This country is facing a serious deficit, but it’s not financial. From the tech employers of Silicon Valley to SpaceX in the Rio Grande Valley, employers are struggling to find workers to fill their highest-paying, most-sought-after positions.
These jobs require college graduates with STEM degrees (Science, Technology. Engineering and Math). According to a 2015 ADECCO USA analysis, 75 percent of the fastest growing occupations require advanced math and science preparation, but only 19 percent of college graduates are leaving college with these degrees. This will lead to 2.4 million job vacancies in the highly-specialized industries that drive so much of our economy by 2018.
When I founded IDEA Public Schools 15 years ago, it was on the simple premise that all kids have the ability to succeed regardless of demographics or geography. A student from a struggling family in the Rio Grande Valley had the right and the ability to achieve in a high-performing public school. Our students proved us right. For the 9th consecutive year, 100 percent of IDEA graduates were accepted to college. Put simply, we made College for All Children a reality.
It is clear to me now that we must take our work to the next level. IDEA students must not only leave our schools with a diploma and an acceptance letter; they need the rigorous academic training that prepares them for success in the kind of career opportunities that put them on the front lines of the scientific and technological boon of this generation.
At IDEA, we’re evolving to meet the needs of our students and communities. In the RGV alone, with the launch of SpaceX in 2016, there will be at least 300 highly-specialized jobs available. The U.S. ranks among the lowest in production of high-skilled, degreed workers. We have a responsibility to our students to prepare them for the demands of a high-tech, highly-competitive global job market.
We started with the things we can do ourselves. We launched AP for All to ensure that every student who graduates from IDEA Public Schools completes 11 Advanced Placement classes, many of them in mathematics and science. We personalized our instruction and integrated more technology into our classrooms. This was a good start, but we want to make sure we give our students, many of whom are from underserved communities, access to every resource available to them.
Next, we built a partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative to develop curriculum and instruction in the math and sciences.
And now, we are now proud to be engaged in partnership discussions with Texas A&M University to launch an entire IDEA Campus dedicated to STEM instruction. When launched, this partnership will break new ground in Texas. Not only will we create new schools for children who need them, we will create an intentional pipeline into one of the most prestigious engineering programs anywhere in the country.
The children we are educating today will create a world they cannot imagine, right now. IDEA Public Schools and Texas A&M are committed to giving them access to everything they need to revolutionize the way we live.
Innovation, invention, and economic prosperity are highly-competitive global pursuits. We need scientists, engineers, and physicists in unprecedented numbers to fuel this new economy.