Technology in the classroom is completely transforming the way kids learn—and may reshape the landscape of work in decades to come. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs have moved from university-exclusive curriculum to lessons we teach our kids in grade school. This gives the younger generation a leg up by educating them at an early age on the importance and application of coding will profoundly affect the world.
Moving forward, STEM programs will prove vital to the younger generation's ability to find gainful employment and keep the population, as a whole, trotting along the path of prosperity. However, there's a gap between the demand for STEM programs and their availability. With automation replacing traditional labour, people entering the workforce are vying for jobs in different sectors. The age-old question is: Do you want to be replaced by a robot, or be the one creating the robots?
Coding in the classroom
While the situation is not as dire as the adage might suggest, many organizations look to STEM programs to better poise the next generation and find genius talent at a young age. Inventions, like the Ozobot, teach kids to code by simply getting out the markers and drawing on paper. The Ozobot product family performs different actions depending on the orientation of the lines and colours used, making the syntax as easy as drawing a picture but as valuable as an entire coding language. Imagine if we had toys like this growing up!
Creating tools to help children learn STEM disciplines is deeply valuable. HP has developed a complete line of products aimed at education, including laptops that focus on durable chassis and battery life and printers featuring HP PageWide Technology, which allows schools to reduce the costs of supplies and print twice as many pages per cartridge. Education budgets are notoriously tight, so cutting costs equates to more opportunities for learning.
Bridging the gaps across industries
Tons of other organizations are also investing in STEM education. Chevron partnered with Techbridge Girls to inspire girls to discover a passion for STEM, and hosted several field trips to their California offices for students. Employees at IBM volunteered to mentor sixth-grade students in an engineering challenge to design a shipping container. Symantec regularly hosts tours in their computer labs and data centres, providing students with the opportunity to ask about their jobs and learn about STEM careers.
"We have pockets across Canada with huge skills shortages and the government has signaled that they're going to be one of the biggest investors in changing that, which is very encouraging," he says. "When you add up the kids coding program investments, and funding for superclusters and startups, they could make a real difference. We need to create an innovation economy, and you can only do that by having people who meet these new skills challenges for jobs of the future," said John Reid, president and CEO of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance.
Raise awareness today—for tomorrow
As STEM disciplines differ from a trade- or labour-oriented workforce, awareness is the biggest challenge. You and your organization can raise awareness for the STEM education initiative by speaking at classrooms or after-school groups, bringing students to your campus for a field trip, or simply spreading awareness for the need for STEM education to your colleagues.
Getting involved with your federal innovation organization is also beneficial. In the United States, the International Society of Automation (ISA) and its umbrella organization, the Automation Federation (AF) have been involved in the development of educational STEM programs for many years. These organizations develop curricular programs for kids and schools to raise awareness of STEM-related careers in the field of automation. These organizations exist as part of an international movement to prepare the younger generation for the challenges of the future and equip them with the skills they need to succeed.
The United Kingdom has STEMNET, and you or your organization can volunteer to become a STEM ambassador. STEMNET will help you connect with your community and find relevant projects for your organization. In Canada, we have the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and they've created a handy research facilities navigator to help you find labs and facilities in universities, colleges, and hospitals working with businesses. The Liberals have also committed CAD$50 million over two years dedicated to learning how to code programs for children.
Clearly, technology is paving the way forward for humanity. If we don't foster the need for STEM-related education, we're only slowly down the pace of innovation. Start encouraging and raising awareness about STEM in your organization today to build a road to a brighter technological future.