By Stacy M. Brown
Discovery Education, the leading provider of digital curriculum resources, content, and professional development for K-12 classrooms nationwide, has announced the creation of a STEM Careers Coalition.
Officials said the initiative will help educators develop a pipeline of students who are interested in pursuing careers in STEM fields.
It will also provide no-cost resources to students and educators, including virtual field trips, digital instructional assets, and career exploration videos.
Discovery Education officials said these resources would help students build foundational STEM knowledge and develop critical thinking 21st-century skills for college and career success.
“Last week we launched a critical initiative about future careers, a conduit through which students can see the work of the future, and a set of resources that bring relevancy to learning and broaden our understanding of and engagement with STEM,” stated Marla Wilson, the Senior Director of the Coalition.
“Solutions to local, national, or global challenges are best addressed with a collaborative community of companies, industries, and non-profits,” Wilson added.
“This world of work is most effective when the individuals contributing to and leading this evolution represent the diversity of our communities and the richness of multiple perspectives. We are excited to work with our anchor partners to intentionally focus on girls and students of color, as we move to provide equity and access and de-mystify STEM,” she stated.
The initiative launched at the Carnegie Institution for Science, where former astronaut Leland Melvin joined a panel discussion that included leaders in education, industry, and government.
Members of the newly formed Coalition includes key anchor partners like the American Petroleum Institute (API), Chevron, The Manufacturing Institute, Boeing, Microsoft, and Best Buy.
Each of those companies has provided initial seed funding and support to power the initiative's launch.
The initiative would take place in a phased approach that includes a pilot year.
The approach should help measure the program's effectiveness and strategically developed ways to scale, Discovery officials stated.
The initiative will scale up over five years, and it's expected to reach 10 million students by 2025 with support from various corporate partners.
Among the components of the STEM Coalition's work is a direct investment in schools by providing K-12 STEM career resources, STEM Connect access, and professional development for under-resourced schools.
The Coalition will implement employee engagement through mobilizing the current STEM workforce at scale to inspire and connect with future employees through engaging classroom experiences.
Coalition members will also underwrite Discovery Education STEM Connect in local communities identified by the partners.
Inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges for Engineering, STEM Connect is an interdisciplinary resource that enhances the core curriculum.
It helps students build valuable problem-solving skills as they develop and apply solutions to critical real-world challenges.
Rooted in authoritative research, users become part of a global student laboratory to share data and collaborate with others around the world, officials stated.
"We really see ourselves as problem solvers, and we're trying to tackle the world's greatest energy challenges. Meeting the growing demand for energy around the world and producing building blocks that we need to manufacture everyday products and to fuel the economy," stated Rebecca Winkel, an Economic Advisor of Regulatory and Economic Policy at API.
"It's a big job, and we're trying to do that smarter, safer, better, and more effectively every day. We know that to continue this work, we need a talented workforce. And we have quite a large workforce gap that we see coming," Winkel stated.
"There will be millions of job opportunities that we will need to fill in this industry over the next two decades. And so, to be able to continue solving the problems and facing the challenges that we face, we need to make sure that the next generation is as prepared as possible. Investing in education at the earliest stages is necessary to make this happen.
"Diversity, equity and access are key. We want to make sure that we are providing resources to schools that are traditionally under-resourced and making sure that girls and students of color, in particular, can have access to it."
In addition to Melvin, guests at the launch included those identified as individuals invested in preparing the next generation of solution seekers and leveraging the power of technology to close the awareness gap.
"The STEM Careers Coalition will connect classrooms to careers at an unprecedented scale, said Lori McFarling, President of Corporate Partnerships, Discovery Education.
"We believe that through direct investment in schools with a focus on equity of access, engagement of Coalition member employees, and exposure to digitally immersive STEM career experiences, more students will have the opportunity to envision their future in STEM and emerge as the STEM leaders of the future to fill the ever-growing careers pipeline," McFarling stated.
Over time, the efforts of the Coalition are expected to result in increased awareness as it relates to STEM and STEM careers, stated Wilson, the Senior Director of the Coalition.
"Through the generosity of the Coalition partners, students will have access to an array of STEM-focused resources, such as virtual field trips, digital instructional assets, career exploration videos, and more," Wilson stated.
For businesses and organizations interested in learning more about joining the STEM Careers Coalition and school districts interested in learning more about the scholarship process, please visit https://stemcareerscoalition.org/.