Connecting STEM education and industry to ensure Idaho’s long-term economic prosperity.
Produce a STEM competitive workforce by implementing Idaho’s Kindergarten through Career STEM education programs aligned with industry needs.
Introduction, History, and Future
Idaho is facing a crisis: Idaho citizens are not entering the STEM pipeline at a rate that will meet the current and future workforce needs of Idaho employers and sustain Idaho’s economic development and future prosperity. According to a report by the Idaho Department of Labor, by 2025 Idaho will be lacking approximately 63,000 individuals needed to fill projected positions ranging from construction and service jobs to medical and technology positions, many of which involve STEM-related skills and knowledge. Numerous research studies including the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce, Idaho Business for Education and Idaho Department of Labor demonstrate that more than 60% of the projected jobs by 2020 will require a college degree or certificate beyond a high school diploma.
During the 2015 Idaho legislative session, a small group of visionary legislators, education leaders and industry stakeholders began a STEM Caucus that led to legislation creating the Idaho STEM Action Center. House Bill 302 became law on July 1, 2015 (Idaho Code §67-823). This new law permits some flexibility in implementation which will allow the Center to develop unique grant, training, professional development and student opportunities aligned to Idaho’s workforce needs from kindergarten through career. Decisions related to the STEM Action Center are guided by a nine member Board appointed by the Governor. The Board is a unique blend of educational leaders from the State Board of Education and the State Department and seven Idaho industry leaders including the Idaho Department of Labor, the Idaho Department of Commerce, Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and Micron.
The Idaho STEM Action Center’s enabling legislation focuses on five broad areas:
- Student learning and achievement (including underrepresented populations)
- Student access to STEM including equity issues
- Teacher professional development and opportunities
- College and career STEM pathways
- Industry and workforce needs
During the 2016 legislative session, two pieces of legislation were passed that focused on a statewide computer science initiative. The STEM Education Fund was created through
Senate Bill 1279 into which two million dollars was deposited from the state’s general fund to support the computer science initiative (House Bill 379). The legislative intent of the computer science initiative is to increase statewide efforts in computer science awareness and access, kindergarten through career. These efforts will continue to be driven by the needs of Idaho’s industry and developed in partnership with industry, the state board of education, professional-technical education, the state department of education, administrators, educators and the community at large. The ultimate goal is to secure industry participation in the funding of the state’s computer science education initiatives.
The Idaho STEM Action Center supports the recommendations of the Idaho Task Force for Improving Education and the State Board of Education’s STEM Strategic Plan, which
support the state’s 60% goal and seeks to meet the workforce needs of Idaho business and industry.
As a result of these statewide efforts, Idaho will become a STEM business destination. Idaho will have a citizenry that not only recognizes the importance of STEM, but also possesses the necessary STEM skills for the workforce. A highly skilled STEM workforce will lead to increased investment and business opportunities throughout Idaho. Educators will have the necessary STEM skills to engage students. Students will possess the 21st century skills that employers require: critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and innovation. The result of this multi-tiered approach will be an increase in the number of businesses in Idaho and the number of STEM jobs available for Idahoans which will serve to bolster Idaho’s economy and lead to long-term economic prosperity for the state and her citizens.
STEM Action Center Strategic Plan
GOAL #1: Coordinate and facilitate implementation of STEM programs throughout Idaho
- Objective 1A: Create/identify and fund STEM opportunities for Idaho students
- Objective 1B: Identify and facilitate delivery of high quality STEM educator professional development
- Objective 1C: Develop new and expand existing STEM Action Center grant programs for educators and the community at large
- Objective 1D: Support the Idaho State Board of Education STEM Strategic Plan
GOAL #2: Align education and workforce needs throughout Idaho
- Objective 2A: Engage industry to support STEM education outcomes
- Objective 2B: Involve industry to collaborate with the STEM Action Center and focus outcomes and goals on workforce needs and opportunities
- Objective 2C: Create opportunities for schools to partner with local companies to provide for student and teacher mentoring and internships in computer science and/or STEM
- Objective 2D: Support computer science initiatives, programs, events, training and other promotions throughout the state for the benefit of school districts, students, parents and local communities
GOAL #3: Increase awareness of STEM throughout Idaho
- Objective 3A: Collaborate with Idaho’s state board of education, division of career-technical education, the state department of education, public higher education institutions and industry to develop a communication plan related to the computer science initiative and STEM
- Objective 3B: Communicate about STEM and computer science initiatives, programs, events, training and other promotions throughout the state for the benefit of school districts, students, parents and local communities
- Objective 3C: Increase access of students, educators and communities that represent traditionally underrepresented populations in STEM and computer science