STEM News is provided on Local Tech Wire through a collaborative effort with the NC STEM Community Collaborative, MCNC, and the North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Center (SMT Center). To submit story ideas, please email LTW Editor Rick Smith rsmith@wral.com or Noah Garrett noah@thinkngc.com.)

By: Sam Houston, President and CEO, SMT Center

RALEIGH, N.C. – The need for students to enter the workforce with science and mathematics skills is becoming more and more evident. Let’s forget about the jobs of the future for a minute, and let’s think about jobs of the here and now.

These are not jobs out of a science fiction magazine. Jobs in biotechnology, medical technology, computer science, and engineering continue to grow and continue to be important, especially in North Carolina.

What’s less evident, however, is how we get students to the point where they are knowledgeable in these areas.

is a recent survey conducted by non-partisan think-think with support from the . The results found that 84 percent of those surveyed said science and math skills are needed for the jobs of the future, and that nine of 10 surveyed indicated that science and math skills are needed even if someone chooses not to go into a STEM field.

This is encouraging information looking forward, but what about now?

Only three in 10 felt that science and mathematics is important in today’s economic climate. This evidence shows a gap between assumption and reality. Additionally, more than half of parents (52 percent) said the math and science education that their child is getting in school is “fine as it is.”

There is plenty of research out there that points to the contrary.

U.S. students’ rank 25th in math and 21st in science skills internationally, according to a recent (OECD) report. Also, the points out that only 43 percent of graduating seniors are ready for college math, and 27 percent are ready for college science.

So what does this mean for STEM employers interested in ensuring a steady pipeline of employees?

It means having conversations in your communities with parents and students about current and future job opportunities that require science and math. It means offering students internships that give them real-world experiences of how science and math is used. And, it means working with educators to ensure students have engaging, challenging science and math instruction from kindergarten through high school.

Of the parents responding to the survey, 69 percent said having internships for students with local businesses would improve science and math education.

“Are We Beginning to See the Light” questioned more than 1,400 individuals nationwide, including 646 parents of children grades K-12.

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