Posted on October 20, 2014

2014 – Value of STEM Skills Highlight Nuclear Science Week

Science, Engineering, Technology and Math – popularly known as STEM – is the new wave of specialized training leading to well-paying jobs in technology-based fields ranging from nuclear energy to computer technology, homeland security, space exploration and more.

STEM-based career opportunities will be featured during Nuclear Science Week October 20-24 as employers and educators throughout the Central Savannah River Area come together to bring greater awareness of the many careers available within nuclear technology and other high-tech industries.

These regional partners are being brought together under the auspices of the SRS Community Reuse Organization and its Nuclear Workforce Initiative (NWI®).

A highlight of Nuclear Science Week will occur on Thursday (October 23) when high school juniors and seniors from 18 high schools in a six-county region will gather at the Kroc Center in Augusta for an interactive forum focused on career pathways built on STEM skills. Students are attending from Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell Counties in South Carolina and Columbia, Richmond and Burke Counties in Georgia. Registration for the event is full.

During the STEM forum, students, teachers, guidance counselors and career specialists will interact with current professionals in nuclear technology and other high-tech industries, learn about future career opportunities in our region and view informative exhibits.

“The goal of the event is to help young people in our region better understand the many opportunities in STEM fields that exist right here in our community and for local employers to convey the types of skills they need in new employees in the years to come,” Mindy Mets, NWI® Program Manager, said. “Our hope is that participants walk away with a better understanding of how to best prepare for the many types of STEM careers of our region.”

Mets said the demand for professionals in STEM fields is projected to outpace the supply of trained workers and professionals, both in our region and nationally,” “That’s why we are putting so much focus on these opportunities during Nuclear Science Week,” she added. “When it comes to quality events for this region, this one is exceptional. Students can find a great future in STEM-related careers.”

The urgency for STEM training has increased amid Department of Education reports that the United States is falling behind internationally, ranking 25th in mathematics and 17th in science among industrialized nations – a situation it calls “unacceptable in our competitive global economy.”

This drop in global standing has drawn the attention of President Obama, who has called for American students to move “from the middle to the top of the pack” in science and math within the next decade. Specifically, he has called on the nation to develop, recruit, and retain 100,000 “excellent STEM teachers” over the next 10 years.

The President also has asked colleges and universities to graduate an additional one million students with STEM majors. However, the Department of Education says these improvements in STEM education will happen only if Hispanics, African-Americans, and other underrepresented groups in the STEM fields—including women, people with disabilities, and first-generation Americans—participate.

Much of today’s STEM curriculum is aimed toward attracting these underrepresented populations, especially females. Studies show that male students are more likely to pursue engineering and technology fields while female students prefer science fields, like biology, chemistry, and marine biology. Overall, male students are three times more likely to be interested in pursuing a STEM career.

In 2012, women earned 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees in the U.S., according to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. But women earned just 43 percent of math degrees, 19 percent of engineering degrees and 18 percent of computer science degrees. The only STEM field where women outpaced men was in science, at 55 percent.

Both regionally and nationally, employers and educational institutions are channeling resources toward increasing student interest in STEM training. Exhibitors at Thursday’s event at the Kroc Center include Aiken Technical College, Augusta Technical College, The Babcock & Wilcox Company, CB&I AREVA MOX Services, DSM Chemicals, EnergySolutions, Georgia Pacific, Georgia Power Company-Southern Company, Georgia Regents University-Augusta, JANUS Research Group, Inc,

Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Newport News Shipbuilding, Nuclear Workforce Initiative, Parsons, Rural Sourcing, Inc, SCANA, Savannah River National Laboratory, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, Savannah River Remediation, Savannah River Site Leadership Association, SRS Community Reuse Organization, Technical Women in Georgia, Textron Specialized Vehicles, University of South Carolina Aiken and U.S. Navy Programs. For more information on Nuclear Science Week, visit www.srscro.org.