At practically every Middle and High School Career event I go to, one of the questions I get see is: “What classes should I be taking to better prepare for life?” or some around that theme.
Invariably, besides communication skills, (verbal AND written) I talk about taking STEM classes, which means taking mathematics and science. That usually generates some groans and moans, and when I ask who in the room likes math and science I get a smattering of hands.
I explain my reasoning from both an engineer’s perspective as well as a business owner.
Engineers are problem solvers, but what kids wants to think about having to solve problems for a living? Most people get programmed to avoid problems in life, that they are negatives and should be avoided. SO why would you want to deal with problems for a living?
I have learned to tailor my explanation to one more focused on math and science helping people to visualize issues and situations and arrive at solutions through creativity.
The current generation of students have seen and have a comfort level with constant change. Pointing out to them that change is a constant and even picking up speed helps to point out that you can both sit back and constantly react to change, or you can be a part of creating the change.
STEM education is problem solving training, but in order to solve problems, one has to be creative is hypothesizing situations and solutions, creating a means for testing and evaluating your hypothesis and assessing the outcome. Explaining to students that STEM is about expanding your ability to be creative and participating in the change rather than reacting to it sounds a lot better than solving problems.
Secondly, as an employer, I point out that once they are in the workplace, regardless of whatever level of education they choose to utilize, change is a constant there as well. That the days of a job being just performing a repetitive task all day every day no longer exists. Every employer has to improve over time to meet their customers’ needs, and that my employees are a part of that effort. I expect them to apply creativity to their jobs to help perform tasks more efficiently to help the company be successful. The more creative an employee is the more valuable they are to themselves, the organization, and to me.
So getting kids more interested in STEM (engineering), is talking about being creative, talking about adding value, talking about making a difference, and talking about helping the team.