Half the nation’s Fortune 1000 employers report being unable to find qualified graduates holding two- and four-year science degrees for a growing number of jobs in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, according to a 2013 Bayer Facts of Science Education survey released by Bayer Corporation.
On April 11, STEM companies in the East Bay’s innovation corridor will open their doors to local high school students to showcase the kinds of jobs that might be theirs should they pursue STEM majors in community and four-year colleges.
STEM Career Awareness Day, organized by the Institute for STEM Education at California State University, East Bay, is also an outgrowth of several years of collaboration among local governments, businesses, and academic institutions.
“We’ve seen how Career Days can spark students’ interest in the many fascinating career opportunities that may lie ahead of them,” noted Stephanie Couch, Director of the Institute for STEM Education at Cal State East Bay. “This year, we’re moving from our tradition of one jam-packed day to a Career Impact Program, which gives student up-close exposure to working scientists all year long.”
Close to 200 science students from six East Bay high schools will learn about STEM careers and visit a dozen local STEM companies for up-close looks at the groundbreaking work being done in fields including biopharmaceuticals, sound engineering, robotics, building efficiency, and forensic sciences.
A networking lunch will bring in professionals from some of the East Bay’s leading companies for informal “get to know you” conversations with students, and the day will conclude with students sharing insights and inspirations from the day. Students will also be able to sign up for additional after-school site visits being scheduled for the spring.
Since 1993, Bayer HealthCare has held a one-day event at its Berkeley manufacturing site for high school students enrolled in the Biotech Partners program.
The Institute for STEM Education, established in 2011 with lead grants from the Bayer USA Foundation and Wareham Development, began to expand on the model in 2012, with support from U. S. Representative Lee’s Biotech Advisory Task Force. In 2013 Berkeley City College hosted the event, with more 150 students from four local schools attending, and a dozen STEM companies networking with the students.
“Our research shows that the economic future of the East Bay is based in large part on innovative science industries,” noted Keith Carson, Alameda County Supervisor and President of the East Bay Economic Development Alliance.
“So many students—particularly those from low-income households—have no idea that these amazing companies are here, and of what it takes to get a job with them. STEM Career Awareness Day is growing into a memorable, eye-opening experience for students and their teachers, and a manageable way for even our busiest local science professionals to share their excitement about what they do with a new generation, who we hope will someday be working for them!”
“The San Francisco Bay Area teems with STEM talent,” said Rich Robbins of Wareham Development. “In the biosciences alone, about 120,000 people work here creating the science and technology innovation so necessary for America’s continued economic prosperity and health. And yet California is 49th in the nation in science achievement,” he explained.
“We have to step up and change this, and that’s what STEM Career Day is all about,” he concluded.
Students and teachers will be attending from Berkeley High School, Emery High School, McClymonds High School, Oakland High School, Oakland Technical High School, and the Richmond Greening Project.
Along with CSUEB, STEM Career Day collaborators include Aduro Biotech; Bayer HealthCare; Berkeley City College; the City of Berkeley; CalTrans; Cyark; the City of Emeryville; Ex'pressions College; the Joint BioEnergy Institute; Kinemed; Level Playing Field Institute; Light Sail Energy; Meyer Sound; Ninja Pandas; Swerveco; Tethys Bioscience; Thermo Fisher Scientific; UC Berkeley; US Department of Agriculture; US Department of Justice, Missing Persons DNA Program Richmond Crime Lab; and Wareham Development.
The groundbreaking Institute for STEM Education was launched by California State University, East Bay, in 2011 with the mission of enhancing and helping to coordinate existing STEM education activities on a regional basis. Lead funders were the Bayer USA Foundation and Wareham Development. In April, 2014, the Bayer USA Foundation announced a second grant of $600,000 over three years, in recognition of the important progress the Institute has made in improving science education and serving as a statewide model.
“The institute was conceived as a new kind of effort to bring all the relevant forces together to meet our region’s urgent needs for better science education,” said Stephanie Couch, Executive Director for the Institute. “For the first time, we’re working across academic departments and bringing industry leaders in as active partners to recruit and train science teachers, to develop new curricula and delivery models, and to scale up demonstrably successful programs that inspire students to prepare for careers in the exciting array of scientific fields that make their home in the Bay Area.”
Couch said the university is pleased to be developing partnerships with key players in the region — the Green Corridor high schools, the East Bay Economic Development Alliance, the BayBio Institute’s Bio-Ed Community, UC Berkeley, Biotech Partners, the Gateways East Bay STEM Network and the companies opening their labs for the students attending.
“This is a first step and we’re excited about what is to come,” she said.