The future of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education in Wisconsin was the focus of a regional conference held recently at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC).
“The STEM conference was a wonderful opportunity to bring together representatives from business and industry, higher education, K12 education, and a number of community agencies to assist us as we work with others from across the state to create Wisconsin’s road map for STEM education,” said Dr. Ellen Kirking, CVTC’s vice president for education. “Through these conversations we were able to generate ideas that will help us as we build this framework.”
The gathering at CVTC was one of six regional conferences held throughout the state. In her welcoming address to the nearly 90 participants gathered at the Manufacturing Education Center, Ellen said, “Our economy and the quality of life in Wisconsin will grow and thrive through the development and promotion of STEM education and careers.”
Ellen cited statistics from the State Office of Economic Advisors indicating that 10 percent of all jobs in Wisconsin are STEM-related, and that percentage is expected to rise to 20 percent for all new jobs created in the state between now and 2016.
The purpose of the STEM conference at CVTC was four-fold:
- To build awareness of the value of STEM education as a pathway to economic success.
- To provide resources and experiences for Wisconsin educators, from pre-kindergarten through college, to develop STEM knowledge and skills.
- To position STEM education as a valued outcome for all Wisconsin students.
- To promote STEM skills as an economic advantage for those entering the Wisconsin workforce.
Aliesha Crowe, dean of Energy, Agriculture, and Technology at CVTC, led the K-12 educators during their discussion of STEM issues at the conference. Her group included administrators, teachers, counselors, and high school career prep staff from school districts throughout the CVTC and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College districts.
Aliesha explained that the Wisconsin Technology Council will compile the ideas and suggestions coming out of the conference at CVTC and the five other regional STEM conferences into a “white paper” that can serve as a guide for a statewide approach to STEM education during the next decade. This “white paper,” also referred to as a “road map” for the future of STEM education in Wisconsin, is scheduled to be released this fall.
“The people at our conference were excited to contribute to the STEM road map report, and they are very interested in receiving the report when it is completed,” Aliesha said.
“Success in advancing STEM education relies heavily on cooperation amongst those with a vested interest in STEM and a shared knowledge and language of what STEM really means for Wisconsin,” she added. “I see the road map as a critical step in establishing the partnerships and sharing the knowledge. In addition, I think the STEM road map report will be very helpful in fostering further development of STEM initiatives at CVTC.”
Aliesha explained that CVTC established a STEM Planning Team in 2010. That team, which includes Student Services and Academic leadership as well as faculty, has been working to increase enrollment in STEM-related programs at the college and to create awareness of STEM education at CVTC and throughout its 11-county district.
“The advancement of STEM education in the state of Wisconsin is not a K-12 issue or a higher education issue, but rather a statewide issue,” Aliesha said. “The great turnout of K-12, higher education, business and industry, and community representatives at our STEM regional conference clearly indicates the importance of STEM education to west-central and northern Wisconsin.”
Ellen also praised the outcome of the regional conference at CVTC.
“Using our vision for Wisconsin, we can work to overcome myths and misinformation about STEM, give students the foundation they need for their careers, and give employers the talented and qualified workforce their businesses need,” she said.