The Biome’s Ecosystem – Addressing Gaps Early in the STEM Career Pipeline

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“You can’t achieve what you don’t see.” This sentiment echoed across panelists at a recent St. Louis Chapter Society for Information Management (SIM) STEM Pipeline event. The goal was to engage area educators and business professionals in a discussion on a topic that is gaining momentum, the STEM pipeline gap. The main concern is that within the progression from primary education to college, we are missing opportunities to ignite and foster interest and engagement among students in STEM subjects and ultimately STEM careers.

The STEM Pipeline panelists included: Dr. Victoria Brown-Kennerly, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Webster University; Dr. Dinesh Mirchandani, Department Chair of Management and Information Systems, UMSL; Dr. Robyn Wiens, Principal at Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls; and Bill Kent Jr., Founding President and CEO, The Biome School.

Numbers tell the story. The U.S. currently has a deficit of half a million IT professional for jobs that are currently open. As IT integrates into all aspects of business and life, this gap will continue to increase. In addition, 70 million people are retiring in the next decade with only 30 million replacing them. There is no question that the rise of STEM jobs and the lack of qualified applicants to fill these jobs is a growing concern.

The question remains how are we going to inspire students to pursue STEM careers to fill this pipeline?

Panelists cited a number of cracks in the pipeline that often hinder students from entering STEM careers. These range from a lack of opportunities to develop interests in STEM subjects to a lack of STEM subject teachers and mentors to help them visualize themselves in STEM careers. As a result, there are too many missed opportunities between educators and STEM companies to collaborate and create meaningful learning experiences.

On a positive note, panelists agreed that there are a number of ways to create a better pipeline. For example, a 2016 report by the American Educational Research Association revealed that as early as Kindergarten, there is evidence of gender gaps in math achievement.

That’s why at The Biome, we work hard to engage students early and often and enable them to build a strong foundation. As Bill Kent explained, “At The Biome, we literally extend our classrooms beyond our own walls and into the community.”

The Biome’s vision comes to fruition through our experiential off-site micro schools, which utilize existing community assets, like the Saint Louis Zoo, to support authentic learning experiences for all our students. Through our micro schools, students delve deep into topics of interest and learn from experts in the field.

“It is our responsibility to increase our student’s readiness to step into the pipeline. We want to collaborate with experts in STEM fields. We are open, tell us how we need to be ready to partner with you.” Bill emphasized.

The Saint Louis Chapter Society of Information (SIM) brings together IT leaders to share, network, and give back to their communities through the collaboration of local chapters. To learn more visit: http://www.simnet.org/