Employing a collective impact model, the Washington State STEM Education Foundation (the Foundation) serves as a catalyst in bringing together nearly 175 local partners from business, K-12 and higher education, government, and community based organizations to close the region’s STEM skills gap and ensure every young person experiences STEM’s power and possibilities. Our impact is leveraged by working as the Mid-Columbia STEM Network, under Washington STEM’s leadership as one of 10 STEM Networks across the State.
Washington state is a national leader in STEM, ranking second in the concentration of STEM jobs. Yet our state ranks low in the production of computer science, engineering and health degrees relative to job openings in those fields. 740,000 job openings will be available in Washington in the next 5 years. Of those jobs, 33% (245,000) will be STEM jobs which highlights an even greater need for quality education that prepares students to be future ready. And not all STEM jobs will require a 4 year degree. Many family-wage jobs await those prepared with apprenticeships, certificates and two-year technical degrees.
Locally, we anticipate what has been dubbed “the silver tsunami:” too many skilled STEM workers leaving the workforce with not enough trained replacements developed locally to fill these high-paying careers. At Hanford alone, nearly 60% of the workforce is eligible to retire within the next five years. The United States in general and Washington state in particular are facing a severe doctor shortage in the next 10 to 15 years.
We won’t rest until all students graduate STEM literate, no matter their career path. We support a view that STEM literacy is a foundational skill that matters for all careers. STEM builds critical thinking abilities, creativity and collaboration skills. Gaining STEM proficiency provides the basis for these skills and builds the flexibility to adapt quickly to frequent changes in the labor market.
Our community has much to gain from being distinguished as a national leader in STEM literacy. Through our collective efforts, our schools, elementary through university, are becoming highly regarded as a national model for business and community involvement, and innovative STEM learning.
Talented young STEM professionals have cited our region’s proactive approach to STEM education as a key factor in their choice to relocate to the Tri-Cities. International business leaders have toured the region, Delta High and our higher-ed institutions, and made the same claim. Our region’s investments in STEM education are paying off. If you or your organization are not part of our collective effort, please join us!