Reader's View: Junior Achievement promotes STEM careers for Idaho kids

October 27, 2013 

In response to the article “Idaho students are scared of science and math,” written by Bill Roberts, published Oct. 7:

Junior Achievement of Idaho provides innovative, hands-on K-12 programs that give young people the skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices.

At Junior Achievement, we continuously monitor education trends to ensure that our programs complement and reinforce classroom learning and align with future workforce needs. It is increasingly evident that in order for the U.S. to compete and succeed in the global marketplace, there exists an urgency to prepare students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

However, in order to prepare students for STEM-related careers, we must first inform and inspire students about the wide range of career possibilities available to them in these fields. To that end, JA has incorporated STEM career-related concepts into several of our existing programs, and we are committed to incorporating relevant STEM elements into new programs we develop.

Additionally, we actively seek to engage volunteers who are currently working in STEM fields to facilitate JA programs and share their personal work experiences, providing students with real-world examples of such careers.

PROGRAM EXAMPLES

• Through JA Job Shadow, students gain real-world STEM career exposure, participating in one-day site visits at companies in STEM sectors.

In July, JA announced three new or revised programs that specifically incorporate STEM awareness into the curriculum:

• JA It’s My Future provides middle school students with information about preparing for the working world. During this six-session program, students will explore potential careers, including those in STEM fields; discuss how to plan for a job in a specific field; and develop a personal brand.

• JA Economics for Success provides middle school students with practical information about personal finance and the importance of identifying education and career goals based on personal skills, interests and values. Using math skills, students learn how to manage their personal finances regardless of income.

• JA Career Success introduces students to high-growth industries, including STEM-related careers, and equips them with the tools and skills required to get and keep a job in these industries.

In 2008, JA conducted focus groups with students participating in the JA Our Nation program to gauge how much they knew about job opportunities in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and business as a result of participating in the program.

An overwhelming majority of students (89 percent) reported that they became more aware of job and career opportunities utilizing STEM skills as a result of their participation.

In the same study, students also reported gaining awareness of careers they did not realize incorporate STEM skills.

Additionally, teachers, JA volunteers and JA staff unanimously agreed that the content of JA Career Success is important for students to learn, as it exposes them to STEM-related career opportunities.

Julie O’Meara is president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Idaho.

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