US2020: Inspiring Kids to be the Next Generation of STEM Leaders

Posted by Maggie Cline on

Let’s take a minute to talk STEM education and the resulting workforce crisis. In Indiana, for every one STEM-skilled employee, there are 2.4 jobs available; however, for every five non-STEM skilled employees, there is only one job available.* This tells us we need more people going into STEM professions. But first, we need those people to get STEM degrees. And before that, we need to educate them in STEM skills. 

So what’s keeping our students from choosing to study STEM subjects? When asked why they don’t go into STEM careers despite expressing an interest in them, 31% of teenagers said that they don’t know anyone who works in these fields and 28% said they don’t understand what people in these fields do.** 

The solution is seemingly to start at the very beginning of the pipeline: connecting students to STEM professionals so that those students have a chance to learn about STEM careers. 

Enter US2020, a national initiative focused on increasing the number of STEM professionals engaged as volunteers with high-impact STEM programs. In 2013, in response to a presidential call to action, the US2020 city competition was created to challenge cities across the country to become thought leaders on this topic. Fifty-two cities applied. Seven were chosen as winning cities. Indianapolis is one of them.

TechPoint Foundation for Youth (TPF4Y), with the support of a Guiding Coalition comprised of approximately 50 local partners, is leading the Indianapolis US2020 initiative to increase corporate volunteerism in STEM subject areas. The initiative’s target population is those students typically underrepresented in STEM fields: females, minorities, and youth from low-income backgrounds. 

US2020 is currently partnered with IPS, Lawrence Township, Pike Township, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis, for a total of 14 school and community center sites. Vetted US2020 programs, such as FIRST and VEX robotics, CoderDojo, Math Pentathlon, and Science Olympiad, are deemed to be hands-on, experiential in nature, and offer the opportunity for volunteers to engage for a minimum of 10-20 hours per school year. 

TPF4Y is getting ready to kick off year two of the initiative in August, and is always looking for more STEM professionals interested in volunteering. WFYI, along with other companies like DoubleMap and NextGear Capital, are among the latest wave of US2020 partners to have joined the Indianapolis Guiding Coalition and pledged to encourage their employees to volunteer. If US2020’s STEM volunteer opportunities sound like something you or your company want to hear more about, contact TPF4Y at Volunteer@TechPointYouth.org!

What ideas do you have for getting more students involved in STEM? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and on social media using #AmGradIndy.

Sources:

* “Projections of Jobs and education requirements through 2018”  Maltese, Adam V. and Robert H. Tai. 2011

** Basken, Paul. 2006. “Early Education Key to Scientific Career Choices.” The Boston Globe    

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Maggie Cline is the Program Director for the TechPoint Foundation for Youth. In her role, she oversees the US2020 initiative for the city of Indianapolis, working to grow the next generation of STEM leaders by connecting STEM professionals to high-impact STEM programming for underrepresented youth.

As the leader in technology education efforts for the state of Indiana since 2001, TechPoint Foundation for Youth is committed to inspiring our state's underserved K-12 students to explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We believe that our youth should be equipped to address Indiana's growing demand for a skilled workforce. 

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