Research conducted by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has identified the need for nearly 2 million more STEM professionals by 2025 in order for the U.S. to retain worldwide preeminence in science and technology. The Governor’s Office estimates Florida alone will need 120,000 additional STEM workers within the next five years.
In response, the Palm Beach State College Foundation has launched a five-year initiative to ease the impact of a projected shortage of skilled professionals in science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM fields, by supporting students preparing for positions in these industries. The initiative also includes the arts, which so dramatically contribute to technology’s design, resulting in the name STEAM.
“At the local, state and national levels, STEM-related industries have been identified as key growth engines to expand and diversify our economic base. These industries look to higher education to provide the skilled professionals who can fill high-demand, high-tech roles,” said Dr. Dennis P. Gallon, president of Palm Beach State College. “With this initiative, we are focused on meeting that challenge and providing the best career prospects and growth opportunities for local residents.”
The STEAM initiative is designed to provide additional funding for student scholarships and academic program expansion, as well as develop more relationships with local businesses to ensure employment opportunities when training is complete. A portion of the scholarships will be earmarked for women and minorities, as both groups are significantly underrepresented in these fields. Students in vocational courses as well as associate and bachelor’s level programs will all benefit from these efforts. The goal is to provide 1,000 new scholarship awards, create 50 academic enhancements and generate 100 new business-college partnerships with 50 new internship opportunities.
“The prospect of seeing our graduates leading this generation into the future, addressing issues such as renewable energy, clean and abundant water and green technologies to safeguard the planet, is real and attainable,” said Suellen Mann, the Foundation’s executive director.
Palm Beach State offers numerous STEM-related degree and certificate programs, including such fields as biotechnology, alternative energy and information technology. It houses the statewide, nationally recognized Employ Florida Banner Center for Life Sciences, along with extensive art and design, humanities, media and communications programs. Through such programs as the Science Path and the Math & Science Institute, the College also works to increase local high school students’ readiness for STEM-related coursework and career options.