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What should we tell our junior high students?

With the unemployment rate around 9.1 percent, many Americans are looking for jobs.

Others are concerned about keeping their jobs.

The construction sector has been particularly hard hit.

Yet unemployment among scientists and engineers is less than 3 percent. Although unemployment by sector is cyclic, the employment picture for scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians is generally bright. Individuals with two-year associates degrees in instrumentation, electronics and engineering are also in high demand. Independent of degree level, these areas are often referred to as the STEM sectors.

The seemingly limitless supply of low-paid workers in other countries and the ability to ship materials around the world cheaply means that there will be fewer jobs for unskilled Americans in the future. Furthermore, the best jobs will go to the best prepared workers.

The Office of Naval Research, which employs many in the STEM sector, reports that the United States ranks 27th of 29 highly developed countries in the production of college graduates with B.S. degrees in the STEM sector. This fact indicates that our youth will not be prepared to compete effectively for the best jobs.

What should we tell our junior high students?

The Archuleta County Education Center has developed a new After-school Enrichment program based on STEM curricula. The long-term goals of the program are twofold: this program will encourage more youth to pursue careers in the STEM sector, and it will elevate the STEM sector skills and awareness of our general public. Achieving both goals is essential for America’s successful competition in the world market place.

The junior high after-school enrichment program is led by Jenna Gregory, who is well known among Pagosa’s junior high students. One of her challenges is to teach a broad spectrum STEM curriculum, which spans a wide range of academic areas, including mathematics, the sciences and engineering, as well as applications of these disciplines. Pagosa is fortunate to have many residents with careers in these areas. Several will help Jenna meet this challenge by bringing their experience to the classroom.

Do you have a career in the STEM sector? Would you like to share your experience with our junior high students? If so, please contact the Education Center at 264-2835.

The junior high After-school Enrichment Program meets Monday-Thursday, 3:45-5:15 p.m., and Friday, 1:45-5:15 p.m., in the chemistry lab in the seventh- and eighth-grade building.

The first four weeks of class, which begins Monday, Oct. 17, will focus on National Chemistry Week, Technology Then and Now, Engineering Here and There, and Math for Everyday life.

For more information, call the Education Center.

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