by STEM Scouts
By Leigha Edwards, Protocol and Community Relations Manager, UT-Battelle
As the managing operator of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, UT-Battelle is committed to three areas of simultaneous excellence: to deliver innovative solutions to complex problems with science and technology; to operate the lab efficiently and to protect our workers, the public and the environment; and to be a trusted and valued community partner.
UT-Battelle has focused the majority of its corporate philanthropy on science, technology, engineering and math-related education over the last 14 years. We were STEM before STEM was cool!
We continue to align our outreach efforts to engage children today with the workforce needs of tomorrow. As part of our continued efforts to promote STEM education via our long-standing partnership with the Boy Scouts of America, we were eager to support the STEM Scouts pilot program in the Great Smoky Mountain Council in East Tennessee.
We are enormously proud that two former ORNL staff members, April McMillan and Trent Nichols, developed the STEM Scouts concept entirely and are now serving as the National Directors for STEM Programs for the BSA.
We also see such value in the program that we have offered to charter any organization in the greater Knoxville area that wishes to be part of the pilot. We are encouraging our staff to get involved with the newly formed Labs to help offer their expertise and energize students around the many career opportunities available to STEM professionals.
Today’s workforce is underprepared, and the needs of the future are changing almost daily. Manufacturing and other skilled jobs remain unfilled. We are trying to prepare kids for jobs that do not yet exist and to work on technology that has not even been developed. Students today need to think innovatively, have the ability to understand complex ideas, and be ready to make strides in the research and discovery process. The U.S. STEM workforce is expected to grow significantly through 2018, with estimated workers totaling more than 8 million and with substantial increases in computing, in particular. Opportunity abounds if we have students interested and engaged in the right areas.
There’s more to workforce development than increasing the overall number of STEM-skilled workers.
We also need a more diverse set of graduates. Historically, women, blacks and Hispanics have been underrepresented in STEM employment. STEM Scouts is open to both boys and girls in grades 3 through 12 so all students have the same opportunity to explore STEM topics via hands-on activities, guest speakers and field trips. As the largest science and energy lab in the DOE system, ORNL offers numerous career paths in the STEM arena, and UT-Battelle is passionate about leveraging both our corporate resources as well as our greatest asset – our staff and its expertise – to encourage kids to explore these options.
Working with organizations such as BSA and STEM Scouts, we are engaging our future, one child at a time.