Climate Change and STEM Career Preparation: Building a Diverse Workforce


The National Academies of Science 2007 report "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" discusses the erosion of U.S. advantages in the marketplace and how our leadership in science and technology has begun to erode. The report states that a comprehensive and coordinated federal effort is urgently needed to bolster U.S. competitiveness in the areas of science, math, engineering, and technology. This report makes four recommendations policy-makers should take to create high-quality jobs and focus new science and technology efforts on meeting the nation's needs, especially in the area of clean, affordable energy:

  1. Increase America's talent pool by vastly improving K-12 mathematics and science education for all students, especially the underserved;
  2. Sustain and strengthen the nation's commitment to long-term basic research;
  3. Develop, recruit, and retain top students, scientists, and engineers from both the U.S. and abroad; and
  4. Ensure that the United States is the premier place in the world for innovation.

Teachers of today's youth are called to action to help students be better prepared and equipped to move into jobs that will help them succeed in life and assist the nation in competing and regaining leadership in STEM areas.

Next, read "Out Before The Game Begins" where Hispanic leaders talk about what is needed to bring more Hispanic youth into STEM careers. Pay close attention to the section "Observations from the Interviews" and as you read, ask yourself which of the observations and scenarios are played out in the school and community where you teach and live. Be particularly aware of the cultural differences that are discussed between Hispanic and the typical white American culture and how this adds to the disparity between the two cultures when it comes to preparing students for STEM careers.

According to Rajendra Pachauri, Chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), "The challenge of climate is not going to go away… Early-career scientists who embark on careers in this field today, [will] only find greater and greater excitement as they progress… opportunities are going to grow very rapidly" (2009).

Where are the jobs? In STEM fields! According to a press release from The Wall Street Journal in May of 2012, job postings in STEM fields over the last 3 years outnumbered unemployed people by almost 2-to-1. Overall, unemployed people outnumbered job postings by well more than 3-to-1, so clearly STEM is where the jobs are. Look at this graph of Top STEM Careers that shows the percentage of new STEM jobs by area through 2018. In what occupational areas will the largest need and growth be experienced? It is not an overstatement to say that any career in the future will somehow be related to science, and that many of the emerging careers are going to be related to environmental changes in climate.

Watch the video "La’ona DeWilde: Environmental Biologist" from PBS LearningMedia™, which profiles an Athabascan biologist. Her work helps solve problems that affect Alaska Native peoples, including climate change and water contamination. As you watch, consider the various uses of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics La’ona uses as she studies the living populations in Alaska Native communities. How can we best encourage all students, and especially underserved students, to consider STEM careers?

Emerging brain-based research stresses that education of the whole student requires attention to not only the cognitive, but also the affective domain (NRC 2000). In the next section of this module, you will explore three preconditions that can set students up emotionally for the excitement of science:

  1. Students need to have engaging, culturally appropriate, and positive experiences with STEM in school early and often;
  2. Students need to be able to see themselves as future scientists; and
  3. Students need to believe that there will be resources available to make their dreams happen.

Global Climate Change Modules

Online Professional Development

PBS Teacherline

PBS TeacherLine, the premier provider of online professional development services for PreK-12 educators, has the goal of making professional development accessible, affordable and engaging for teachers. Our hope is that our courses can help inspire and guide STEM learning at every age and in every discipline.

Integrate science and mathematics learning with technology and the engineering design process to investigate solutions to real-world problems with our STEM courses.

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