Why is STEM education so important for today’s workforce? Even though career fields related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics are responsible for more than half of our sustained economic expansion, only 5.9% of the total U.S. workforce was employed in those fields in 2015 (Household Averages Annual Data, U.S. Department of Labor, Bereau of Labor Statistics.) That means the demand for STEM-educated professionals is at an all time high. Developing these skills is critical to maintaining healthy economic growth in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Education calls STEM classes the ‘education for global leadership’. STEM careers could be anything from an industrial engineer who creates systems for managing production processes to a microbiologist who studies the growth, structure, and development of small organisms. Take a look at Minnesota State CareerWise Education’s list of top STEM careers that are in high demand.

You’re probably wondering what some of the benefits there are to taking on a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics field. Here are 5 great reasons you should consider a career in STEM.

Innovation Leadership

A career in STEM means a career on the cutting edge. It means positioning yourself in front of the next ground-breaking technology. You will be working with leading-edge technology in fields like computer technology, medicine, engineering, design, and robotics. These fields give you the freedom and flexibility in your job to clear a path for new ideas and innovation.

Industry Growth

As technology continues to develop, STEM careers are the fastest-growing careers in the United States – and the world. The number of American STEM careers is projected to grow to more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022.

Having a background in a STEM gives you a competitive advantage when applying for jobs and the flexibility to change jobs easily because your skills are cross-marketable. For example, an engineering student can pursue chemical engineering, computer science, or environmental science and a student with a degree in biological sciences can also pursue opportunities to work in research labs, pharmaceutical companies, medical school, or veterinary schools.

Less Competition

There are 3.2 million jobs in STEM fields that go unfilled every year because there is no one qualified to fill the positions. There is a staggering amount of open STEM positions – pursue a career that secures you a spot in the workforce. The high demand for professionals in these fields means that you won’t have to sweat the interview – because no one else can do the job they’re asking for.

High Pay

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 93 out of 100 STEM jobs had wages above the national average in 2015. Forty-seven percent of people with a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field make more than people with a Ph.D. in other careers. You’re almost guaranteed to make more money than others that choose a different career path.

Take a look at the average salaries for entry-level, post-graduate STEM majors and non-STEM majors from an article written in Business Insider:

STEM major (overall) — $65,000

  • Computer and information sciences — $72,600
  • Engineering and engineering technology — $73,700
  • Biological and physical sciences, science technology, mathematics, and agricultural sciences — $50,400

Non-STEM majors (overall) — $49,500

  • General studies — $53,700
  • Social sciences — $46,700
  • Humanities — $43,100
  • Health care fields — $58,900
  • Business — $55,500
  • Education —$40,500

Job Satisfaction

High paychecks aren’t the only reward in these fields – the real reward is a high level of job satisfaction and paving the way for future generations.

Working in a STEM field requires rigorous work ethic and the ability to communicate ideas clearly, think creatively, and work with a team. To succeed, individuals who pursue STEM careers need to be dedicated, curious, organized, detail-oriented, and have good time management skills. Because innovation doesn’t stop, STEM skills will always be in demand. Couple this with the intrinsic benefits and pride that come from scientific breakthrough, and there is little argument for a career in anything but a STEM field. So, what are you waiting for?

Lakeville South High School’s STEM Academy is encouraging students to problem-solve in a whole new way. Kurt Weber switched his role from a biology and chemistry teacher to teaching STEM classes 4 years ago. He says there is no going back. He loves teaching students the curriculum behind the subjects that drive these classes – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Using STEM Education to Remove Unfavorable Learned Behaviors

Weber says that when he caught one of his students on his phone during class, he confronted him. The student replied that he was ‘done’ with his project. Weber says this gave him an opportunity to bring that student around the lab to show him all of the things he could be doing in addition to the project that he had already finished. He explained to the student that learning doesn’t stop once the task is over.

He explained that the kid wasn’t being snarky by saying he was ‘done’ and he didn’t take it that way either. Weber says that every kid has the ability to problem solve at a very young age but that ability is stripped away so fast with traditional learning methods in the classroom.

Weber goes on to say that most kids are conditioned to only do what they are told and nothing more. Following orders and checking things off lists leaves no room for creativity or innovation. No one has really given the students that kind freedom in their learning until the STEM Academy came along and started changing the way students think and approach problems.

To continue learning outside of the realm of what a student is asked to do is what will help that student in real-world situations as an adult.

STEM principles are teaching students how to lead, not follow

“They learn inherently, by failing,” Weber says. “Being in this class gives them an opportunity to solve a problem on their own – and the worst thing they could do is fail. They’re so scared of failing.”

He explained that when rulers were taken away and students were asked to measure a piece of equipment with which were working – they didn’t know what to do and got frustrated. This frustration comes from the fear of failing. Weber then asks the students what else they could use in the room to measure the object? A student came up with the idea of counting the ceiling tiles or using another frame of reference like a book, or a backpack. This is exactly what Weber is looking for. Out-of-the-box ideas. Critical thinking. Solutions that are derived from limited resources.

