What should be the top investment priorities for federal agencies (including NSF, NIH, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Labor, and others) to support the education and training of the STEM workforce of the future? In other words, how should federal education and training dollars be invested in ways that will yield the greatest impact to ensure that our STEM workforce has the skills, knowledge, disposition, and ingenuity required to excel and innovate over the next generation?
Move away from the heavy focus on bachelor’s degrees and advanced degrees. Invest in community colleges, apprenticeships, and employer-based training.
There should be a renewed funding emphasis on graduate education and training. The level of support for basic research on graduate education is not commensurate with that at the K-12 and undergraduate level.
- Increase the affordability of college.
- Provide incentives for a livable salary for K-12 teachers and university faculty.
The top investment priorities should include funding for tech bootcamps and other trade institutions that focus on pathways to gain practical skills. Investing in web development and user experience design training at educational institutions like General Assembly, Dev Bootcamp, and more would
be a great way to ensure that students are able to gain access to practical skills within the tech field without taking on burdensome levels of student debt.
All work (where possible) would benefit from being “openly licensed” which aligns with the Administration’s Open Government Directive. If this could be required of all (most) educational materials it would open up valuable STEM learning opportunities to all.
Since departments are the crucial units for change in higher education, federal agencies should develop programs that encourage and support departments as they enhance their programs to prepare students for diverse careers.
Investment earlier in the pipeline and in out-of-school time are both key. Engaging underserved groups in STEM so they can be STEM literate, if not pursuing STEM careers, is also critical.
STEM education must be contextualized appropriate to the industry being studied. STEM is not an occupation and is a means to an end. We need to have a better understanding regarding the relationship of STEM knowledge to “work performance.” Funding should not be given for just “STEM Education” that leads to nowhere.
Agencies should invest so as to support critical and analytical thinking in specific fields or on specific topics.
- Target funding toward models and programs that have demonstrated effectiveness in leading to STEM skills.
- Advance a vision for a skilled STEM workforce at multiple levels, including middle-skill job opportunities that can serve as springboards for further educational attainment and career advancement.
- Connect STEM education and training investments to in-demand STEM occupations at the state and regional level.
- Prioritize access and completion for underserved or underrepresented populations.
- Prioritize programs that have meaningful engagement from employers in STEM industries.
Require that projects demonstrate and provide evidence to be tracked over time of integrative and cumulative approaches to learning and assessment that do not stop with content knowledge but that do include psychosocial and noncognitive approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment. Get beyond STEM content knowledge, which is necessary but not sufficient.
Based on my experience as an instructor in a community college, most students learn faster with scenarios. The scenarios help develop their problem-solving skills. I’m suggesting embedding scenarios into curriculum development will college’s graduate students with both knowledge-based and skilled- (hands on) based scenarios.
Understanding the realities and the complexity of workforce needs to support STEM education in the right areas in the right labor markets. This is a moving target but better understanding will lead to better use of resources.
- Investment in the learning sciences, in particular interdisciplinary teams (cognitive science, neuroscience, data science, computer science, gamification, machine learning, artificial intelligence, education, etc.) to carry out pedagogical experiments, in particular assessment methods, personalized education, mastery-based education, Edtech and blended learning, metacurriculum, etc.
- Funding of new pedagogical experiments and assessment methods and Edtech and Education startups (SBIR), both for-profit and nonprofit
- Supporting discovery and research-based experiences for K-12 and undergraduates, as well as the public (citizen science and crowdsourcing)
- Researching the fundamental mechanisms of transformational science, engineering, and scientific engineering creativity (combination of quantitative and qualitative) with the goal of developing training method programs
- Implementing professional development programs for graduate students
- Recognizing a wider array of postsecondary providers, new ways to earn credentials, levels of learner recognized
- Funding more interdisciplinary and team research and graduate programs
More focus on preparing home grown workforce for knowledge industries “Skilling” of all postsecondary education curriculums that reflect needs of today’s industries and contemporary global society. A reorientation/reorganization of funding agencies and priorities that address global knowledge-based economy and changing demography of our nation.
