Northern California STEM event can let kids explore new career world

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Commentary

Kirsten Gamble is a public relations volunteer for the North Bay Science Discovery Day, One of a team of professionals who work throughout the year on the one-day event.

Go into any toy shop and you will see section after section dedicated to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) experiences for children.

We see STEM schools popping up at the elementary and high school levels. So does this mean we’ve solved the “STEM workforce” problem that has been the topic of conversation at both local and national levels?

Statistics appear to show a positive trend, and yet our work is still cut out for us as parents, educators, and politicians.

STEM jobs are projected to grow 13%. That’s compared to 9% for non-STEM jobs — with positions in computing, engineering, and advanced manufacturing leading the way.

U.S. universities are expected to produce only 29% of the required number of grads to fill the 1.4 million computer specialist job openings, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The U.S. placed 38th of 71 countries in mathematics, and 24th in science according to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – which is regarded as one of the biggest cross-national tests of its kind. (Source: Pew Research Center)

Out of 100 STEM occupations, 93% of them had wages above the national average.

The national average for STEM job annual salaries is $87,570, while the national average for non-STEM occupations sits at roughly half - $45,700. (Source: the Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Women and Minorities

Women, African-American, and Latino workers remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce, although to a lesser degree than in the past, with the greatest disparities occurring in engineering, computer science, and the physical sciences (Source: NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2016).

Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce.

Female scientists and engineers are concentrated in different occupations than are men, with relatively high shares of women in the social sciences (62%) and biological, agricultural, and environmental life sciences (48%) and relatively low shares in engineering (15%) and computer and mathematical sciences (25%).

African-American and Latino workers now represent 29% of the general workforce population, up from about 24% in 2001.

But those groups make up just 16% of the advanced manufacturing workforce, 15% of the computing workforce and 12% of the engineering workforce, according to U.S. News & World report, 2015.

Minority women participation in STEM at the collegiate level is low: Engineering, 3.1%; Physical Sciences, 6.5%, Mathematics, 5.4%, Computer Science, 4.8% (Source: via the National Girls Collaborative Project).

It is vital that we take steps now in our communities and beyond, to engage our budding workforce while they’re young, so that they can acquire and strengthen the STEM skills that will help them compete in the 21st century innovation economy.

Upcoming Discovery Day

BUT better news! In addition to STEM programs being offered at most schools, the annual North Bay Science Discovery Day offers a window into the world of STEM for all students.

The NBSDD is a one day only event being held on Saturday, Oct. 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds at 1350 Bennett Valley Road in Santa Rosa. It is a FREE event (free parking too) and is in its 9th year, attracting about 17,000 children and their families. The target audience is 4th through 8th graders, although there is something for everyone.

This event is run by volunteers and sponsored by the Buck Institute on Research on Aging in Novato, along with other Marin and Sonoma County businesses. We have over 100 exhibitors throughout the Bay Area who provide INTERACTIVE and HANDS ON activities and experiences for kids:

  • Looking at microbes through a microscope
  • Operating a robot
  • Exploring the human body
  • Dissecting a squid
  • Drones and much much more!

For more information, check our website: www.northbayscience.org

In addition, if you would like to be a sponsor for this event and have your name on marketing materials, or even an exhibitor of a hands-on STEM booth, you can sign up on our website.

Commentary

Kirsten Gamble is a public relations volunteer for the North Bay Science Discovery Day, One of a team of professionals who work throughout the year on the one-day event.

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