The Pittsburgh Business Times reports from the Pittsburgh Technology Council 2012 STEM Summit, where Jerry MacCleary, the new president of Bayer MaterialScience for the North American region, told the audience about the importance of connecting business and education to ensure the U.S. has a strong pipeline of workers with science, technology, engineering and math skills:

As the country’s demographics change, STEM fields must change as well, and companies and educators need to show women and minority students career paths, he said.

“It’s said the American STEM education pipeline is leaking,” MacCleary said as he laid out a series of strategies “to make the pipeline less leaky.”

These strategies include:

  • Start early to grab student interest in elementary school. Bayer research has shown it’s important to engage students before age 11.
  • Inquiry-based and hands-on learning is key. – “We would never expect students to learn to paint from memorizing techniques,” MacCleary said, and the same applies to science.
  • Ensure teachers, especially elementary school teachers, are well-trained and have opportunities for regular professional development.
  • Expose students to real-life scientists and engineers so they can see what a career path looks like.
  • Offer students access to hands-on science projects while in school.
  • Show students and parents that a STEM job does not require a four-year degree or a doctorate. – “The notion that all STEM jobs require a Ph.D. is a total fallacy,” MacCleary said, noting that many jobs require two-year technical training or on-the-job-training for process and production employees.
  • Reform higher education STEM programs. Bayer and other research has shown college is a place where many students leave STEM.
  • Get the word out that companies such as Bayer are trying to connect with educators and school districts, where it can be difficult to get school board support.

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