By 2018, STEM jobs in the U.S. are expected to grow nearly twice as fast as other fields, resulting in more than eight million positions. Unfortunately, three million of these jobs in STEM may go unfilled because of a lack of people with required skills.
At the K-12 level, the shortage of both interested and adequately prepared students in STEM subjects falls predominantly among minority youth and young women. Gaps in science and math achievement for African-Americans, Latinos and American Indians/Alaska Natives start as early as the fourth grade. Additionally, only 15 percent of female high school students express an interest in STEM fields, as compared to 40 percent of male high school students.
The education system is often blamed for the skills gap seen in STEM areas, but that learning cannot be solely limited to the classroom. It’s imperative that we, as a society, put a greater emphasis on introducing all young people to STEM-related activities in order to help address the skills gap, expand digital literacy and help bridge the digital divide. Whether in school, at home or around the community, today’s youth need to have the resources required to capitalize on the anticipated increase in jobs in STEM, which will ultimately fuel their futures and the economy as well.
In an effort to provide those resources, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA, @bgca_clubs) offers programming that educates Club members about today’s digital world and ignites their passion for science and technology during out-of-school time. As a complement to the traditional academic environment, out-of-school STEM programs provide youth with a safe place to practice and persevere. These programs also foster creative exploration in project-based learning environments, offering activities that relate to real-world experiences, which are essential in STEM careers.
One example of how Boys & Girls Clubs are advancing underrepresented youth in STEM is through programs such as My.Future. In partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal, My.Future allows users to select from more than 40 activities that reinforce digital literacy, including areas of exploring the web, communicating with others digitally and building media. Additional experiences allow members to explore advanced topics, such as robotics, coding and game design.
Another strategic BGCA program in this arena is called DIY STEM. This hands-on, activity-based STEM curriculum connects youth to science themes they encounter regularly. Special attention is paid to connections of theory and application and the common interactions members have with these scientific principles. DIY STEM includes five models: Energy and Electricity, Engineering Design, Food Chemistry, Aeronautics and Robotics. Through support from Time Warner Cable, DIY STEM is available to BGCA’s 4,100 Clubs as well as other non-profit organizations and the general public.
And the Club’s academic and STEM programs don’t end when the school year does. Each summer most youth lose about two months’ worth of math skills, while low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains over the summer break. This is a crucial time period for academics in general but also for advancing STEM-related skills, which is why BGCA offers Summer Brain Gain. Through a wide variety of modules at elementary, middle and high school levels with a STEM emphasis, such as “Our Solar System” and “Space Technology and Innovators” where Club youth can explore the complex working and technology associated with our solar system, the Summer Brain Gain program engages Club kids with STEM-related activities and helps keep them on track during the summer.
As the leading after-school and summer learning provider, BGCA is committed to closing the opportunity gap in the U.S. This involves not only recognizing and supporting employment opportunities for young people, but also aligning the approach and educational tools with the learning style of today’s students. By staying on top of the latest advancements in technology, bringing those resources to the communities that need them most and developing pathways for young people to succeed in STEM careers, Boys & Girls Clubs are helping to ensure all youth have access to the great futures they deserve.
For more information about Boys & Girls Clubs of America, visit www.greatfutures.org.
About Dr. Damon A. Williams
Dr. Damon A. Williams is a scholar, leader, and educator passionate about making organization’s inclusive and excellent for all, creating equitable educational outcomes, and activating learning, youth development, and leadership in ways that are transformative and inspiring of new possibilities.
In September of 2013, he assumed a new role of global responsibility as the Senior Vice President for Programs, Training, and Youth Development for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. There are more than 4,000 Club affiliates in the United States, and on U.S. military bases in Europe and Asia, with a combined staff of 50,000 full- and part-time employees and annual revenues of $1.5 billion. In this role, he is the chief youth development and educational officer for the BGCA movement, as he leads the program strategy for BGCA’s strategic outcome areas—Academic Success, Good Character and Citizenship, and Healthy Lifestyles—with a focus on strengthening the club experience and creating a new generation of leaders that expand the pipeline into higher education.
His most recent books offering strategic guidance to leaders interested in the most cutting edge insights into leading diversity, equity, inclusion, and educational achievement efforts. Designed to be read alone or as companion books, Strategic Diversity Leadership: Activating Change and Transformation In Higher Education and The Chief Diversity Officer: Strategy, Structure, and Change Management (Co-authored with Dr. Katrina Wade-Golden) provide a sophisticated and nuanced approach to assist leaders with the overall process of leading diversity themed change and developing sound diversity infrastructures and strategies. As part of an ongoing effort to build diversity capacity in higher education, he also authored A Matter of Excellence: Strategic Diversity Leadership and Accountability in Higher Education a featured publication of the American Council of Education (ACE).
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