Friday, 02 March 2012 00:00
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and AAR Aircraft Component Services, a leading provider of products and services to the worldwide aviation industry, joined by Westbury High School students at AAR’s Garden City office, announced on Feb. 24 a new partnership aimed to provide Long Island students with science and technology internships and access to STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers.
Partnering with the Westbury Union Free School District and the Cradle of Aviation Museum, AAR unveiled a new “School to Work” program, which hosts Westbury’s STEM Magnet School, to provide local students internships and access to STEM-related careers. This new partnership will provide students from a disadvantaged community with opportunities in STEM fields and help AAR create a pipeline for future hires.
“With eight of the nine fastest growing industries requiring proficiency in STEM, we are relying on these students to be the leaders and innovators of tomorrow,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We need to teach our third-graders how to build a rocket, our fifth graders how to build a robot and our high school students how to turn those interests into successful careers.”
In 2007, the Westbury Union Free School District initiated a curriculum reform program to increase the number of students performing at advanced levels in math and the sciences and pursuing degrees in STEM. Westbury reports that participating students are more likely than their peers to report plans to pursue a STEM degree following graduation.
“Aviation is a high-growth industry in need of skilled workers to fill job openings today and provide a pipeline of talent for the future,” said David P. Storch, chairman and CEO of AAR CORP and a graduate of the Westbury Schools. “It is imperative that private industry works closely with its government representatives and academic institutions to promote education and put people to work. I commend the leadership that Senator Gillibrand and the Long Island community have shown in this effort.”
The fastest growing occupations of the last decade required expertise in the fields of science and technology, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But less than one-third of American students are proficient in math and science, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
“I want to express my appreciation to the Senator and to AAR for offering this program which supports our shared vision of fostering academic excellence and providing exciting career opportunities for our students,” said Dr. Constance Snead, Westbury Superintendent of Schools.
Andy Parton, Cradle of Aviation museum director, added “AAR is taking a leadership role and setting an example for other aerospace companies by raising the profile of this critical need for skilled workers and by building strong partnerships to educate tomorrow’s work force.”
1. Strengthening STEM Education for New York Students
America is home to the best colleges and universities in the world. But students are not leaving college prepared with the education they need for the high-tech jobs of the future.
Just five percent of American college graduates major in engineering, while 12 percent of European students and 20 percent of students in Asia pursue engineering, according to the National Science Board’s 2010 Science and Engineering Indicators. The report also shows a disproportionately low amount of U.S. women pursuing engineering degrees. While women earn nearly 60 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, less than 20 percent graduate with engineering degrees, holding women back from leading in high-tech industries.
To boost STEM education programs in America’s elementary, middle and high schools, Senator Gillibrand introduced the Engineering Education for Innovation Act (the E2 for Innovation Act), a targeted effort to increase the number of students who choose science and engineering as a career, and maintain America’s competitiveness in the world economy.
The E2 for Innovation Act would:
Integrate engineering education into K-12 classrooms by designing challenging content and curricula frameworks and assessments that include engineering.
Increase engineering and technology teacher preparation programs and recruit-qualified teachers to provide engineering education in high-need schools.
Increase student achievement in STEM subjects and knowledge and competency in engineering design skills.
Invest in afterschool engineering education programs.
Promote partnerships among K-12 school administrators and teachers, and engineering member bodies and engineering professionals.
The E2 for Innovation Act is a three-year program that would award grants through the Secretary of Education in consultation with the Director of the National Science Foundation for the planning and implementation of engineering education into K-12 instruction and curriculum. It would also provide funding for one year to the Institute of Education Sciences for research and evaluation grants to assess the effectiveness of the funds used for planning and implementation.
2. Increase Hands-On STEM Learning
To help spark more student interest in science, math and technology to boost their proficiency in these subjects, Senator Gillibrand cosponsored the Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program Act. The legislation would establish a grant program within the U.S. Department of Education to create more hands-on STEM learning experiences in our classrooms, such as robotics.
According to a Brandeis University study, 88 percent of students who participate in these kinds of learning experiences go on to full-time higher education, are almost twice as likely to major in a science or engineering field, and are more than three times as likely to major specifically in engineering – putting these students on a path to promising, good-paying, high-tech jobs.
3. Produce More STEM Teachers
America faces a stark shortage of math and science teachers to prepare students. In fact, the U.S. will need an estimated 283,000 math and science teachers in secondary schools by 2015, according to the Business-Higher Education Forum 2006 Report.
The lack of STEM teachers is taking a serious toll on the amount of STEM students we produce. And the lack of STEM teachers in low-income schools widens racial and gender gaps among our high-tech workforce:
Women represent 43 percent of the workforce, but make up only 23 percent of scientists and engineers;
African Americans and Hispanics together represent about 30 percent of the workforce, but make up only 7 percent of scientists and engineers;
Together, African Americans and Hispanics receive less than 5 percent of all doctorates in mathematics, physics, chemistry and computer science.