Getting more Iowa students prepared for the growing number of technology-oriented jobs is the objective of an initiative launched by Gov. Terry Branstad.
Boosting student interest and achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and then tying that success to economic development, are the goals of the program, according to Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.
"This is a key step towards giving all kids not only a world class education and creating a world class work force, it is also ensuring our ability to compete in a global economy," Reynolds said Friday during a visit to Fort Dodge.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds met Friday afternoon with members of The Messenger editorial board to discuss the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council.
She and Ben Allen, the president of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, came to Fort Dodge to explain the initiative, in which they play leadership roles as co-chairs of the Governor's STEM Advisory Council. STEM is short for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
They spoke to about 40 people at Iowa Central Community College, and also met with the editorial board of The Messenger.
A little over a year since the program started, it's moving from purely organizational chores to providing STEM classes to students. On Monday, state officials will announce which school districts will receive assistance to establish STEM curriculums.
Reynolds said hands-on experiences with STEM topics will help students see the value of studying those subjects.
"Those math and science skills will impact every decision they make," she said. "If they're good at math they can do just about anything."
Allen said the statewide program will address these six topics:
Professional development of current teachers;
Improved education for those preparing to become teachers;
Providing students with access to STEM education;
Establishing schools focused on STEM;
Increasing public awareness of STEM;
Giving businesses more incentives to assist with STEM education.
During a question and answer session following their presentation, Allen and Reynolds were asked about the possibility of allowing people working in the sciences to become teachers.
Allen said the procedures for helping a scientist transition into the classroom are being studied. He said the council is "looking seriously at alternative pathways to becoming a teacher."
The program received its formal start on July 26, 2011, when Branstad signed an executive order creating the Governor's STEM Advisory Council, which consists of 40 people.
That council then divided the state into six regions for implementing the program. In each region, there is an institution with a paid manager in charge of the initiative. Fort Dodge is in the north central region, where Iowa State University in Ames is the institution in charge. Lynne Campbell is the region manager.
The program has a $4.7 million state budget for the current fiscal year. Reynolds said the administration will ask the Legislature for the same amount in 2013-2014.