“We don’t tell them how to do it. We tell them how to get from point A to point B. It changes the way you look at everything in the world.” At this point, the students wanted to learn. They were excited to accomplish a small win and were motivated to keep on going. Weber says that the fear of failure is the norm and we need to combat it. “Failure, in general, is something they try to steer clear of. We need to tell them to lean into failure.”

What does the STEM curriculum look like?

Other class electives were unintentionally eliminated when the STEM classes became available because registration in other classes dropped. What’s so appealing about these classes and why have they become so popular at Lakeville South?

Weber gives his students the freedom to work at their own pace; an opportunity rarely given to students in other classes. Students have to complete 8 semesters of math, 8 semesters of science, Engineering Your Future 1, Engineering Your Future 2, and then get to choose one of the STEM pathways; Computer Programming, Biomedical, Engineering, or Industrial Technologies. To complete the STEM Academy, students complete a capstone project in which they can work with a local business to solve real problems. Weber says that he’s been able to create his own curriculum for the STEM classes and it’s been evolving every year as additional lab equipment, like 3D printers, and technology are made available to his students.

Weber says that there was no need to convince students to join the class. He says that the students bragged enough about their STEM class that there was no need to make additional efforts to gain students’ attention when it was time to choose electives. As far as keeping students’ attention in the STEM classes, Weber says he frequently has to tell students to go home because the school day had already ended hours ago.

How does the STEM Academy benefit students who don’t end up pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics? Weber says that the classes give them confidence in their ability to solve a problem. “They don’t need someone to tell them what to do. They need a mentor.”

Learn more about Lakeville South High School’s STEM Academy here.

EAC Product Development Solutions (EAC) is proud supporter of STEM education and fostering the development of future engineers. This is why we are excited to announce a partnership with the Lakeville South High School (LSHS) STEM Academy.

EAC Partners with Lakeville South High School's STEM Academy

The STEM Academy at Lakeville South High School began as a pilot program during the 2013-14 school year. At the time, it had two sections of Engineering Your Future 1. Today it has six sections of Engineering Your Future 1, four sections of Engineering Your Future 2, and one section of Engineering Your Future 3. The demand for these courses has risen significantly in such a short amount of time. Furthermore, 50 of the 200 students in the STEM Academy are young women.

The goal of the STEM Academy is to prepare students for STEM careers, whether they head straight into the workforce, enroll in a technical college, or pursue a four-year college degree. Lakeville Area Public Schools have recognized the ncreased demand for STEM careers, in turn increasing the demand for STEM classes. STEM jobs are growing faster than jobs overall in Minnesota, more than twice as fast as all industries in Minnesota according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

EAC offers many products and services to help companies improve the way they design, manufacture, connect to, and service their products. One of the ways we do this is through the sale of the product development software toolsets created by PTC and ANSYS. EAC has pledged to donate 1% of all engineering software and support sold in MN to the LSHS. We will also make an equipment donation to the STEM Academy valued over $20,000. The school will receive a Bridgeport CNC Mill and a 3D Systems Printer.

EAC’s donation will supplement funds for supplies and equipment coming in 2016-17 that voters approved in their levy referendum in November of 2015. This includes programming at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels.

“The pieces of equipment are instrumental to state-of-the-art STEM education. Given the expense, such purchase might not be possible without the generosity of partners such as EAC,” said Justin Just, STEM teacher at Lakeville South High School.

Jacob Stewart, Senior at Lakeville South High School said throughout his four years in the STEM Academy the biggest things he has learned were “being able to work in groups and [thinking] outside the box. There’s no one right way [to solve a problem]. Failing is a big part of improving and learning.”

Stewart plans on studying engineering next fall at Iowa State University. The opportunity of working with and learning from state-of-the-art equipment may have given Stewart and his classmates a competitive advantage over their peers.

Another LSHS Senior, Will Duncan said the experience of building 3D printers has opened up future career possibilities that he might not have considered. “My dream job is to make prosthetics for people who don’t have the technology or resources to make limbs. 3D printing or other efficient technology could make that a possibility.”

In an effort to expand the awareness and success of this program EAC also plans to create a mechanism for their customers to donate additional funds and support to the program by “opting in” when placing an order.

“I want to be intentional in our efforts to support local students and schools. Some people say STEM is big right now. I say it is big for our future. Today’s students are doing amazing things. They have amazing ideas. And the staff at LSHS is doing a fantastic job preparing these students to impact the engineering and product development world. I’m proud of this program. Not only does it support a great school and great students; it also reflects EAC’s dedication to its customers. Not only do we want to provide great product development technology and services. We also want to make sure that local companies will be able to recruit talented individuals in the near future and for years to come,” said Thane Hathaway, President & CEO, EAC Product Development Solutions

Program Details:

  • This is a new program EAC is launching in MN
  • EAC pledges to donate 1% of Engineering Software and Support sold in MN during 2016
    • Minimum 2016 cash donation of $5000
  • $20,000 hardware donation
    • Bridgeport CNC Mill
    • 3DSystems Printer
  • In addition to a minimum cash donation and percentage of sales, EAC will provide a mechanism for customers to donate directly by “opting in” when placing an order.

Learn more about Lakeville South High School’s STEM Academy here.