Businesses understand that we are in a global competition for workforce talent. In Middle Tennessee, we are projecting a significant shortage in the number of skilled and qualified workers over the next decade. Simply put, we need more adults in our region with postsecondary education, such as a technical certificate, an associate's or bachelor's degree, or an advanced degree. This is especially true in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts the existence of 100,000 STEM jobs in Tennessee by the year 2018—that’s a 10 percent increase over the number of STEM jobs in our state in 2008. Despite the growing demand, nationally, only 17 percent of high school seniors are both proficient in math and interested in STEM, and only 50 percent of college graduates in STEM majors go on to pursue a STEM career.
The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce is working to promote STEM education in partnership with the Middle Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub, a consortium of K-12 school districts, higher-education institutions and businesses. In September, we organized our first “STEM-posium” at Lipscomb University
, with our sponsor, Altria Group. David Burns, the director of STEM Innovation Networks with Battelle
, opened with a call for K-12, higher education and the business community to be equal partners in promoting STEM education. Then, representatives from eight Middle Tennessee counties spent the day sharing how they were using local partnerships to expand STEM education in their schools. Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools
shared how they are working with their local UT Agriculture Extension Office
on STEM-related projects, providing a powerful model for how rural communities can implement STEM programs in their classrooms. In Nashville, Metro Schools
is partnering with the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach
to bring scientists into the classroom on a weekly basis at Stratford High School
, Bailey Middle School
and Hattie Cotton Elementary
. In Sumner County, Union Elementary
is working with a local bank to connect financial literacy to math standards. Visit our YouTube channel
to view a video of the STEM-posium highlights or the the full program, and visit our Flickr page
to view a set of pictures from the event.
I recently had a chance to see firsthand the excellent work Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools are doing in their STEM programs. At Richview Middle School
, a math teacher and science teacher were collaborating on a STEM project for their eighth-grade students. Students were given the problem of creating neutralization tanks so that the waste water from a paper mill could be safely discharged into the Cumberland River. In their physical science class, they were working in teams to construct the neutralization tanks. They would then graph the pH levels in math class to find the right balance between acid and base. At Clarksville High School
, students were building circuits in science class that would light a model home. The math teacher then referred the students back to what they were learning in science as they solved equations to find the voltage of a circuit. The Clarksville educators shared how important it was to provide structured, common planning time for teachers, the value of connecting to Austin Peay State University, and the willingness of local businesses to participate in the STEM curriculum. For businesses interested in partnering with a STEM program in Nashville, contact me at (615) 743-3000 or visit the PENCIL Foundation. John Bartee with the UT Agriculture Extension office in Montgomery County talks about his STEM partnership with Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools (L-R: John Bartee; Carla Dawson-Jackson, director of STEM Education in Metro Schools; Tiffany Farmer, Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach; B.J. Worthington, Director of Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools; Karen Freeman, vice president and marketing director of Sumner Bank and Trust; and Danny Sullivan, principal of Union Elementary STEM).
Jennifer Brown, Sumner County’s assistant director of schools for instruction, discusses STEM education with Eric Harris, senior manager/quality assurance with Altria.