Tech Jam, Jobs and STEM Education

Science Saturday, with Tarrant Institute research fellow Mark OlofsonIt is Tech Jam time here in Burlington! This annual two day event is a chance for employers in the tech sector to come out and talk about who they are, what they do, and who they need to hire. It is also an amazing tech expo that has interesting and fun activities and presentations on a number of topics. Friday morning was specifically for students, and I saw many folks I recognized from Code Camp and our partner schools.

If the main floor was all about work, downstairs at Generator, a community makerspace, was all about play – and the awesome learning that goes on when students actively engage in the creative process. We’ve talked about this Tech Jam, jobs and STEM educationbefore, and it was great to see the types of things that students at area schools are engaging in making. Be on the lookout for posts in the future to let you know about the project-based learning going on in Randolph, and a report on a crazy group of makers in South Burlington. There was a lot to see, do, and learn!

Tech Jam, jobs and STEM education
Vermont Jobs Guru Kevin Stapleton

I also attended a session presented by Kevin Stapleton from the Vermont Department of Labor. Kevin is a pretty cool guy – he knows what the jobs are, and more importantly, he knows what the jobs will be 10 years from now. And he let us know – jobs in STEM fields are growing at almost twice the rate as the overall job market in Vermont. And how can we set up students for success in such a job market? This isn’t too hard to answer – STEM education.

Kevin showed us the importance of education after high school – folks with STEM education at the post-secondary level have lower unemployment and higher wages. And the more education you gain, the more opportunities open up. It was interesting to hear that even if you don’t end up working in a STEM-specific field, employers value applicants with STEM education. They know that these folks also have developed critical thinking, problem solving, and understandings of how to use data and information to make decisions. These types of skills are transferrable to just about any field.

Kevin also shared a number of websites such as www.mynextmove.org. This site in particular can be used to match interests with possible occupations, and then look at the prospects and wages in those fields. The Vermont-specific site vsacroadmaps.org helps guide students into college and explore job opportunities.

It is important as we work with students in the STEM fields to also bring this reminder of the possibilities of future jobs in the STEM fields. Working in technology does not just mean programming computers anymore (not that there’s anything wrong with learning code!). The learning that takes place in STEM classrooms can be used by all students in future careers. Events like Tech Jam are a great way to explore all the varied opportunities that are out there.

Tech Jam runs through 3:00pm today, Saturday 10/25, at the Burlington Memorial Auditorium

Author

Mark W. Olofson

Mark is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in the Education Leadership and Policy Studies program at the University of Vermont. He previously taught Middle and High School science and math. Mark has been with TIIE since Fall 2013.

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