Students Need Coding in Schools—and More—to Fill STEM Jobs of Future

Students Need Coding in Schools—and More—to Fill STEM Jobs of Future

Guest post by Maria Flynn, President & CEO of Jobs for the Future

There’s no question that expanding our K-12 students’ proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is critical to preparing them for careers in fast-growing sectors of our economy. But top candidates for the jobs of the future will require much more than just knowledge of STEM content, even computer science. As my colleagues and I applaud the Administration’s focus on boosting STEM education—and private-sector promises to help pay the bill—we urge that these efforts reach far beyond teaching coding in schools.

Today’s young people must receive a full complement of educational experiences that enable them to develop the wide range of skills they will need to adapt to the jobs of tomorrow and succeed in the STEM economy.

The priority list is long, especially for the least served students, who may not have Internet access in school, let alone a single computer science course. But based on JFF’s 35 years working to increase economic opportunity for lower-income youth and adults, I’d like to highlight three essentials for schools of all backgrounds:

1. Incorporate key employability skills into learning, such as communication, critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork. Demand for more than literacy and math continues to grow as rapid technological change requires more adaptability, flexibility, and entrepreneurship. JFF’s Students at the Center Hub, for example, provides tools and resources for educators to create student-centered approaches to learning that hone these abilities.

2. Provide real-world work experience, such as internships and other forms of work-based learning. Don’t limit STEM lessons to the classroom. Students learn countless intellectual, personal, and social skills when on the job with experienced workers. JFF’s new Center for Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning will help connect schools to opportunities to expand work-based learning, including in STEM fields.

3. Develop youth-friendly career navigation resources. Learning about career options and making smart choices to reach one’s goals can be daunting for most people. JFF co-created and continually updates MyBestBets, a web and mobile app that supports low-income students in making informed decisions about postsecondary education and jobs that will lead to high-demand, high-growth careers.

As educators know, adequate funding for schools is essential, too. JFF implores the Administration to not cut, but increase funding for federal programs that provide crucial support for STEM education and career preparation. These include the Career and Technical Education Act, professional development for teachers, and the new, flexible Title IV block grant under the Every Student Succeeds Act that provides grants to states and school districts to fund a number of essential education priorities, including technology and STEM education.

Creating better education and training pathways to the jobs of the future is a national imperative. The Administration took an important step in calling for more attention to some of the critical competencies our nation’s workforce will require. But far more must be done. We encourage the Administration to think boldly and expansively about the full range of educational experiences our students need to help build a vigorous American economy—and thrive in it.