No one knows precisely how America's economy - and Iowa's - will unfold in the 21st century. Even so, there is widespread agreement that if the years ahead are to be a time of growth and prosperity rather than stagnation and hardship, our nation and state must have a work force with the skills successful companies of tomorrow will require. For this to transpire, it is crucial that students be afforded by our state's educational system top-notch preparation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
That's why Gov. Terry Branstad has launched an initiative to increase student interest and achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics - the STEM fields. On July 26, 2011, Branstad created by executive order the Governor's STEM Advisory Council. This council was charged with generating a statewide game plan to increase the number of students readying themselves to fill technology-oriented jobs. This effort was deemed necessary because Iowa is falling behind many other states in terms of the percentage of students choosing post-secondary school education in the STEM fields.
To underline the high priority the governor places on this undertaking, he appointed Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and University of Northern Iowa President Ben Allen to co-chair the council.
During a visit to Fort Dodge Oct. 5, Reynolds stressed the link between strengthening the STEM curriculum and improving Iowa's ability to get and keep robust corporate investment in our state.
"This is a key step towards giving all kids not only a world class education and creating a world class work force," she said. "It is also ensuring our ability to compete in a global economy."
An especially attractive feature of Branstad's STEM project is that it is very much a public sector-private sector partnership rather than a government-run enterprise. It has been designed to facilitate extensive local input in the development of community-level STEM ventures.
Last Monday, STEM officials announced that 800 Iowa schools and community organizations will be participating in "scale-up programs" to advance the process of increasing student interest and achievement in STEM fields of study.
This exciting program is an important part of the governor's reform agenda for the state's educational system. It is encouraging that support in the Legislature for this endeavor is broad-based and bipartisan.
The Messenger strongly supports the STEM initiative. That so many schools and other entities have applied to participate is powerful evidence of widespread agreement that it is an immensely worthy undertaking.