Professional Educators

NEA to Expand STEM Teacher Training Program

If the United States is to hold a competitive edge in a rapidly changing global workforce, bolstering the nation’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce is essential. And building that workforce begins in America’s classrooms, which is why President Obama in July announced a plan to create a STEM master teacher corps of eventually 10,000 around the nation. Efforts to improve STEM education, Obama said, are “going to make more of a difference in determining how well we do as a country than just about anything else that we do here.”

This week, the National Education Association stepped up to the challenge with a $500,000 challenge grant that calls on leading business and technology companies and philanthropists to join in an effort to expand a successful New Jersey Education Association program that helps increase the number of certified science and math teachers.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the STEM workforce accounts for more than 50 percent of U.S. economic growth, yet very few U.S. workers are actually employed in STEM-related fields, which are expected to add 2.7 million new jobs by 2018. Furthermore, many of these workers are nearing retirement, potentially leaving behind a large void in fields critical to the economy.

The U.S. education system is not adequately preparing its students for careers that have become the engines behind U.S. global competitiveness. For example, according to a recent report by Microsoft, only 2,100 high schools (public and private) offered the Advanced Placement test in computer science in 2011 – down 25 percent over the past five years – and in most states, computer science does not satisfy core graduation requirements.

The nation needs to connect students to jobs of the future by reengaging them in these important fields, says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, and we must have the teachers to help get them there.

“Our nation’s prosperity is tied to innovation and that innovation will be spurred on by our ability to engage our students in STEM subjects and programs,” NEA President Van Roekel explained. “That’s why we’re working together to get additional qualified, caring, and committed math and science teachers into classrooms. Right now, there’s a severe shortage, especially in low-income communities, and that needs to change. But we cannot do it alone.”

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