Supporting alternative pathways into STEM education programs (credentialing nonacademic experience), learning analytics (demonstrate value while addressing privacy concerns).
High-quality STEM preparation and professional development (PD) for K-12 classroom teachers—too many teachers are unprepared to provide high- quality, open-ended STEM experiences/activities in their classrooms. Often, local PD experiences are lacking. RET programs are wonderful; however, many teachers cannot exit their day to day lives to participate
in such in-depth experiences. Hybrid programs (face-to-face and online instruction) and online support coupled with high expectations of outcomes might help bridge the divide and open up experiences to many teachers. Teachers should also receive graduate credit in addition to PD hours for participating in such programs. Coupling these experiences with connections to industry would be very valuable for teachers to fully understand what STEM workforce preparation truly involves. Equipment is needed for teachers and students to perform hands-on STEM activities—many schools are lacking modern equipment (or enough equipment)—to allow students to participate in fruitful activities, which promote a deeper understanding of STEM principles, beyond simple regurgitation of facts. Again, coupling industry into this issue might be helpful. For example, industries with certain foci could provide equipment packages (coupled with curricula) that schools could purchase—or win through grants—to promote a suite of STEM skills. However, the impact of this type of program would be very dependent on evaluation and longitudinal tracking of students.
I believe that the majority of funding should go toward teacher training. Only by making sure our teachers (especially K-12) are equipped with the most relevant STEM concepts and skills can we ensure that the right foundation is being provided in the early years of schooling. We should also be thinking about how to connect education institutions with local businesses. Most concepts learned in school should match real world applications in the workforce. Creating a more collaborative environment in local communities will enable the right skills to be identified and taught, which in turn will create opportunities for a smoother transition into future employment. Funds should also be allocated to actively match and mentor students as they transition into the workforce, especially after completing studies in the highest demand skills.
- Early childhood and K-12 interventions
- Early childhood education and year-round school to support equitable learning opportunities
- Build STEM training for all teachers regardless of subject—there should be ways to bring STEM into any subject
- A set standard for teachers to meet regarding their knowledge and ability to effectively utilize a STEM curriculum
- Infrastructure investment in public K-12 schools, early education program campus/facilities. Teachers can be trained, curriculum can be integrated, incentives for STEM integration—all are ineffective without meaningful capital investments in in-classroom technology so that students learn STEM concepts in the environment that drives its usefulness.
- Invest in STEM-focused school counselors (grades 3-12); create STEM
learning tracks that are very similar to advanced placement learning tracks for students
- Bring more awareness to STEM opportunities by doing public service announcements, commercials, ad space on job seeking, and labor and workforce development websites.
- Provide financial assistance for specific subject matter training.
- Provide financial assistance for learning an agile business process.
- Provide more funding for experiential learning opportunities (K-beyond).
- Promote National STEM Career Day events with businesses that can host an open house for students to learn and “see” STEM careers in action.
- Develop employer engagement strategies that facilitate employer outreach to the education and workforce development systems. Employers can be guest speakers at schools and colleges; create regular internship slots; provide funding for training and work experience opportunities.
- Provide paid-for-performance options to local/regional job placement/ developer organizations.
- Provide financial incentives for organizations/companies that place interns into Internships that utilize the knowledge gained from the training.
- Provide financial assistance to the participating organizations/companies for any tools/software necessary to manage the process to make this endeavor successful
Inclusion and Equitable Access
- Build inclusion and diversity incentives for local school districts.
- Make more investment in STEM specific academies in minority/low income neighborhoods. There is a lack of Black/Hispanic enrollment in the STEM fields. Make schools like the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics more diverse and welcoming for students of color. The New Brunswick Health, Sciences and Technology High School is an outstanding magnet school for academically talented students from very low income neighborhoods in New Brunswick, NJ. Schools like these could help foster and groom more talented minorities in neighborhoods that fail to have the proper facilities and the in-classroom technology that Brad mentioned.
