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Importance of 'STEM' in Encouraging Next Generation of Tech Leaders

Microsoft Corp. | , Andrea L. Taylor | 2/15/2012, 2:44 p.m.

The importance of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM as it's commonly known, can't be underestimated in preparing students for an increasingly technological tomorrow. By 2018, the U.S. will have more than 1.2 million job openings in STEM-related fields according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Regretfully, there is likely to be a significant shortage of qualified college graduates to fill them. Consequently, Microsoft has established several initiatives to help improve student skills in STEM and to encourage youth to pursue careers in the technology industry.

The state of STEM education has been a leading topic of conversation in recent years in the public and private sectors. More than 100 CEOs, including Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, came together in 2010 to launch Change the Equation; an historic effort to scale up effective models for improving STEM education.

President Obama in his State of the Union address in January 2011 said, "Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America's success. But if we want to win the future -- if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas -- then we also have to win the race to educate our kids."

Microsoft has made significant investments in STEM education to inspire young people to consider these fields in an effort to win the future.

Blacks at Microsoft, an employee resource group, annually hosts Minority Student Day for area high schoolers from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds to highlight the opportunities available to them in technology fields. Other programs supported by Microsoft include Imagine Cup to help students and the public understand the transformational role that technology can play in our daily lives and DigiGirlz, to dispel gender stereotypes and to help increase the number of women in STEM careers. Partners in Learning, Games4Learning, and Kodu Game Lab provide educators and students with innovative new approaches to STEM education. Locally, Microsoft partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Boeing Company and other area companies to create Washington STEM, a nonprofit focused on improving STEM teaching and learning in Washington state.

Recently, Microsoft announced the findings of two national surveys of college students currently pursuing STEM degrees and parents of K-12 students. The goal of the surveys was to gain insight about what can better prepare and inspire students to pursue post-secondary education in STEM subjects. Based on the college student survey findings, many students indicated that the decision to study STEM starts before college. Indeed, the next great engineer is not developed overnight.

Microsoft remains committed to improving student skills in STEM, every step of the way, thus empowering them to become part of the next generation of technology leaders. We will continue efforts to educate and inspire students by introducing them to the many available opportunities and career choices. Working together in local communities, our goal is to help young people gain access to the education and skills that they need and get connected to the opportunities they deserve to win the future.

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