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Could Intentional Inclusion of STEM Employment Data in Lessons Prepare Students for STEM Careers?

Updated: Jul 5, 2022

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Intentional discussion or inclusion of STEM-oriented employment projection data in science lessons could provide secondary science teachers another strategy to prepare students, predominantly minority students interested in pursuing degrees or careers in STEM or non-STEM fields.


When time permits, one of my weekly classroom routines is conversing with students about jobs and employment opportunities in STEM-related occupations. It only takes about 30 minutes. The routine is an effort to include college and career readiness in my curriculum.


Recently, while performing literature research online for my Monday information support session on college and career readiness in a STEM career, I revisited one of the data from Employment in STEM occupations: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov), OEWS Topics (bls.gov). Note that the data and website were modified recently.


Examining the data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the job projection and median annual wage in 2021 for STEM occupations outpaced non-STEM occupations. Other things that caught my eye were occupations considered STEM-oriented or functionally related to STEM.


Although my dissertation focused on "High School Teachers' Efforts to Enhance Students' Acquisition of STEM Skills." I often wonder how many students and teachers know that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations include computer and mathematical, architecture and engineering, life and physical science, and managerial and postsecondary teaching occupations. Moreover, I wonder how many of them are aware that occupations like the sales occupations, especially those in pharmaceutical science, Edtech, and others (like science teachers requiring scientific or technical knowledge at the postsecondary level), are some of the functional areas in STEM. With such knowledge (if the conversation is not happening already), could this impact minority students' interests and teachers' and parents' efforts to enhance students' preparation and choice for college and career readiness in the STEM field?


I remember deciding what master's degree in the life sciences (my second attempt) and even deciding on the career path I would pursue in the late 1990s and early 2000. Honestly, I cannot remember what gave me the fortitude to consider looking at various job projections (it must have been my parents). However, I remember going through the anxiety of finding a job that pays more than $34,000 a year with a college degree.


Looking back, I imagine how less anxious job search and finding the right job with good pay would have been had I considered other aspects (like job projections) of preparing for college and a career after college? Even more serious, I wonder how many more students, predominantly minority students, from less privileged demographics are unaware of employment projections or the requirements to pursue good college degrees with the prospect of earning up to $95,000. How many students are taught how to pay for good colleges without their parents or the student being indebted with student loans. Imagine a student being indebted even before finding a job or not finding a good job that pays well.


There is a need for teachers, parents, and students, predominantly minority parents and students, to include employment projections, not only for STEM occupations but also for non-STEM occupations, as part of a conversion about college and career readiness. Secondary school teachers could even include projects on employment projections as part of their lesson plans and curriculum design. These could also help teachers address the Next Generation Science Standards Science & Engineering Practice: Analyzing & Interpreting Data The Next Generation Science Standards | NSTA. The Next Generation Science Standards require that students use data collected to construct their graphs. Constructing a graph helps students to analyze and interpret data, as well as data presentation. I hope my colleagues see this as a value-added proposition.


Interested to read about your thoughts and ideas.


Authored by Dr. Ayo Olufade, Ph.D.

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