Launching a major new initiative aimed at inspiring Connecticut’s young people to embrace expanding career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the Connecticut Science Center has kicked-off STEM Career Connections.
Describing the Science Center as uniquely equipped to motivate young students and set them on a path to pursue in-demand careers in the digital economy, Science Center officials outlined plans to highlight the numerous career pathways in STEM disciplines throughout its programming. Innovative, problem-solving roles will become integral elements in new and existing exhibitions and presentations by Science Center staff, STEM professionals and educators from partner companies and academic institutions.
Academic studies on students and their career outcomes show that early interest in STEM is a strong indicator of a future STEM career. Based on this research, a key component of the work of the Connecticut Science Center and program partners is focused on building expectations – comfort, understanding and knowledge – of STEM-related careers by 8th grade. Studies also indicate that some students exhibit initial interest in STEM careers, only to be sidetracked by lack of encouragement or perceived opportunities. Additional research has shown that out-of-school time can play a role in sparking and maintaining interest throughout the early years of schooling and lead to interest in STEM degrees.
“Every child has the potential to have a STEM career, no matter his or her background. This initiative offers game-changing potential for the state, creating individual opportunity as it boosts our economy. We look forward to developing future matches of well-prepared prospective employees with a growing number of businesses specifically seeking the talent and expertise to grow in Connecticut, or relocate to Connecticut, and thrive here,” said Connecticut Science Center President & CEO Matt Fleury.
The new initiative gets underway with the recognition that Connecticut is on the threshold of a substantial increase in the number of jobs available in STEM-oriented careers, particularly in the areas of advanced manufacturing, insurtech, healthcare, and other technologically-oriented fields. These opportunities are likely to grow, officials point out, driven by high demand for technology-savvy hires across industries, as well as projections of even greater need as a significant portion of the current technology-related workforce reaches retirement age.
The Connecticut Science Center plans to reach not only children but also the parents, grandparents, caregivers, and teachers who strongly influence students as they look ahead to their futures. The initiative is designed to inform, engage and energize diverse communities of young people and those around them and comes amidst the year-long observance of the 10th anniversary of the Connecticut Science Center.
“We view this important initiative as an investment in Hartford’s future,” said Diane Cantello, vice president of corporate sustainability at The Hartford. “It is vital that we give the youth in our communities every opportunity to be successful as technology continues to transform the workplace. The Connecticut Science Center’s expanded focus on the STEM fields is the right emphasis at the right time, and we are proud to be a part of this innovative educational program.”
“We are thrilled to partner with The Hartford and the Connecticut Science Center to empower students with the skills, exposure, and education to pursue STEM disciplines,” said Meera Krishnamurthy, Cognizant U.S Foundation Board Member and Senior Vice President and Strategic Business Unit Leader for Insurance, North America at Cognizant. “STEM Career Connections is a great development for our community, our families, and our economy.”
The Connecticut Science Center programs and exhibits that will be integrated with STEM Career Connections include: live, public presentations in the Science Center’s exhibit galleries; Women in Science programs; teen programs, which include meetings with STEM professionals and entrepreneurs from Downtown Hartford’s innovation community; summer and vacation camps; traveling programs, which go to schools, libraries and community centers throughout the state; Science Center lab experiences during school field trips; and applicable portions of the Mandell Academy for Teachers professional development programs.
The Science Center has also launched a series of STEM Career Showcase events where students experience 1-on-1 interactions with STEM professionals, educators and counselors who inform them about academic paths to STEM careers. Applicable careers will be described in live STEM presentations reaching 50,000 people this year.
Bernard L. Kavaler is Managing Principal of Express Strategies, a Hartford-based public relations firm. He previously served as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs for the Connecticut State University System, and in elementary school was editor of a periodical called “Space Exploration, USA” which was produced on a photocopier and distributed free-of-charge to classmates.