested in STEM and don’t see its relevance for their personal success. Through 4-H National Youth Science Day and other STEM programming, we engage young people in more than 5 million science projects every year—providing exciting, hands-on projects that show young boys and girls how STEM works in real-world careers and that science can be fun.”  Jennifer Sirangelo, president & CEO, National 4-H Council

To learn more about all of the 4-H Science programs available to young people, visit www.4-h.org.

Massachusetts and Rhode Island – 10,000 STEM Mentors from Corporations, Graduate Students, College Science Departments, Government and More

The Southern New England Girls Collaborative Project (SNEGCP) is committed to engaging 10,000 STEM mentors over the next three years across Massachusetts and Rhode Island as part of the Million Women Mentors movement. We are working to build a strong group of STEM professionals ready to mentor and serve as needed role models to encourage girls to consider STEM majors and careers. According Southern New England Girls Collaborative Project Co-Lead, Jenna Canfield, “We are excited to move forward with recruitment now that infrastructure is in place to effectively recruit and match potential mentors. It was critical for the SNEGCP to be able to provide assurances to the pledges that there will be follow-up.”

We began an initial recruitment effort at the Massachusetts STEM Summit on October 22, 2014, and will be planning a winter kick-off event. The SNEGCP has partnered with members of the Governor’s STEM council and the Office of Workforce and Labor to roll out the MWM Movement in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Governor Patrick mentioned us in his opening remarks at the MA STEM Summit on October 22, 2014. We arranged to have a table at the Summit and distributed information about both the NGCP and the MWM initiative. We also had computers set up for folks to directly sign up to pledge.

In 2015, the Collaborative will continue to engage mentors in Massachusetts and Rhode Island by talking to 20 STEM companies and getting 100 people at each company to pledge, soliciting post-doctoral and graduate students’ societies to pledge 100 each, and reaching out to 20 college science departments to pledge faculty. We will continue to explore the collaboration with the incoming new Governor’s administration and their offices to increase our outreach to STEM mentors in the workforce.

New York Academy of Science Supports Girls in STEM Pursuits

“By connecting young women from around the world with professional women working in STEM fields we will continue to support equity in STEM via our in-person and online mentoring programs, encouraging our current cohort over 22,000 members to support us. Each of our 1000 Girls – 1000 Futures mentees will receive one-to-one mentorship from a female STEM graduate or professional, and they will be individually matched to create optimal mentor-mentee pairs,”

-Dr. Meghan Groome, Executive Director of Education and Public Programming

The New York Academy of Sciences has a long tradition of ensuring young people are supported in their STEM pursuits, and thus this year the Academy partnered with Million Women Mentors to expand this important form of support.

To date, the Academy has reached more than 1,100 girls through its mentoring programs across the US. In order to make an even larger impact, in spring of 2015 the Academy will launch 1000 Girls – 1000 Futures, a Clinton Global Initiative commitment to action. This $2 million commitment is part of wider program at the Academy called the Global STEM Alliance, an unprecedented global public-private partnership with the goal of improving access to STEM education around the world through a bespoke online learning platform. 1000 Girls – 1000 Futures is based on the Academy’s successful NeXXt Scholars program for young women, established with the United States Department of State.

Skills USA on Career Technical Education and STEM Learning for Women

skills usa“SkillsUSA is excited to offer young women the opportunity to develop their professional and technical skills through numerous diverse technical programs and interactive curricula and competitive events.  It is very gratifying to see the needle starting to move as more and more students are pursuing non-traditional pathways in our nation’s schools as they engage in STEM education and programs like SkillsUSA.” — Tim Lawrence, executive director, SkillsUSA

As an organization with more than 600 business and industry partners covering all the major industries that employ technical and skilled labor, SkillsUSA frequently hears about the graying of America’s workforce, our growing “skills gap,” and the need to broaden and diversify the talent pool available to our partner employers. Every industry with whom we partner is seeking ways to encourage more young women to explore the rewards of STEM education and STEM-related careers.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) is the application model of STEM learning. It’s where science and math move from the backboard and textbook to the problem solving of “doing.” STEM permeates nearly all aspects of CTE, including some elements of leadership and employability skills training that supplement career-focused technologies.

“One hallmark of high-quality CTE is that it offers true ‘contextualized’ learning for students, or ways for students to master technical and academic content within the context of a specific industry or career pathway. Much of this contextualizing is about providing students with more hands-on learning that focuses on solving a problem or undertaking a project that is reflective of an authentic, real-world challenge. High-quality STEM pathways and courses strive to provide such student-centered, problem-based learning as well.”[i]

Of the 100 leadership and hands-on occupational skills contests that will be conducted at the SkillsUSA Championships this summer in Louisville, 77 will have a strong STEM focus and the others will feature elements relating to STEM.

Females comprise 37% of SkillsUSA’s high school and postsecondary students, but too often those numbers cluster in the industries that traditionally attract young women, such as hospitality and personal services. So, we all have work to do if we are to better serve our economy and maximize the human potential of young women who possess the talent to thrive in more “non-traditional” industries for female employees.

And that is where SkillsUSA and other Career and Technical Student Organizations are playing an important role in introducing young women to career possibilities through STEM. Nearly every SkillsUSA instructor is a mentor of young women in STEM education, helping them find career passions and develop skills that more traditional pathways may never open to them. The growth in our nation’s system of Career and Technical Education and in organizations like SkillsUSA rebounds as a larger and more diverse skilled labor pool that narrows the nation’s skills gap.

SkillsUSA is a not-for-profit national association of 310,000 member students and educators partnering with business and industry to ensure that the U.S. has a well-prepared rising skilled workforce. One hundred thirty (130) trade, technical and skilled service occupational titles are represented in the curricula of SkillsUSA member students, covering the construction, manufacturing, transportation, health sciences, information technology, communications, personal services, hospitality, public safety and engineering technology industries.

[i] CTE is Your STEM Strategy, NASDCTEc, December 2013.