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According to a Georgetown University study: by 2018, STEM-related jobs in Washington state will increase by 24 percent 

Murray: “What you all are doing helps ignite curiosity in students”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, met with community leaders, education advocates, and students at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle on the importance of expanding access to Science, Technology, Education, and Math (STEM) education. In remarks delivered at the center, Murray discussed the need to invest in and support various programs both inside and outside of the classroom, and how to increase opportunities for women and minorities in STEM fields.

Senator Murray continues to be a major proponent of STEM education. Murray’s bipartisan K-12 education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), supports STEM education in a number of ways, including by creating the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program to provide states and school districts flexible funding to increase access to, and student achievement in, the STEM subjects. ESSA also supports school districts by giving them the flexibility to partner with community-based organizations, afterschool programs, and other groups to provide high-quality STEM and computer science programming for students. Additionally, ESSA authorizes the Secretary of Education to establish a STEM Master Teacher Corps in order to attract and retain high quality STEM educators and replicate successful professional development for STEM instructors. Murray also worked in 2010 to author and pass the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (America COMPETES) Act, which included provisions to expand science and math programs throughout our education system.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Every day, people come to the [Pacific] Science Center and leave with a newfound passion for science that can last a lifetime…you understand that sparking a passion for STEM can change a student’s life and help strengthen our economy and our country. And igniting that spark takes a diverse group of organizations and individuals – both inside and outside of the classroom. So I am excited about this event today where you all will be discussing how to collaborate across the full spectrum of STEM learning opportunities. Too often, when people think of STEM education, what comes to mind is a K-12 teacher at the front of a science classroom during the school day. But STEM learning opportunities can be – and should be – much more expansive. STEM programs outside of a school setting can engage students intellectually, socially, and emotionally. They can give students the opportunity to follow their interests, beyond just following a textbook. And they can help students connect STEM concepts with the real world.”

“There is no question that Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are critical for the future of our state and our nation’s economy. We’ll need it so U.S. companies can stay on the cutting edge and attract the best talent to innovate and start new businesses right here in America. And, we’ll need strong STEM education so our students can continue to compete and lead the world in the 21st century. But first, we have to make up some significant ground. In the past decade, STEM jobs have grown at a rate three times greater than non-STEM jobs, according to the Department of Commerce. And over the next ten years, almost all of the 30 fastest-growing jobs will require STEM skills. But right now, the United States is not training enough students with the skills they need to become the next generation of scientists, engineers, and tech gurus. By 2018, STEM jobs in Washington state will increase by 24 percent, according to a study by Georgetown University. By some estimates, over the next few years, employers won’t be able to fill as many as 45,000 jobs because of a lack of qualified workers. Think about that. 45,000 unfilled jobs is almost the entire population of Olympia.”

“…I am glad that at the end of last year, President Obama signed into law my bipartisan education bill to finally fix No Child Left Behind. Our new law requires schools to work to close achievement gaps, so more students from all backgrounds can graduate from high school, ready to take on the jobs of the 21st century. And the law supports STEM education in a few different ways. First, the law creates what’s called the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program. And that new program will provide states and school districts flexible funding to support various activities and programs, including those to increase access and student achievement in the STEM subjects, including computer science. And it also will support states like ours to recruit and retain top STEM teachers and provide professional development, so students are learning from the best in the field. School districts will also now have the flexibility to partner with non-profits, afterschool programs, and other groups to provide high-quality STEM and computer science curriculum and programming for students. Over the past several years, gridlock and dysfunction has come to define the U.S. Congress. And that is why I was so glad I was able to work across party lines to get this done for students in our state and across the country…I am going to keep pushing to improve STEM education so Washington state has a pipeline of workers, innovators, entrepreneurs, and STEM-literate workers to fuel our economic growth in the years to come.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, Will, for that great introduction.

“I just met with students who take part in the Discovery Corps volunteer program here. They were telling me about the exciting things they are learning about and working on here at the Pacific Science Center. I’m so glad we have this center serving Washington state and visitors from around the world.

“Every day, people come to the Science Center and leave with a newfound passion for science that can last a lifetime. So, thanks to the staff, volunteers, board members, and supporters for all the important work that you do here. I want to especially thank Dennis Schatz who was instrumental in putting this event together.

“I also want to recognize Karen Peterson of the National Girls Collaborative. Your organization is doing such important work to encourage more girls to pursue their interests in the STEM fields. Expanding opportunities for young women is not only important for their future. It should be an economic imperative for our country.

“And thank you to everyone for joining us here today. You are here this morning because you understand that sparking a passion for STEM can change a student’s life and help strengthen our economy and our country. And igniting that spark takes a diverse group of organizations and individuals – both inside and outside of the classroom. So I am excited about this event today where you all will be discussing how to collaborate across the full spectrum of STEM learning opportunities.

