Innovation. Creativity. Effectiveness. Those are some hallmarks of K-12 programs receiving a total of $2.4 million in grants from the nonprofit, privately funded Washington STEM, created to boost the quality of education in “STEM” subjects — an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math.
Bellevue School District has received a grant of $628,700 to develop STEM-focused curricula that could be adapted by schools across the state.
Over the past year, Washington STEM has raised nearly $20 million, with Microsoft, Boeing, McKinstry and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as major donors.
The goal: to better prepare today’s students for today’s — and tomorrow’s — jobs, and to foster a spirit of innovation essential to advancements in science and technology.
According to Washington STEM vice-chair, Brad Smith, and Microsoft general counsel and senior vice president, the need is critical. Said Brad Smith, “We [in Washington] have one of widest gaps in the country between technology jobs being created and students being equipped with the skills needed to fill those jobs.”
Consider that statewide unemployment is 4.6% for workers with a four-year college degree, but more than 10% for those with only a high-school education.
A state study projects that over the next five years, Washington schools are expected to graduate only enough credentialed students to fill 67% of the state’s anticipated job openings in engineering and 56% in computer science.
A key priority of Washington STEM’s grants is to boost technology education for students of color, who now make up less than 5% of those earning college degrees in STEM fields.