It’s been a few years since I experienced the traditional excitement of back-to-school time. Once I began my career —as wonderful as that was—I remember still missing that unique dynamic when September rolled around with all the anticipation of new teachers, exciting opportunities and learning, as well as reunions with classmates missed over the summer. However, in the past few years, I’ve experienced a return of that back-to-school excitement, and it has everything to do with the intensified focus the American education system is placing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programming.
I like to think of today’s STEM education initiative as something that finally answers the question every student asked of his or her teacher at one time, “Am I ever really going to need this in real life?!” Through STEM education, teachers are demonstrating to students exactly what STEM knowledge and skills can mean in terms of jobs and making an impact on the lives of others.
For someone in the water industry, as well as those in most science and technology driven industries, the collaborative effort of governments, educators and corporate America to drastically increase interest in STEM careers is essential to advancing both short-term and long-term visions. By planting the seeds early and giving students hands-on opportunities to experience the fun and fulfillment of pursuing a STEM-based career, we are nurturing the next generation of innovators who promise to achieve everything from accelerating conservation and sustainability initiatives, to the development of life-enriching technologies and resources we can’t even imagine right now in 2017.
This is why every September, the push for STEM initiatives excites me; because I know the dire need for workers in STEM-related fields. It’s estimated that by 2018 there will be a need for 8.65 million workers in STEM-related jobs.
With so much riding on the success of programs encouraging STEM careers, it only makes sense to be involved from an early level in grade school, through high school and even beyond. At American Water, for example, our Partnership for Youth Success Program is one way we help advance the growth of STEM careers. Slowly but surely, the U.S. is climbing back to the top of the rankings of students with STEM proficiency and this climb can only stand to benefit utilities as we continue to face challenging issues and develop better solutions for the communities we serve.
So, this September while those around you share the excitement of themselves or their children going back to school, join in their enthusiasm! Remember the thousands of new teachers being trained in STEM education and the growing number of youth starting the journey to lifelong work that will build a more prosperous future for all of us.