Schools across the United States of America have setup STEM Labs and STEM classrooms where thousands of students gain hands-on experience working with robotics, building construction, and other Science Technology Engineering & Mathematical (STEM) projects. The US Department of Labor currently has 308 individual job titles classified as STEM Careers in its Occupational Network Database. Employers, Institutes of Learning, and Media across the country host daily events discussing the critical need for STEM skills in the workplace. But, what does it all mean to a 14 year-old 8th grader other than the STEM Lab provides a break from the rigors of traditional academics? How are parents supposed to decipher the vast array of information related to STEM as they help their children determine a viable and interesting career path? Do school counselors have enough resources to provide families enough information about the real-life applications of STEM skills? The #UcanB Career Education Program based out of Pittsburgh, PA is helping to provide answers to these questions.
Carlynton High School, located just a few miles outside the City of Pittsburgh, provides invaluable STEM education to its students. Some students at Carlynton build robots in the school’s Collaboration Center while students in Mr. Harris’ Pre-Engineering Class study structural design. A 2016 grant from the Alcoa Foundation afforded Carlynton the opportunity to partner with #UcanB to create a program aimed at introducing students to various careers through a guest speaker series. The #UcanB speakers addressed a variety of topics directly related to STEM. For instance, Mr. Harris’ Pre-Engineering Class was introduced to the CEO of BOSS Labor Group, which staffs engineers and skilled laborers to various worksites including construction projects and power plants. BOSS’ CEO, a retired engineer himself, fielded many questions from students. The answers clearly defined the difference between Mechanical Engineers and Civil Engineers and Structural Engineers. The discussion even evolved into the fields of Informational Technology and the emergence of Artificial Intelligence in the workplace.
Many Pittsburgh Public Schools students, thanks to support from the Verizon Foundation and Duquesne light Company, are currently engaged in similar discussions with #UcanB speakers. For example, students in a #UcanB class at Clayton Academy Middle School in Pittsburgh’s Northside recently heard from a professional photographer. He explained to students that, “90% of a photographer’s work takes place on a computer after the photo-shoot.” Students were then treated to a demonstration of how technology is used to enhance professional photos through touch-up, placement of digital images, and adjustments to lighting. At Pittsburgh’s Perry High School, #UcanB instructors shared videos of various Careers in the Trades. Perry students were surprised to learn how much technology was in use in the building and construction trades. Students were most impressed to learn that Elevator Technicians often work from computer terminals and can earn as much as $100,000 per year!
Thanks to support from the Education Foundation, examples of #UcanB’s STEM Career Education at other schools. Seismic Island Labs’ Sound Engineer demonstrated to students at Propel Braddock High School how he uses common, everyday items to create the sound effects for the popular Guild Wars video game series. A representative from US Probation & Pretrial Services of Western Pennsylvania has visited many #UcanB classrooms to talk with students about the importance of IT support in the apprehension and supervision of convicted criminals. Bitcore’s CEO has told #UcanB students about his entrepreneurial journey in the IT Field, while a representative from Knepper Press has discussed Careers in Commercial Printing as they relate to graphic design, print production, and green technologies.
The #UcanB Career Education Program addresses various areas of career development, but STEM Careers has become a specific focus. A representative at Perry High School said of the #UcanB Program, “Information about these careers is invaluable for our students because it helps them relate what they are learning in the classroom to real-life jobs.”
The #UcanB Career Education Program currently operates in more than 20 schools around the Pittsburgh region.