Tri-Cities leaders aim to prepare students for STEM careers

Local educators and leaders are taking the steps to prepare young students for high-paying jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

A group of executives, educators and community leaders attended the Governor's Summit on Career Connected Learning at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on May 31. They discussed the next steps and best practices to help students gain work readiness skills in STEM.

The summit is part of a larger conversation at more than 25 sites across Washington to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.

Governor Inslee spoke to the group live through a video chat, addressing an audience of about 1,000 individuals. 

"There is a huge gap as far as qualified students coming out of school, especially to fill those high-demand, high-paying STEM jobs. And so it's figuring out how to get them the mentorships, the apprenticeships, how to connect educators with industry leaders so students can be career ready on day one," said Robin Wojtanik, Communications Manager of the Washington STEM Education Foundation.

The Washington STEM Education Foundation is a local non-profit that advances STEM awareness in public education.

Wojtanik said on average STEM jobs pay nearly double what non-STEM jobs pay.

"We are importing workers every single year, tens of thousands of workers to fill these jobs that we can not fill with local students," she said.

There will be 740,000 job openings over the next five years in Washington. The goal of the attendees in to help young people complete their education goals, finding a new pathway to those jobs.

"Jobs in robotics, jobs in computer security, cyber security... all of these are high-demand, high-paying jobs and there just aren't enough kids coming out of school today knowing about these jobs and taking the education to prepare themselves," said Wojtanik.

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