Committee discusses STEM education

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Aligning K-12 and higher education priorities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to develop a stronger workforce in Maryland was the focus of discussion during the GBC’s Education and Workforce Committee meeting Tuesday.

Nancy Shapiro of the University System of Maryland and Tiara Booker-Dwyer of the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education (MBRT) explained initiatives from their respective organizations to strengthen STEM education.

The three points Shapiro emphasized in her presentation were:

  1. Alignment of K-12 and higher education STEM programs
  2. University System of Maryland partnership with primary and secondary schools
  3. Cybersecurity partnerships with businesses and higher education institutions

K-12/Higher Ed Alignment
Professional development of current teachers is a focus of USM action to encourage better STEM education at the primary and secondary level, according to Shapiro. “Ramping pedagogical practice of K-5 teachers” is one way the USM is developing a base of understanding in STEM at a young age to better prepare them for the workforce.

USM/Secondary Partnership
Through a $12.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the USM is partnering with secondary schools in Prince George’s County. The partnership supports professional development for teachers every year for five years, and duel enrollment for high school students at community colleges so they can earn college credits and be more likely to enroll in a college when they graduate.

Cybersecurity Partnerships
The USM is encouraging more universities and community colleges to develop cybersecurity programs. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Maryland at College Park have recently begun honors-focused cybersecurity programs, with UMBC sponsoring “Cyber Fellows” and College Park offering the “Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students” program, a four-year honors program that had 46 students enrolled its first year.

Booker-Dwyer also emphasized the importance of business partnerships with schools to strengthen STEM programs and encourage more students to study STEM and fill the 19,000 cyber jobs estimated to be open in Maryland, according to 2012 data.

“It takes a shift in the school culture,” Booker-Dwyer said. With the support of the MBRT, STEM professionals are being partnered with secondary school teachers around the state to enhance teacher growth in delivering STEM instruction. They are there to “guide and work with teachers to enhance their curriculum,” she said.

Parent education on the importance of STEM for their children’s futures is also a major focus of the MBRT’s initiative. “Change has to start in the home,” she said.

Another part of STEM education is emphasizing “soft skills,” such as honesty, and explaining the importance of such skills to gain the necessary security clearance for many cybersecurity jobs.

The GBC Education and Workforce Committee will next meet Thursday, April 3. For more information about the committee, contact Shaina Hernandez at shainah@gbc.org.

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