Join us this week on SmartBlog on Education as we highlight Q&As with the panelists from our recent STEM Pathways Roundtable event. We kick off the series with LeAnn Wilson, executive director of the Association for Career and Technical Education.
Why is the issue of connecting industry and education to enhance STEM education important to you?
One of the phrases I hear often from our members and at ACTE headquarters is that STEM is CTE, which is to say that these two ideas are fundamentally connected to one another. Our economy is still recovering from the worst economic recession in recent history, and it can be a struggle for people to find work, particularly in a field that they feel passionately about and that they can earn a living in.
But what a lot of people don’t know is that there are plenty of jobs available out there right now in growing fields, many of which require strong STEM skills. Careers in STEM fields are available in nearly every major metropolitan area and pay about 10% more than careers with similar education requirements, about $53,000 on average, which too often are not what people envision when they think of CTE.
I and ACTE’s partners believe that by connecting business leaders and employers with educators, we can build the sort of connections that will improve the effectiveness of America’s classrooms, help people understand what today’s CTE students can do and overcome the skills gap, which is a win for our economy, our students and our future.
How do you envision your role in – or contribution to – this effort?
We believe that there is no better STEM laboratory than a CTE classroom. Our 211,313 CTE professionals create learning environments that connect the core academics behind the theories of STEM with the practical, hands-on applications of this knowledge to ensure that there emerges proficient, skilled and in many cases, credentialed learners and workers.
I heard it best from a CTE teacher when he said that CTE really brings the curriculum to life for students; it turns a concept like slope of a line, which might be a challenge for some students, into something they can understand like the pitch of a roof. ACTE’s members are at the intersection of growing America’s next generation of 21st century workers through college and career readiness and creating a vibrant, successful 21st century- and STEM-enabled workforce.
What key misconception about the STEM pathway would you like to address?
STEM is CTE, not the other way around. To suggest the other way, it would imply that CTE is a path towards developing STEM theoretical proficiency when the goal of STEM education is not only to have a certificate, degree or diploma, but to be able to apply STEM knowledge and skills in a fulfilling career.
Students in these fields contribute to our workforce, our economy and our nation in some crucial fields. They’ll become professionals who will ensure we have access to effective energy supplies, or the leaders who will protect our environment by engineering greener technology.
LeAnn Wilson is the executive director of ACTE.
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