By Liz Segrist
Published Aug. 1, 2011
South Carolina needs a deeper focus on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – education to prepare students for jobs of today and the future, experts say.
During the 2011 S.C. Summit on STEM Education today at The University Center in Greenville, a panel of educators and professionals said there’s a STEM-educated workforce shortage throughout the state.
“I think it’s everyone’s job to fix this. We get the education we settle for and it’s often a system designed for our parents as opposed to looking at the education we have to have for the next generation,” said Tom Peters, executive director of the S.C. Coalition for Math and Science. “You have a system designed for the past instead of for the future.”
An emphasis on computers, technology and robotics needs to begin at an early age, even as early as pre-school, said Anita Zucker, The InterTech Group CEO and chairperson.
“I hope it gets traction at the state level in understanding that there needs to be a deeper focus on STEM, especially if we want to grow our state in terms of economic development,” Zucker said. “We hear our legislators talk about jobs, jobs, jobs. Well you can keep creating jobs, but if there’s no workforce to put into those jobs, then the businesses stop coming.”
STEM is integrated into everyday life and every type of job; critical thinking and problem solving are critical for the future, Peters said.
“You can’t even go to McDonald’s without operating technology,” Peters said. “The days of operating the fry basket isn’t much of a job anymore. The person who puts the frying machine together that does the fries automatically is the job you want.”
STEM education is a matter of workforce development and economic development, said John Tully of the Michelin Development Co., the economic development and job creation program that’s a subsidiary to Michelin North America.
Tully said studies have shown that jobs coming in the next 10 to 15 years will require skill sets that are nothing like the required skills today, and trained workers who understand technology are the key to being ready.
Clemson University, Personal Pathways to Success, SC ETV, S²TEM Centers SC, Tri-County Technical College and the University Center of Greenville, Inc. partnered to develop the half-day program.
Numerous STEM-based industries sponsored the summit: 3M, BMW, The Boeing Co., Fluor Corp., Lockheed-Martin Corp. and Michelin North America.
Read more in-depth about the impact STEM education could have on South Carolina’s future in the Aug. 15 issue of GSA Business. Click here to subscribe.