STEM skills the key to Arizona’s economic growth - East Valley Tribune: Business

STEM skills the key to Arizona’s economic growth

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Steve Macias

Posted: Friday, November 25, 2011 4:00 pm

I was fortunate this week to attend a forum on STEM education - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - hosted by the local affiliate of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) and came away very impressed by what our state is doing on both a government and business level to address the educational needs of our future workers in the manufacturing and technology fields.

Too often we hear the words, "Somebody should do something about that..." whenever there is a problem that needs addressing. But in this case, many people are doing something.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have three boys who are being encouraged to focus in these areas, so I have a vested interest in this subject. (Although, despite my encouragement thus far, one boy wants to be Larry Fitzgerald, another wants to be Indiana Jones, and the third wants to be Justin Bieber, so I still have work to do.)

On the public sector side, we have groups like the Maricopa Community Colleges, ASU and Science Foundation Arizona devoting significant resources and working to develop programs to encourage STEM skill sets. In many cases, these groups are moving away from traditional methods of teaching in order to discover better ways to work with a generation that has never known a world without smart phones and the Internet.

Coming to bat for the business sector are companies such as Intel and Raytheon, who are putting their money where their mouths are and rolling out a plethora of programs, and doing so all on their own dime.

Raytheon hosts a myriad of websites, such as mathmovesu.com, and competitions for all ages to encourage the development of STEM skills. But its most fascinating endeavor is a partnership with Disney which enables kids - young and old - to design their own ride, plug the ride card into a simulator at Disney World and take off on an experience of their own design.

Ten years ago, you would have been hard pressed to find someone outside of academia who knew what STEM meant, but these days it is imperative not only to know what it means but also to be an active participant in supporting it for the continued success of the industry.

Just the other day "Bieber" and "Jones" approached me wanting a tree house built in our backyard, so I took the opportunity to encourage some STEM skills. We bought a book on tree houses and they have been charged with reading it, coming up with the parts and supplies list, as well as a design. Assuming I don't saw off a digit or shoot myself with a nail gun, it should be fun!

• Steve Macias is the president of Pivot Manufacturing and the chairman of the Arizona Manufacturers Council.

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