Students participating in afterschool programs that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) reported increased interest in STEM careers and gains in important 21st century skills such as critical thinking and perseverance. Those findings emerge from new research, Afterschool & STEM System Building Evaluation 2016, an ambitious study supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and STEM Next (established by the Noyce Foundation). The study looked at nearly 1,600 students across more than 160 afterschool programs in 11 states. Key findings show that 80 percent of students reported a positive gain in their science career knowledge and 78 percent experienced a positive change in their self-reported interest in science. By some estimates, nearly 80 percent of all new jobs over the next decade will require STEM skills. However, there we see fewer Latino and African-American workers in STEM fields: while these individuals represent 29 percent of the general workforce population, they make up just 16 percent of the advanced manufacturing workforce, 15 percent of the computing workforce, and 12 percent of the engineering workforce. Additionally, women are underrepresented in STEM jobs, and there has been little improvement over the last 13 years. Female workers represent 24 percent of the engineering workforce, 36 percent of the computing workforce, and just 18 percent of the advanced manufacturing workforce. This new research affirms the vital role afterschool programs play in helping prepare all of our students for success in school and work. “Afterschool programs have significant potential to help young people across America prepare for success in school today and jobs tomorrow,” says Ron Ottinger, director of STEM Next. “Afterschool STEM programs are inspiring and equipping young people to pursue careers they never imagined before—and helping them gain skills needed for virtually every job in the future.” Findings from the research, as well as new articles on STEM learning from policymakers, educators, businesses, foundations, and youth development leaders, can be found online at STEM Ready America: Inspiring and Preparing Students for Success with Afterschool and Summer Learning.
By: Victor Rivero