- Create smaller magnet STEM schools specifically for girls to help encourage their participation in the field.
- Concentrate, build, or place some of these facilities in the inner-ring suburbs of our large cities. Gentrification and the rising cost of housing in city neighborhoods are driving many minorities to suburbs right outside of cities.
Motivate university and college leadership to improve their campus climate to promote diversity in STEM. This could include requiring principle investigators to include references of on-campus programs that offer mentorship, informal learning opportunities, student grants, and student societies to promote retention in STEM fields:
- STEM career awareness, particularly in underserved communities, such as providing hands-on/real world activities to students, so that they better understand what a career in STEM looks like
- Providing opportunities for students to meet with STEM professionals and/or experience career opportunities (i.e., internships, apprenticeships, mentoring or similar activities)
Better coordination is needed between the agencies listed to ensure a more strategic federal investment approach to the issue of training the STEM workforce; there are many duplicative and disparate programs that almost undermine the broader effort to address the challenge.
It is critical to fund programs that enable young people to enter the array of STEM opportunities from a certificate to a Ph.D. We often focus on the top academic performers going on to graduate education, but fail to engage other students who would love to get involved in hands-on STEM opportunities.
There needs to be a cultural shift in how undergraduate research is approached. Through the NSF I-Corps L program, my team has investigated this landscape and would like to share insights and themes that emerged through over 100 interviews conducted from across the country. Incentivizing a holistic approach to undergraduate research opportunities is needed to ensure STEM workforce preparedness.
Investments in quantitative training across undergraduate education
Dollars should be allocated to organizations that have demonstrated an ability to deliver a clear return on investment.
Investment in students and programs that support them—not just stipend levels but funding to implement innovative ways to teach the noncognitive skills that are as important, if not more, than the discipline skills
I would like to see greater emphasis in encouraging women to enter into STEM fields.
- Tuition support for underserved populations and working learners
- Additional skills training (common employability skills)
Employer engagement to ensure that education and training systems are preparing students with skills in demand by employers. Support stronger alignment between K-12, postsecondary, and workforce systems to ensure that all systems are connected and aligned in preparing the future STEM workforce.
Adoption/scaling of known effective practices across all the topics identified for this summit
Each of the key topic areas to be discussed at the summit is of interest to stakeholders across the STEM community. A systemic approach—supported by research-based methods—is needed to design, implement, and assess plans and build capacity for addressing these key topic areas. Facilities, equipment, curricula, and professional development are all needed for effective hands-on laboratory experiences that inspire students to further their education and prepare them for high-technology careers. Aligning the investments being made by the different stakeholders and sustaining those investments over the coming decades will help us make progress. Federal agencies, which are often supporting initial investments, can foster this alignment by increasing programs and activities that
- scaffold the level of investments, such as designing grant programs to support projects of varying size and scope;
- support partnerships of various types among a range of stakeholders;
- encourage proposals that are based on and contribute to the research base;
- increase and assess the effectiveness of broader impacts activities; and
- facilitate the propagation of project outcomes.
Federal agencies can demonstrate how their programs and activities contribute to the portfolio of STEM education and workforce activities. The resources and activities of disciplinary societies and education associations should be leveraged by federal programs and those supported by federal grants. Federally funded projects should inform and enhance the resources and activities of disciplinary societies and education associations, which may be positioned to extend and sustain investments. The American Chemical Society has a series of public policy statements focused on science education and the scientific workforce (http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/policy/publicpolicies/invest.html). The Science Education Policy outlines key aspects for strengthening and improving science education at all levels. Some additional specific areas of opportunity include the following:
- Strengthening the math and science partnerships
- — Increasing the capacity
- — Encouraging matching funds from the states
- — Developing and expanding public-private partnerships
Updating the Perkins Act
- — Renewing the legislation to reflect current workforce needs
- — Expanding the state-industry communications called for in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to include agencies
- — Identifying ways to extend and leverage the Career and Technical Education program
- Optimizing the system of financial support for graduate students
- — Decoupling student-support funds from specific research projects in order to provide students the opportunity for better balance between training in research and training in other career skills, without significantly impacting the research productivity of faculty
- — Experimenting with training grants providing greater support for innovation in the educational program.
