Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow. – A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
I once worked at a clothes plant, where they made designer wear. This was during my undergraduate days and yes it is perplexing what the connection between chemistry and working at a manufacturing plant is. Now, here’s the twist: What got me there were my skills in Auto-CAD; imagine that! I took courses in Auto-CAD, never losing sight of my ultimate aim to be a chemical engineer. I had mapped out skills that I needed to be a successful engineer and be admitted into a good engineering programme.
So I was at that temporary job helping them design their plants through my Auto-CAD skills. Let me mention that I got paid almost twice what my other friends were getting paid and I learnt a lot from that assignment. I will never forget taking a series of trains from Westchester county to Uptown Bronx. It was quite an experience, enjoying my favorite activity of watching people and getting mentally prepared for whatever assignment my boss prepared for me against deadlines.
That was my first taste of being paid well for having desirable skills and being treated like a professional, even though I hadn’t graduated yet from college or have an engineering degree. My parents were proud of me as I didn’t stay at home over the Christmas holidays or any other break I had. I was always quickly engaged to work at the factory.
It made me appreciate my admissions letter to Syracuse University years later; and I loved my engineering courses. I enjoyed brainstorming with my colleagues, and I drank deeply from the knowledge that always came up in those sessions. That has been the hallmark of my life; working with people, solving problems creatively and seeing the results from the work that I do.
Unfortunately, a lot of our young people don’t have the experience that I had and don’t realise that STEM skills (and careers by extension) offer fantastic rewards. The sad thing is a lot of them are turning away from these paths.
What makes it a tragedy is that this is a burgeoning crisis, as the number of jobs that require STEM skills by 2030 is on the surge. A study carried out by Oxford found out that soon more than half of the jobs in the world would be STEM based, and this is a logical deduction just looking at the trends before us. The world is more tech and digital focused, with a higher reward put on numerical and analytical skills.
We are faced with a ticking time bomb for our economy. Are we going to keep our heads mired in sand pretending like we don’t know how the rest of the world is buckling up to the coming STEM crisis? It is for us to build our young people’s STEM skills right now.
As I stated in last week’s article, for us to succeed, we need to catch them when they are young. It is why I am driven to always reach out to our young people and speak to them of my experiences. The ultimate goal of my social enterprise is to get our young people future ready using STEM skills.
I have deduced from my experiences teaching various students from grades 6 to university/college that our children love science when they are in elementary school and this interest wanes as they go through the school system if not motivated to keep the love strong. They have the negative perception that only students who are geeks or nerds are the ones who succeed at STEM subjects. We have a limited pipeline to recruit future employees from.
We need to stress the relevance of STEM subjects and skills to young people for their future readiness. The jobs that they admire the most are STEM based; nearly a third were interested in undertaking a career in gaming and nearly a fifth in an IT career.
We need to eradicate this lack of understanding by enabling them to interact with STEM employers and having positive experiences with STEM teachers. It is vitally important for young people’s development.
I have seen that there is a direct correlation between young people meeting STEM employers and deciding to pursue STEM careers. Our goal at our foundation is to enable internships for our young people because of our strong belief that hands-on experience really inspires students in their career choices.
Businesses have critical roles to play; they aid teachers in knowing which skills young people will need to be future ready in a rapidly changing world. Schools need businesses to be willing and able to open their doors to young people. In opening their doors, they can open young people’s eyes to the future lanes they are unaware of.
Equipping teachers with knowledge of STEM careers will give young people a better understanding of the importance of STEM skills.
This alliance between schools and business is the best way we can achieve future readiness for young people and ensure we close the unrelenting STEM skills gap that hampers our economy.
Adetola Salau; Educator / Speaker / Author/ Social Entrepreneur / Innovator
She is an Advocate of STEM Education and is Passionate about Education reform. She is an innovative thinker and strives for our society & continent as a whole to reclaim it’s greatness. She runs an educational foundation with the mission to transform education.