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STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The goal of increasing STEM interest and achievement among our students is critical in education and workforce development in our region. In fact, STEM is a vital economic development advantage for quality job growth in our region. STEM graduates are in great demand to meet current and future workforce needs.

Why is STEM important for our students? It is projected in 2025, that over 3.5 million new STEM jobs will be available in the United States. The sad thing is that over two million of these positions will go unfilled due to difficulty in finding qualified workers. Who will fill these positions? Many economists project that one of our largest imports in the near future will be the STEM work force. In 2018, for every job available, there were three applicants competing to fill it. However, for every STEM graduate, there were three available jobs that they can choose from. Choices…STEM graduates have choices. Wouldn’t it be great if we have graduates who have choices as they fill these types of positions? Hence, the Lincoln Parish STEM Center will provide STEM experiences for our students where they have the opportunity to solve real-world problems and gain the skills needed to fulfill these positions.

What will our students be doing in these STEM positions? The National Academy of Engineering has identified fourteen Grand Engineering Challenges that will have a global impact. Providing access to clean water, securing our cyberspace, developing personalized medicines, managing the nitrogen cycle in order to protect ecosystems, enhancing virtual reality, reverse engineering the brain which could lead to much-anticipated medical break throughs, and advancing personalized learning in order to provide individualized learning experiences. This means our students will be creating algorithms to match students with the type of learning program they need, developing code to protect our personal and national information, and developing economic ways to provide clean, sanitized water world-wide. It is exciting to think that our students can play a vital role in solving these problems on a regional, national or international scale.

Lincoln Parish students will have an advantage due to the experiences they will gain at the STEM Center. And I dare say, for those students who don’t go into a STEM field, they will have the skills that will make them marketable in the workforce and help them be part of the solution for problems that we face.