The Public Policy Forum's latest report, released today, finds that of the 10 career clusters predicted to grow the most over the next five years, seven include occupations requiring strong backgrounds in science, math, technology, or engineering (STEM). Of the 10 specific jobs predicted to be the fastest growing in the state, eight require STEM skills or knowledge and six require a post-secondary degree.
Do Wisconsin's state educational policies reflect this growing need for STEM-savvy and skilled workers? Are Wisconsin education officials focusing on STEM in a coherent and coordinated way? Our new report probes those issues by examining state workforce development data and reviewing state-level policies and standards that impact STEM education.
We present several policy options that could be considered to build on localized STEM initiatives and establish a greater statewide imperative to prioritize STEM activities in coordination with workforce needs. Those include:
* Strengthening state standards in science, math, and other STEM fields, creating model curricula in STEM fields, and aligning standards to workforce needs and college matriculation requirements.
* Creating incentives to recruit and retain qualified STEM teachers and ensuring districts use teacher standards and professional development goals in hiring, evaluation, promotion, and possibly compensation.
* Creating incentives for more coordination of local efforts and increasing support, both financial and regulatory, for district-level STEM initiatives.
The data indicate that a coordinated state-level focus on STEM education will be critical in meeting our state's future workforce needs. Is Wisconsin up for the challenge?