Fairfield County students explore STEM skills, careers

By Dave Conrad

Norwalk-area students put a robot through its paces at a Connecticut Science Center workshop during the recent STEM Student Symposium sponsored by the Carver Foundation Inc., and managed by CBIA's Education Foundation.

It may not have been totally on their radar when they arrived, but young people flocking to the recent Explorations in STEM student symposium in Norwalk hopefully got the idea that honing their science, technology, engineering, and math skills could give them a good chance at some really surprising careers.

Sponsored by the Carver Foundation of Norwalk, Inc., and managed by CBIA's Education Foundation, the innovative day at Brien McMahon High School allowed high school students to apply what they already know to build robots and fuel cells, and even to dissect squid (activities courtesy of the Connecticut Science Center, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, and eesmarts).

Among the Carver Foundation's many community, educational, enrichment, and recreational programs are its free after-school college prep programs: held at Norwalk's four middle schools and two high schools: which are making a difference in the lives of at least 1,000 students.

The early-April symposium was attended by hundreds of area middle and high school students who met with representatives of 20 Connecticut organizations to talk about the future: their future in good, STEM-related careers.

Participating were Boehringer Ingelheim, Cablevision, Creaform, Charkit Chemical Corp., Concentra Medical Center, Connecticut Science Center, eesmarts, GE Capital, King Industries, Norwalk Community College, The Maritime Aquarium, OEM Controls Inc., PDC International Corp., RC Bigelow Inc., Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing, Renewable Resources Inc., Siemens, Stamford Hospital, and Unilever.

Students visit the Boehringer Ingelheim booth during the recent STEM Student Symposium sponsored by the Carver Foundation Inc., and managed by CBIA's Education Foundation.

Just seeing the wide range of companies represented showed the students how STEM skills can be used in so many different worlds of work.

Why the effort to get students to focus on STEM skills?

To stay competitive, more and more employers need employees with those skills. Yet demand is exceeding supply, say Connecticut businesses, a trend confirmed by Change the Equation, a national nonprofit dedicated to boosting STEM skills, which found that over the past three years there were:

  • Two STEM-related online job postings for every unemployed person
  • Only one job posting per 3.6 unemployed people for all other occupations

The STEM shortage is likely to get worse before it gets better. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM jobs alone will have grown 17% between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the 10% growth predicted for all other job areas.

The clear message for students: If you have a strong background in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM), your odds for making a career out of those skills is pretty good.

Dave Conrad is a senior writer at CBIA. Contact him at dave.conrad@cbia.com.