By: Kristine Bullock, SE Iowa STEM Hub Manager
It may not be the most well-known corner of the state. It may not have the tallest skyscrapers or the fastest-growing business sector. It may also not contain the most exciting travel destinations. But what it does have is a commitment to this state’s future and an abundance of opportunities for the upcoming generation of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) enthusiasts. Despite its small-town status, the Southeast region of Iowa has a lot to offer its residents and the entire state when it comes to STEM. These fields of study, through which countless career paths can be entered, has recently earned a lot of focus, and Southeast Iowa is at the forefront.
As the Southeast regional hub manager of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, I am passionate in my work to promote and encourage STEM in this area of the state. With numerous STEM-related opportunities available to primary and secondary education students, Southeast Iowa is preparing its upcoming generation whose future will be heavily dependent on these fields. To meet these goals, the region hosted The Southeast Iowa STEM Festival at the Southeastern Community College in Burlington on April 25, and was an experience for students and their families that encouraged entry into the world of STEM. There were various exhibits, games, and other activities aimed at providing a realistic view into the most exciting elements of the STEM fields.
Southeast Iowa teachers and schools also have been recognized for their efforts in increasing STEM in the region. Fourteen schools were recently named 2015 Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program winners, and almost sixty educators in our region were nominated for the STEM Education Award for Inspiring Teaching sponsored by Kemin Industries.
With this kind of opportunity and talent to educate our students, Southeast Iowa is well-equipped to produce a new generation of bright, hopeful, and educated young professionals dedicated to the world of science, technology, engineering, and math. These are exactly the kind of individuals Iowa needs to fill the skills gap the state has experienced in its workforce, and even more so in STEM jobs. In fact, a study conducted by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce indicated that for every 3.4 STEM jobs available in the state, there is only one STEM-qualified individual in Iowa to fill that position.
This information spurred Iowa to take action. In 2011, the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council was created as a way to keep Iowa competitive in STEM education and strengthen the state’s STEM educated workforce. Harnessing talent within the state also will ultimately help Iowa businesses find the talent they need and in turn help to grow the economy.
Southeast Iowa is home to many quality businesses that focus on STEM industries, including Siemens, DuPont, and Cryotech. These are only a few of the companies excelling in STEM-inspired industries, providing jobs all over Southeast Iowa, and re-establishing a strong economy for the region and ultimately, the state.