Ways to encourage more diverse students to pursue STEM careers?

January 12, 2018 R5webmaster No comments exist

By: James Narey
• SHPE LM Aero-Fort Worth professional chapter, VP of Community Outreach
• Hurst-Euless-Bedford (HEB) ISD Board Ambassador


There is a lack of diversity along racial and gender lines within the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workforce despite continued job growth and strong future continued growth.


As an industry professional, have you ever looked around corporate America? Well, then you have probably noticed an overwhelming wide diversity gap in STEM. The country’s STEM workforce remains a dominate male workforce at 74% and 85% White/Asian. The Hispanic community makes up only 6.6% of the STEM workforce while Women make up only 26% of the STEM workforce compared to 48% of our nation’s total workforce.
This is a problem because it is proven that companies that promote a more diverse workforce are more highly likely to succeed by deliver results through increased earnings and stockholder value, build more effective partnerships, drive innovation, unlock value-driven insights that impact your company’s overall bottom-line raising the bar for the overall America STEM workforce.
So as the cold winter sets in and we’re starting a fresh 2018 new year, now is the time to start thinking about how you plan to grow as a professional leader and make a difference in the community. Get out and support our educators as they head back to school for another year to develop our students academically, by assisting our students prepare for the future STEM workforce. Students need more mentoring to show them how they can become future scientists and engineers by understanding what professionals do in STEM career fields followed by leadership opportunities to help prepare them to develop better college entrance and scholarship applications.
Here is a short-seven step process that anyone can follow to help close the gap in STEM mentorship by helping develop our students in our low socio-economic communities to provide that apprenticeship to local middle and high school students and do your part in building a stronger and more inclusive STEM talent pipeline.


1. Volunteer for a public school in your area.
SHPE professional and college chapter members should look no further than their local school district in their area as the perfect opportunity to provide STEM mentoring. Schools and teachers are always looking for programs and events to offset the classroom learning with real-world applications and community mentors to come and talk to their students about STEM awareness, especially towards the end of the academic year after state exams have completed. SHPE chapters should survey their members and match schools in neighborhoods close to where they live or seek some potential alumnus from a school of interest in your local neighborhood. It is these latter relationships that will foster the best partnerships to extend the legacy of the SHPE Junior chapter program for the long-term.


2. Gain the support of the school administration.
Any successful SHPE Jr. program starts with the endorsement of the school administration. When a SHPE chapter is interested in establishing a new prospective SHPE Jr. chapter at a school of choice, they should setup an initial meeting with the school administration and district officials. Seek to meet with the district STEM program coordinators. The purpose of this meeting is to give them an introduction of the SHPE Jr. program, requirements, goals, curriculum, and its value/benefits. First, is to gain the support from the district and local school administrators. This is the utmost importance to ensuring the long-term sustainment of any Junior chapter. The next step to a sustainable Junior chapter is to find a dedicated and passionate SHPE Jr. advisor. The SHPE Jr. chapter is only as strong the high school chapter advisor. Identify a wonderful teacher that will embrace the club such as a math, science, Spanish teacher, or other technology teacher at the school. Rely on the school administration assist with this appointment. They know the teaching staff the best. The best suitable job requirements are to seek out those more tenured teachers who are committed to the school and is trustworthy enough that they will pass along the torch when they get ready to retire, or decide to take that next promotion. Other potential SHPE Jr. chapter advisor candidates maybe to look for a friend of a fellow SHPE chapter member that works for the district.


3. Establish a SHPE Jr. school club today.
Run a Junior chapter like an extracurricular club. It is no different than any other school student organization such as the local robotics club, science society, national honor society, foreign language club, math honor society, class council, student council, etc. They all share the same goals, vision/mission are very similar to the SHPE Jr. program. Hold a membership drive and collect those 10 members. Invite a passionate and highly motivated student leader to the initial school administration meeting and then rely on them to reach to their friends and classmates to find the 10 prospective members. You can rely on the school administration or teacher to assist with searching for a prominent rising young diverse student leader at the school to lead the school group. Leverage the existing chapter documentation, tools, and resources from the school as well. Review the bylaws with the school administration and integrate any differences into the same bylaws to minimize the workload. Complete the SHPE Jr. chapter bylaws, new chapter application, initial operating budget and calendar of events, elect the new officers and submit to SHPE National. Establish a school financial resource account with the local school administration to meet fundraising needs. Talk to the teacher and school administration about embedding the SHPE Jr. club as part of the core classroom curriculum such as a math, science, robotics, or other technology class. Consider even sharing the same officers for both organizations such as FIRST Robotics, SHPE, or Science Society as an example and piggy-back the class schedule with the meetings. Utilize the existing school communication resources to help market the chapter events, meetings, and activities.


4. Build Trust and demonstrate the value of the club
A hard work ethic pays off. It will take 1 -2 years to get off the ground, but be persistent and stay the course while being patient. Continue to work with the students showing them the value of the program. Leverage the SHPE Jr. advisor to run the meetings/activities. They are your best ally and liaison to the school administration to get things done. Establish that lesson plan and SHPE Jr. curriculum and commit to the original plan meeting once a month alternating between Hands-On engineering workshops and professional mentorship development topics focused around high school students needs following the SHPE Jr. Project 4-2-1 plan. Students love fun, exciting hands-on STEM activities and your ability to connect what they learn in the math, physics, or chemistry classrooms to basic design principles of the design challenge. Bring snacks and refreshments to entice participation. Make sure the students know that they can get extra credit and free community service points in their classes for their leadership by attending the meetings and events. SHPE chapters can partner with their teachers in International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Placement (AP), Honors classes, Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID), and FIRST robotics to make that happen. Show them that their leadership may apply to different real-world applications and is perfect experience for applying to scholarships and college admission applications. Suggest letting them know that you can be an advocate and resource for writing college entrance and scholarship letter of recommendations, community service hour performance appraisals. Once you win the students trust and they buy into the SHPE Jr. school club, then they will help you achieve your chapter goals as suggested by long-time Trinity HS school custodian and 2012 National Life Group Life Changer of the Year award.