“Too often, when people think of STEM education, what comes to mind is a K-12 teacher at the front of a science classroom during the school day. But STEM learning opportunities can be – and should be – much more expansive. STEM programs outside of a school setting can engage students intellectually, socially, and emotionally. They can give students the opportunity to follow their interests, beyond just following a textbook. And they can help students connect STEM concepts with the real world.

“So, I want to take some time today to discuss why STEM education is so important and what it means for our state and our economy.

“As many of you know, in the Senate, I worked hard to pass a bill to finally fix the No Child Left Behind law. Our new law has some important improvements for STEM education, so I will talk a little more about that in just a few moments. And I want to hear your ideas on how we can better engage students from all backgrounds – especially girls and students of color – to participate in STEM subjects.

“There is no question that Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are critical for the future of our state and our nation’s economy. We’ll need it so U.S. companies can stay on the cutting edge and attract the best talent to innovate and start new businesses right here in America. And, we’ll need strong STEM education so our students can continue to compete and lead the world in the 21st century. 

“But first, we have to make up some significant ground. In the past decade, STEM jobs have grown at a rate three times greater than non-STEM jobs, according to the Department of Commerce. And over the next ten years, almost all of the 30 fastest-growing jobs will require STEM skills.

“But right now, the United States is not training enough students with the skills they need to become the next generation of scientists, engineers, and tech gurus. By 2018, STEM jobs in Washington state will increase by 24 percent, according to a study by Georgetown University. By some estimates, over the next few years, employers won’t be able to fill as many as 45,000 jobs because of a lack of qualified workers. Think about that. 45,000 unfilled jobs is almost the entire population of Olympia.

“We also have a major gender gap among STEM professionals. Just 14 percent of engineers are women. And women make up only 27 percent of workers in computer science and math. And while African-American and Latino workers represent 14 and 11 percent of overall employment, respectively, these groups make up just 6 percent of STEM workers.

“If we did more to inspire young women and more African-American and Latino students to engage in STEM subjects, we could better meet the demand for those workers, and our businesses would benefit from a more diverse environment. The future of our state and our country will rely on our commitment today to close these gaps in STEM fields.

“So what can we do about it? Well, in the Senate, I have been focused on education. And I am glad that at the end of last year, President Obama signed into law my bipartisan education bill to finally fix No Child Left Behind. Our new law requires schools to work to close achievement gaps, so more students from all backgrounds can graduate from high school, ready to take on the jobs of the 21st century. And the law supports STEM education in a few different ways.

“First, the law creates what’s called the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program. And that new program will provide states and school districts flexible funding to support various activities and programs, including those to increase access and student achievement in the STEM subjects, including computer science. And it also will support states like ours to recruit and retain top STEM teachers and provide professional development, so students are learning from the best in the field. School districts will also now have the flexibility to partner with non-profits, afterschool programs, and other groups to provide high-quality STEM and computer science curriculum and programming for students.

“Over the past several years, gridlock and dysfunction has come to define the U.S. Congress. And that is why I was so glad I was able to work across party lines to get this done for students in our state and across the country. But I am not stopping there. I am going to keep pushing to improve STEM education so Washington state has a pipeline of workers, innovators, entrepreneurs, and STEM-literate workers to fuel our economic growth in the years to come.

“That’s where all of you come in. We need to all work together and do a better job of coordinating on that common goal among our schools, after-school programs, museums, summer camps, libraries, and at home. So I am glad this group is gathering to begin the process of building many more links between in-school and out-of-school STEM learning in Washington state.

“I challenge all of you here today to be creative and think through ways to enhance STEM education across the learning spectrum. And I’ll be especially interested in ways we can expand opportunities for girls and students of color to get more involved in these learning opportunities.

“My staff will be participating in the various conversations you have today. And I am looking forward to hearing back on the action items this group decides on. This isn’t just for the future engineers or scientists of the world – though that’s one important component.

“Every student – regardless of their future careers – will benefit from stronger STEM education. Solving a math problem teaches kids how to analyze and interpret data. Science experiments can prompt creativity and ingenuity. And STEM subjects deepen kids’ understanding of the world around them.

“What you all are doing helps ignite curiosity in students. And that curiosity not only drives students toward more and more exposure to STEM learning – but it also drives them to develop into engaged learners and members of their community inside and outside the classroom and beyond the workplace.

“Promoting these skills will help all of our students grow and strengthen our entire workforce. So, there is a lot riding on us getting this right. There isn’t a better coalition of groups and individuals to get this started than the people in this room today.

“Thank you for all of your efforts. And I look forward to the hearing more about the progress you make.”

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