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Community colleges instrumental to increasing the science and engineering workforce

Monday, October 22, 2012
During the past four years, President Barack Obama has advocated for the revitalization of scientific education as the cornerstone of education reform policies in the U.S. Demand for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates is high, and community colleges should play an important role in growing this tech-savvy sector of the workforce.

Opening doors
Becky Wai-Ling Packard, a professor of psychology and education at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, wrote in a commentary on The New York Times blog, The Choice, that community colleges are often the most common higher education choice for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. While many of these students do not enter college with aspirations of becoming scientists, Wai-Ling Packard believes that two-year schools can expand the range of STEM opportunities available to young people by providing strong mentoring and counseling opportunities.

"There is clearly a need to demonstrate to community college students, especially women, that studying science disciplines is a viable academic or career path," wrote Wai-Ling Packard. "The community college transfer pathway can take them to four-year degree programs, where they will gain the further knowledge and skills they need to enter the workforce as trained professionals or go on to graduate studies."

Growing demand
According to data from Change the Equation, a STEM education advocacy group, there are currently 3.6 unemployed individuals for every one job vacancy in the U.S. However, in STEM fields, the ratio is much more favorable, with one unemployed STEM graduate for every two unfilled vacancies in these fields.

Additionally, Education News reports that, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 5 percent of the American workforce is employed in STEM-related fields, indicating that there is tremendous room for growth in these sectors.

Rewarding work
In addition to offering students far better employment prospects, STEM careers enable students to bring about positive change in the world. Rodney Adkins, senior vice president of the Systems and Technology Group at IBM, told Forbes that advances in computing power and developments in technology could enable STEM graduates to revolutionize important fields such as health care, scientific research and even disaster response.

Adkins added that public-private partnerships between academic institutions and private enterprises are vital to the continued growth and success of science education in the U.S. Companies such as software giants Microsoft and IBM are actively involved in the promotion of STEM careers at both the high school and college level.ADNFCR-16000756-ID-800889565-ADNFCR - helping you find colleges and universities that offer the accredited programs that most interest you.

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Community colleges instrumental to increasing the science and engineering workforce
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