5. Allow the Junior student leadership to rise and own it.
Once the trust is developed and strong partnership is developed, slowly wean off leading the meetings and relinquish control to the students and the chapter. Harness the power of many. The student leadership is the life-line of a sustainable Junior chapter. They are the individuals that can turn the chapter into a success for many years to come. The student leadership are the ones that can make things happen with the school administration and the high school advisor is that liaison to ensure it happens. The host SHPE chapter should just be there as a mentor and coach once you develop that trust and bond as an external community mentor and volunteer. Leverage group chat communication resources to coordinate planning events, meetings, and programs. Act as a coach to help them achieve their club goals or fundraising targets. You’ll find that over time, the students are the ones running the meetings, presenting the chapter updates, leading fundraising events, and conducting daily sustaining chapter operations. Recommend holding an annual strategic leadership retreat with the SHPE Jr. officers to provide them with all the resources to be effective at developing their own SMART goals/objectives, SHPE tools, programs, and resources, have an icebreaker to get to know each other which will help set them up for success. Set those chapter goals, fundraising targets, and establish that annual lesson plan core curriculum and stick with it. Find fun, exciting inexpensive ideas for impactful Hands-On activities to conduct with your students for reasonably-sized chapter of 25-40 members. Find passionate, exciting diverse set of professionals to come and talk about different MentorSHPE topics on special topics geared for students such as financial aid, FAFSA, resume, scholarships, interviewing, transitioning to college, goal setting, financial education, or internships.


6. Partner with your SHPE college chapters to provide networking opportunities.
Find a SHPE college chapter to partner with. Survey your junior SHPE leadership and high school student membership base to find out with local campuses they are most interested in, then connect the junior leadership with the leadership of that SHPE college chapter. It is a beautiful thing and will kindle future mentorship partnerships for potential incoming freshmen and strengthen the bonds of the STEM pipeline to grow the transition from Junior chapters to College chapter student membership to professional. The SHPE College Students need leadership experience as well for their first elusive college internship or full-time hire so they are looking to develop those professional development skillsets too. By partnering with the local SHPE Jr. chapters in the area they can establish those professional-student mentoring relationships by practicing those skills to lead a “Get out and STEM event” or Hands-On STEM activity workshop such as Noche de Ciencias, Junior College Day or Industry Day, or Advancing Careers in Engineering (ACES) Science Day to acquire that valuable project management, technical research, team-building, procurement, fundraising, corporate relations/business development, stakeholder management, and volunteer human resource management skills needed to get to the next phase in their career. SHPE College Students also need that experience to develop their public speaking and networking skillsets so what better way than to invite them to come and speak to to our Junior chapters on important life lessons that have helped them get to their level such as resumes, scholarships, applying to college, and the transition from high school to college life. The SHPE Jr. students can sometimes relate to the college students easier because they are closer to their age group so it is a perfect networking and team building experience. The SHPE college chapters also make excellent volunteer resources for special events such as Noche de Ciencias or ACES events.


7. Rely on the SHPE Jr. alumni base and watch the legacy live on.
After a couple of years, once all the hard work has paid off. The SHPE host chapters should start to see the junior chapter grow in membership. The increase in membership will drive an increase in the alumni base from different industries. All of which share a common heart and interest to give back to their school and legacy that they were built and founded on. This makes for the perfect partnership to help support and allow them the ability to come back and give back while also helping provide professional development opportunities to share their story, practice their public speaking and leadership skillsets. The SHPE Jr. students always like to have a variety of speakers and meet new, interesting individuals from different industries with similar interests/heart that have made it through their school. So, it is a wonderful resource to be able to leverage the chapter alumni base the opportunity to come back and be speakers of some of the various topics throughout the year and call on to be volunteers. In many cases, the chapter alumni have just graduated, or close to graduating and looking for opportunities to give back to the community. Therefore, reaching out to the SHPE Jr. chapter alumni is another excellent volunteer resource pool and membership growth opportunity.
Following these simple, little process steps will allow SHPE college and professional chapters to do their part promoting a STEM education and encouraging a more diverse workplace. Implementing some of these practices will allow your members to reach across gender and racial gaps shattering silos to help change the culture and build a more diverse future STEM workforce. Because a more diverse workforce has been proven to drive the innovation engine that impact market profitability and sustainability. More diverse work teams are characteristics that corporations are looking for to recruit young future STEM leaders right out of school that are empowered with the tools needed to raise the bar and decide and act as one cohesive team This simple process is a beautiful masterpiece unfold by impacting the lives future young high school and college students watching them develop in tomorrow’s STEM leaders acquiring the necessary technical, leadership, and management skills required to excel in a more dynamic, culturally diverse workplace of tomorrow. These simple rules will go along way to growing that STEM pipeline from high school to college to professional levels leveraging those networking connections to grow and sustain any organization.


Additional References:
1. Online article – STEM Skills Gap: Now is the Time to Act (June 2014) http://blog.adeccousa.com/stem-skills-gap-time-to-act/
2. https://execed.economist.com/blog/industry-trends/racial-diversity-there%E2%80%99s-more-work-be-done-workplace
3. https://www.teachengineering.org/
4. http://programs.shpe.org/project-4-2-1/
5. http://programs.shpe.org/get-involved-with-shpe/
6. Charles Clark, Life Changer of the Year Award Recipient – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aG7iQf0_LME
7. HS Custodian goes above and beyond – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPVGznxirn4



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