Work-based learning opportunities targeted toward STEM subjects:
- Early childhood through high school exemplary curriculum development
- High-quality professional development to manage exemplary curriculum
- Teacher preparation pathways—professional development for those who prepare teachers so they can better prepare them
- Policy changes in STEM endorsement programming in states
- Value-based externships with industry partners for teachers of STEM
- Engaging teachers within industry for professional development experience with the intent of offering a broader perception of real-world applicability
- Education/Business engagement STEM programming (i.e., Iowa BEST, Waukee APEX, Blue Valley CAPS) that integrate innovative STEM education while at the same time offering program or project-based learning
- Increasing the diversity of the STEM workforce, particularly in areas such as IT, where there are large discrepancies between the demographics of the field and the demographics of the local population
- Developing ways to integrate technical education with other critical skills necessary to enter the workforce; for example, providing Ph.D. candidates with management training during the course of their studies
- Providing robust and regional information on STEM sub-workforces so students can make informed choices when selecting training programs
Youth summer/weekend employment in STEM Fields—helps to address
getting students to work to build employability skills while also learning more about the industry. Investing in recruiting and developing minorities in STEM. Other under-represented populations—people with disabilities, incarcerated. What if what some of what incarcerated populations did as they work in prisons supported STEM fields (manufacturing etc.) while gaining a credential from the apprenticeship or some college credit? and also reform principles. The following research-based reform strategies are guiding principles for building pathways to middle-skill STEM credentials and jobs:
- Program design and curriculum is based upon current regional labor market information and analysis that is fine grained, up to date, and informed by employers and regional workforce institutions.
- Career-focused programs provide a clearly defined and well-structured pathway to jobs and careers that are in demand in the regional labor market.
- Students entering below the necessary level of proficiency receive basic skills support that is accelerated and contextualized for STEM fields, with the goal of minimizing students’ enrollment in stand-alone developmental education courses
- Students understand their options through advising upon enrollment and are expected to select a broad pathway of study (e.g., STEM, liberal arts) early in their college experience, so that they can move quickly and efficiently to completion.
- Early warning systems, frequent and ongoing advising, and career guidance are routine components of student supports and college experience.
- Low-income students are connected to effective academic, social, and financial supports that promote retention and persistence through STEM programs.
- Associate’s degree courses and programs are aligned with those of public 4-year institutions in the state, so that transfer to senior institutions to pursue higher-skill STEM programs is seamless and credits transfer easily.
- Student enrollment, persistence, completion, and labor market outcomes are continually monitored—and analyzed by college and major/ program-and used for continuous improvement of curricula and support systems.
Developing understanding throughout K-16 of the basics of computing, statistics, and data science and their applications to other fields. Continued support for research experiences for undergraduates, especially members of underrepresented groups. Support for scaling up and implementing innovative forms of curriculum and pedagogy as well as for their development. Longitudinal research on students’ career choices and influences, and post-baccalaureate choices, career development, and satisfaction.
- Increasing diverse participation in STEM, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the scientific enterprise
- Providing STEM education that is hands-on, inquiry-based, and relevant for all students
- Preparing students for a world in which computational approaches underlie much of the practice of science and engineering
Federal investments need to encourage clear connections and collaborations between industry, organizations, and universities to help prepare the future workforce realistically allowing for the development of the much needed professional skills and an understanding of the career opportunities available after graduation and into the future.
Partnerships between colleges and business/industry to open student opportunities; faculty development in instructional strategies that merge cognitive and noncognitive or employability skills to support student retention and completion.
At the K-12 level, enticing high-quality teachers to the highest-needs schools.