Engineering innovative opportunities for educators, students, communities, and industry to build a competitive Idaho workforce and economy through STEM and computer science education.
Produce a diverse, equitable, thriving ecosystem for a prosperous, STEM-literate Idaho.
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 requirements, goals, and objectives of the STEM Action Center include:
- State-level coordination of STEM-related activities;
- Promotion of STEM through best practices in education;
- Support of high-quality professional development and grants for educators;
- Facilitation of STEM-related competitions, science fairs, camps, and student programs; and
- Engagement of private industry in the development and maintenance of STEM Action Center programs [Section 67-823, Idaho Code].
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.