This past Thursday I had the extreme pleasure of speaking to a wonderful group (3 to be exact) of middle schoolers. My Guy’s mother is a science teacher and has been asking that I come to speak to her students, many of them in a program that helps to prepare them for college. .
The timing finally worked out and I had SO much fun. Although I wasn’t all that sure what I might say that might that could further inspire them — other than maybe some fun swag and the opportunity to have a guest speaker — after all, their teachers are TOP NOTCH and clearly committed to the success of their students. It was a small gesture, but I made Friday “Thank a Teacher” day on the Facebook page – and pleased to say that its my highest viewed post (ever!). I can’t say enough awesome things about the group of teachers who were at the session — truly, they are remarkable. (… and so proud that one of them is my “MIL”.)
I was honestly a little nervous about the speech — not in speaking — I can do that all day every day, but that they kids would hate me or think that I was “not cool.” While I feel like middle school was not that long ago and I can relate – the truth is that I can’t. My Guy and I had a “laugh” the night before the speeches and joked that we’re about as cool as the kids’s parents — and then it hit us that it really wasn’t a “joke” because we COULD be about the age of some of their parents (easily) — aside: which freaked us out a little bit because we don’t have kids yet.
I didn’t chance not being cool, so I brought gadgets and stickers to give away. Anyhoo, I digress.
I spoke about careers that would be growing about the time that they would enter the workforce – which, no surprise are largely in the STEM areas. What’s crazy is that in the preparation of the speech I came across some great research! Long story short — the careers and jobs are in the STEM areas, but we don’t have the interest AND the skillset to accommodate the skill gap in the future. Furthermore, its not enough to get students into STEM degrees, they need to go work in those areas. I found a stat that 50% of students who get a degree in a STEM area don’t go into that field of study. While I’m happy to be an HR professional, I also have a twinge of guilt as someone who LOVES math and science, has a degree in a science field, but does not actively use it. Another stat, only 16% of HS seniors have the skills AND the desire to get a college degree in a STEM area. 😦 Yet the growth of jobs, all in STEM areas … and the highest growth areas are actually in biomedical sciences. So the real question — how do we get more people into these areas? What can we do NOW to get some of these students ready and really interested? How do we move the needle from 16% to 25% or 35% or even more? Are there things that we can do to get students more STEM ready out of HS? STEM isn’t about magnet schools, which is how I got exposure, even my niece who is now a freshman in college. We are past that approach– this stuff has to be the basics now… for every student.
I am not sure of the answers, but I want to find out and I want to help. I’m just not sure how yet.
I also spoke to the students about some of the things that they should thinking about to get ready for college. They seemed to have a lot of questions in this area and some real concerns about getting in, picking the right major, and finding a job once they graduate. Clearly its on their mind and they have some folks in place to continue to prime the pump. I must say, that I was VERY impressed with the students — they were mature, engaged, and had clearly given this some thought even prior to the session. Education is KEY and I hope that every child who wants to go to college finds a way to do it. I didn’t paint it as a cakewalk — because its not — but I hope that they took away that if they have the will and desire, they maintain focus, there IS a way to make it happen. I also spoke a bit about trade school, associate degrees, and apprenticeships– which I don’t think enough people talk about… but I think that we should.
I may have overdone it with the resources and research, but I wanted to know that I was credible :). I’ll be adding in some of the resources that I put together for the presentation. I think that they are helpful for everyone, not just middle school students.
I know that this isn’t one of my normal posts, but you bet there is an HR connection to be made here. Its huge and staring us right in the face. How do we help get them ready? Many of the seem willing and interested, but will need help to be successful!
EDIT: here are the materials that I prepared for the students
… and these links I found helpful for researching and preparing
Making the HR Connection, yours,