Calling on Industry: STEMpath Today, CS Talent Tomorrow
There are a plethora of programs, initiatives and support systems available to students who are interested in STEM and CS fields. Preparing students for the modern workforce, and the overwhelming majority of jobs that will be dependent upon STEM/CS expertise, is the focus of most of these initiatives. What about the educators teaching these students? How are they prepared to usher their students into this future and make them aware of the careers available to them?
There are certainly resources available to teachers who teach STEM and CS classes, from lessons plans, to curriculum and pedagogies; however, the amount of legitimate STEM preparation and credentialing programs available to educators are sparse. That is unexceptable.
A Program Unlike Any Other
In a room filled with some of Colorado’s most ingenious minds, the solution began to take shape. mindSpark Learning, in collaboration with Couragion, Metropolitan State University of Denver and Colorado Succeeds, set out to address the STEM and CS teacher shortage, and give educators and school districts an alternative pathway to success.
This 12-18-month program fuses three critical components of teacher preparation that are typically offered separately, and intertwines them into one unparalleled learning experience:
STEMpath combines work-based learning through in-industry externships, graduate-level coursework and professional learning centered around career literacy, information science and equity-centered design thinking to provide a well-rounded, well-informed perspective of STEM far beyond traditional skills.
District Level Buy-In
STEMpath is changing the STEM/CS education landscape and school districts know it. “STEMpath is the most important component!” said Jo Conlon, the Thompson School District Coordinator of Digital Media Literacy.
Understanding the dire need for students to have exposure to STEM/CS at an early age, Conlon and Thompson School District are embedding a new computer science curriculum into their elementary schools. “Now our elementary CS curriculum provides a foundation that feeds into our secondary CTE courses. However, education is having a hard time recruiting and retaining classroom teachers, much less Computer Science teachers,” Conlon explained. Conlon is sending three educators to participate in the Denver-based 2019 cohort; “STEMpath is the most important component! If our labs will be successful, it will be because we have Computer Science teachers in the labs facilitating learning. Without STEMpath, schools and districts would not be progressing as quickly.”
Sustaining Our Future Economy
Students are the future of the workforce, there is no denying that fact. However, educators are at the epicenter of that future right now. It is imperative, now more than ever, that these educators receive relevant and authentic work experience from real-world experts in these fields. Without this experience, there will continue to be a crucial missing piece that makes it nearly impossible to connect the curriculum to relevant career pathways; ultimately, every STEM and CS initiative is designed to prepare students for the future workforce.
Why not bring expert educators into every classroom, educators who have experienced these environments first-hand and can connect what they teach directly to relevant work experiences?
Perhaps that’s the wrong question, and the question that should be asked is why isn’t this happening?
Colorado Companies, the 2019 STEMpath Cohort is still seeking a few more externship placements for teachers over the summer. You can get involved and change the trajectory of an educator’s career and your future workforce by giving teachers relevant work experience. Consider bringing a teacher extern into your company this summer; it is the most impactful way to reach students and sustain our future economy.
If you’d like to get involved, visit: www.mymindsparklearning.org/stempath-sponsor-externships/, or reach out to Meg John: firstname.lastname@example.org or Shannon Myers: email@example.com or call 303.963.5390.