Over the past decade, leaders in the United States have been challenged to produce solutions for crises such as high unemployment rates, declines in skilled labor, deficits in the educational system, and the offshoring of jobs to other countries. Overall, this has created a fear that the increased global competition from emerging markets could be detrimental to U.S. economic superiority. Since 2011, President Obama has made an effort in his State of the Union speeches to embrace the notion that without a strong representation of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in our educational and workforce systems, the U.S. will be unable to remain economically competitive (Shchetko, 2013). As the integration of STEM increases in many daily jobs, the demand for more skilled labor has become a necessity. According to the Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, it is predicted that the United States will need 8.55 million STEM jobs by 2018, a 17 percent increase from 7.32 million in 2008 (Carnevale et al., 2010). As a result of this demand, it has become more apparent that advocating for increased STEM education, awareness, and interest is crucial.
In an effort to increase awareness among students, educators, counselors, and parents, STEMcareer.com is a website created to provide information on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This free website serves multiple functions by providing STEM resources, information on STEM initiatives, advocating for increased STEM education, and the encouragement of career engagement with diversity in these fields. The co-collaboration of individuals and groups dedicated to the disciplines of STEM have made STEMcareer.com a convenient tool offering updated blog posts on STEM related topics, teaching resources, media tutorials, and specialized STEM web links, just to name a few. It is with this continued effort, STEMcareer.com hopes to expand its outreach by encouraging involvement in STEM, thus helping individuals find meaningful careers that will ensure our global markets stay competitive and sustainable.
In many ways, educators, parents, and counselors alike, play a huge role in how they influence youth. Early on, messages about “who can do what” and “who should do what” are conveyed either intentionally or unconsciously by adults, educators, society, or those in power. As a result, certain populations of individuals gravitate towards certain careers, limiting the involvement of diverse groups. This is especially evident in careers related to STEM. For example, one of the biggest underrepresented populations in STEM fields are women. According to the United States Department of Labor statistics, women are attaining 57% of all college degrees and 60% of master’s degrees (2009). And yet, only 20% of women account for attaining bachelor’s degrees in the areas of computer science, engineering, or physics (National Science Foundation, 2008, American Association of University Women, 2010). Similar statistics can be found with other subordinate groups, where the encouragement to enter these fields or a lack of peer representation for effective modeling is limited.
The website is also able to promote STEM awareness through its continued effort to bring relevant news articles and content to its viewers. One way that STEMcareer.com is able to do this is through “blogging”. According to a brief definition, ““blogging” is a discussion or informational site published on the worldwide web and consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order” (Blogging, 2013). In the case of STEMcareer.com, “blogging” consists of posting and updating recent news articles that pertain to STEM in order to promote, educate, and advocate for the advancement of these fields. As a result, viewers do not have to go far to get the latest information, which may include topical articles about government, jobs, education, viewpoints, industry, and advancements related to STEM. STEMcareer.com maintains a continued effort to seek out articles that highlight involvement of all people in STEM, particularly those groups from underrepresented populations.
In addition to “blogging”, STEMcareer.com uses social media to relay content to other websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In. Any time content is published on STEMcareer.com, articles are pushed to these social media sources to help expand the outreach beyond the website itself. As a result, viewers do not have to directly come in contact with the site itself in order to stay connected to STEMcareer.com and its resources.
Educators, career counselors, and advisers can benefit by using STEMcareer.com in a variety of ways. In some instances, STEM knowledge may not be a source of strength for many educating students or clients about different career options. STEMcareer.com is a free comprehensive site that exposes students to a variety of web links that can assist them in cultivating career direction through assessment. Guidance from professionals can assist students in navigating the site and generating self-awareness; however, STEMcareer.com’s user friendly layout makes it an easy resource for students looking for ideas about STEM careers, choosing colleges, information on scholarships, or links to internship websites. For educators, STEMcareers.com offers ideas about extra-curricular activities to students in elementary, middle, and high school. Many of these activities include yearly science competitions put on by government entities like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States Department of Energy.
STEMcareer.com also provides a free PowerPoint presentation called “STEM and You” that was designed by Rich Feller and Andrea K. Greenwall Shreve of Colorado State University. This presentation allows counselors and educators to customize the template the way they see fit with the hopes of drawing interested students into the world of STEM. “STEM and You” provides an overview of STEM, its careers, links to testimonials of those in STEM careers, the importance of STEM in our society, the rewards of a STEM career, and much more. Providing free resources like this one to educators instills a sense that the goal of STEMcareer.com is not to establish short-term profit, but rather, invest in education. The real investment is making sure that people find meaningful careers, are able to provide for their families, and ensure that our global economy stays competitive.
In the university setting, career counselors and academic advisors can use STEMcareer.com in order to assist students in becoming clearer on the opportunities that exist within STEM fields. College is usually a setting where students are exposed to new ideas and a place where personal identity is further established. Assisting students in career exploration, self-awareness, and giving them the tools to effectively navigate the job market can help students save both time and money within their educational pursuits.
STEMcareer.com offers easy access to STEM field descriptions by offering links to sites like O*Net Online (onetonline.org). O*Net provides general to specific descriptions of STEM jobs outlining the tasks, skills, education, and interest codes. Interest codes on O*Net can be used with the results from the assessment developed by John Holland and the Holland Occupational Themes (R.I.A.S.E.C.). Assessments often given in career center type settings like the Strong Interest Inventory or the VISTa life/ career card sorts can assist a student in determining what their Holland code is. Many career counselors are already familiar with this theory, which maintains the idea that “personalities seek out and flourish in career environments they fit [in] and that jobs and career environments are classifiable by the personalities that flourish in them” (American Psychologist, 2008). Although a career decision should not be solely made on assessment results alone, individuals that reside in STEM careers can have a high instance of Realistic (R) or Investigative (I). Often times, exposing a student to this type of information, combined with the validation of an assessment, can spark an interest that encourages career exploration.
Another website that offers insight to STEM careers is Career Cornerstone Center (careercornerstone.org). This website offers information on science, technology, engineering, mathematics, computing, and healthcare fields. All too often, students can be overwhelmed by the generalization of words like “science” and Career Cornerstone Center provides examples of specific STEM careers. As a result, this website broadens the scope of what can be done within each field. For instance, under “science”, the site conveys the message that careers from medicine to manufacturing can be attained. When linking to a particular STEM discipline within Career Cornerstone Center, individuals can access Podcasts, lists of potential employers, career path forecasts, and professional organizations. Having all of this information in one place makes STEMcareer.com an easy way for counselors and advisers to be efficient with their time and provide a meaningful resource to their clients.
Over the past decade, we have seen unemployment rates go from a low of 4.4% in October of 2006 to a high of 10% in October of 2009 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013). As of February 2013, the current unemployment rate is 7.7% (2013). Even though the U.S. economy is showing a decrease in unemployment, these numbers are still far too high for many to be unconcerned. If individuals are interested, careers in STEM can offer sustainable jobs that can help support living wages, provide meaningful careers, and help an economy in need. Obviously there are other factors that contribute to maintaining a strong economy, but encouraging our youth and dislocated workers to embark upon careers in STEM can only be a benefit. As STEMcareer.com continues to evolve and its resources utilized by students, educators, counselors, and parents, it has become apparent that there is a growing need for more resources like this one.