(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.)

Local Tech Wire

RALEIGH, N.C. – The North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation last month that supporters hope will make the state more attractive to businesses by making sure North Carolina’s workforce is prepared for 21st century jobs that require science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The new law tasks the N.C. Education Cabinet with tracking and coordinating state efforts to increase the number of students earning post-secondary credentials in STEM-related fields; with an eye for closing gaps between the number of STEM jobs available and the number of North Carolinians trained to perform those jobs. The cabinet also will develop assessments to measure success in closing the gap between STEM education and STEM jobs.

“We know an educated and skilled workforce is a major criterion for business, and there is an ever-increasing emphasis on STEM skills,” said Grant Godwin, vice-president of Martin Marietta Composites. “If North Carolina has a large pool of potential workers with STEM skills, then it greatly enhances our competitiveness for existing and relocating businesses, and in innovation and entrepreneurism."

Godwin is one of 20 members of the Joining Our Businesses & Schools (JOBS) Commission, which is chaired by Lt. Governor Walter Dalton.

The JOBS Commission is charged with making recommendations to the N.C. Board of Education and the General Assembly about how the state’s early-college high schools can align themselves more closely with the economic development needs of their regions. It also has focused on enhancing STEM education in North Carolina’s public school system.

N.C. Education Cabinet Chairman and former North Carolina Senator Howard Lee said a strong, coordinated effort will make sure students are well-equipped to enter the workforce with sufficient skills to tackle 21st century jobs.

“The education cabinet will be studying our existing STEM education efforts, making recommendations for improvement, and coordinating education efforts at all levels to make sure that the education pipeline gives students the skills needed to make all parts of North Carolina attractive to employers," added Lee, who is also a member of the JOBS Commission.

The N.C. Education Cabinet, which is housed in the governor’s office, consists of several state leaders including UNC President Erskine Bowles, state schools Superintendent June Atkinson, State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison, Scott Ralls, president of the N.C. Community College System, Secretary Lanier Cansler of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Resources, and representatives of the state’s private colleges and universities.

Other JOBS Commission recommendations to pass during the recent short session include making members of the State Board of Education ex officio members of regional economic development commissions as well as giving early-college high schools additional operating flexibility.

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