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A Father & Daughter – Explore Building STEAM for a Bolder Future

Paloma Carignano

Paloma Carignano

Sophomore Wheeler High School

Tony Carignano

Tony Carignano

Dad/Technical Marketing Executive

You may be familiar with the term "STEM," which stands for "Science, Technology, Engineering and Math." It's been a buzzword in education for the past several years. The extra "A" in STEM, or STEAM, represents that curriculum's Art component.

Tony:  While enjoying a cup of coffee on a recent early Sunday morning, I noticed a very sedate conversation emanating from the second floor of our home. By the cadence of the muffled voices, I could tell that my wife, a high school foreign language teacher who enjoys sleeping in on Sunday mornings, was not a part of this conversation. So, I had to investigate. When I got to the second floor, I realized that the discussion was coming from my 15-year-old daughter’s bedroom.

At first, I thought she might be watching a documentary for one of her STEAM Wheeler Magnet high school classes. Much to my surprise, I discovered that my daughter was in a conference call with a male voice and a few of her robotics club teammates, a somewhat comprehensive representation of her STEAM program’s multicultural demographics.

I subsequently learned that my daughter and several of her robotics club teammates lobbied a Georgia State Government Representative for a firmer stance on STEAM-related program funding and teacher training. As part of the club’s lobbying activities, they were also advocating more substantial Educational equity.

Paloma:  The Robotics Club created a “STEAM Pitch Strategy.”  My email to the Georgia Representative was a call to action by those who have the power to create a more substantial equitable STEAM Ecosystem that prepares everyone for the new 21st Century jobs.

Excerpts from the email:

“Educational equity, also referred to as ‘Equity in education,’ is defined as a measure of achievement, fairness, and opportunity in education. In response to our society’s current social climate, elected leaders need to take steps towards mending the socioeconomic and racial divide in America’s education system.”

“Most of us grew up [and currently live] in middle-class suburban neighborhoods and attend well-off schools. We’ve been in contact with STEM since the early years of our education. Our connection with STEM learning is a direct result of living in areas where property taxes are high enough to sufficiently fund our schools.”

“Unfortunately, many kids in the surrounding counties and cities [in the greater Atlanta area] have not had that same experience…..We need to advocate for STEM & STEAM funding, but more importantly, for underprivileged communities so [that] equity in education is established.”

Why is equitable access to STEAM/STEM programs for all students important to the Economy?

A 2018 report issued by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte predicts “the current skills gap in the United States may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028, with a potential economic impact of $2.5 trillion.” Furthermore, the study shows that the positions relating to digital talent, skilled production and operational managers maybe three times as difficult to fill in the next three years.

More recently, in October 2019, The Wall Street Journal reported that IT trade association member CompTIA’s analysis of federal employment data showed that U.S. companies had approximately 918,000 unfilled IT jobs for a three month period last year. Part of the demand gap was attributed to companies simply investing more in tech to drive business initiatives. It is believed that the IT hiring trend will only increase due to the seismic growth in online shopping fostered by COVID-19 safety measures.

What is the most significant barrier to growing STEAM/STEM Program Access?

A June 2019 Brookings Institution paper on this topic revealed that teachers with both STEM and non- STEM degrees “are paid lower than other college graduates in all states.” The report also pointed out, “the teacher pay penalty in the U.S. is large by international standards.” More specifically, “the minority of students in the U.S. that do actually graduate with a STEM degree are hit hardest when they choose to enter teaching over other careers. Since the STEM teacher pipeline relies heavily on STEM graduates, the large wage penalty faced by the graduates directly impacts the size and quality of the STEAM teacher workforce.”

The United States economy’s health and competitive edge within the global marketplace need all the help it can get. The integral components towards this outcome include prospective STEM and STEAM students and the invaluable professionals who teach them. Hopefully, the future holds adequate teacher training opportunities, funding, and equity of education for underprivileged communities needed to make this a reality.

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