STEM initiative is succeeding

There is widespread agreement that if the years ahead are to be a time of growth and prosperity rather than stagnation and hardship, our nation and state must have a work force with the skills successful companies of tomorrow will require. For this to occur, it is crucial that students be afforded by our state’s educational system top-notch preparation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

That’s why Gov. Terry Branstad launched an initiative to increase student interest and achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the STEM fields. On July 26, 2011, Branstad created by executive order the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. This council was charged with generating a statewide game plan to increase the number of students readying themselves to fill technology-oriented jobs. This effort was deemed necessary because Iowa was falling behind many other states in terms of the percentage of students choosing post-secondary school education in the STEM fields.

Late last month, the governor and Lieutenant Gov. Kim Reynolds, who co-chairs the council with Vermeer CEO Mary Andringa, provided an update on the progress that has made during the last three years. Here are some of the highlights that they cited:

A network of six STEM regions partnering with Hub institutions to support the program delivery by outstanding regional STEM managers has been created. Each is overseen by a regional STEM board.

The council implemented a vision for providing excellent STEM programs to children across Iowa, both inside and outside schools.

Innovations included the launch of STEM-focused classrooms, STEM teacher licensing, community STEM festivals, STEM connections between business and education, and a STEM awareness campaign.

Reynolds said Iowa has good reason to be proud of what is being accomplished.

“It’s remarkable what a dedicated group of Iowans can accomplish,” she said. “Gov. Branstad and I knew that to prepare our children for a globally competitive job market, we had to promote and provide a quality STEM education. … Over 3,000 classrooms and clubs involving more than 100,000 young Iowans were involved in STEM in 2013-14, and the program continues to expand its reach to every corner of the state with each passing year.”

The state government, in partnership with the private sector, is moving ahead aggressively with plans to build on the accomplishments of the STEM initiative’s first three years.

This exciting program is an important part of the governor’s agenda for strengthening the state’s educational system. It is encouraging that support in the Legislature for this endeavor has been broad-based and bipartisan.

“We made a commitment to Iowans that we will provide the tools to succeed in STEM, and we are delivering on that commitment,” Branstad said.

The Messenger has strongly supported the STEM project since it was first conceived. With this program, our state has made a wise investment in its future economic well-being. Having a work force that is properly prepared to make the Hawkeye State a competitive powerhouse as the 21st century unfolds is vital.

We are delighted with success of the STEM undertaking so far and applaud the governor and lieutenant governor for their leadership in this important endeavor.