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Governor, Educators, Business Leaders Agree: Grow Iowa's Economy by Growing STEM Education

Improving STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - education is part of a statewide push by Gov. Terry Branstad.

Growing Iowa’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics education will grow Iowa’s economy.

That was the message at a STEM town hall meeting on the campus Tuesday.

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is part of a statewide push to boost Iowa students' interest in those topics.

Joe Gitta is a small business consultant at JG Business Services in Cedar Falls. He said there are not enough STEM-trained graduates to meet the demand of Iowa businesses.

“We know we need to teach these kids a lot more than they’re learning in school,” he said.

He said his eighth grade son and his son's friends are bored by their computer classes.

“They're learning keyboarding and how to open up a Google Doc,” he said. “That’s not going to excite them.”

Kids interested in computers are turning to teaching each other, he said, because they're not getting the information they need in the classroom.

Meanwhile, job opportunities in STEM continue to grow in the state, reportedly three times faster than non-STEM-related jobs. Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds said many of those positions are sitting open because Iowa isn't producing enough skilled graduates to fill them.

"Manufacturing, for example, is much different than it was 50 years ago," she said. "It's much more technical."

Reynolds facilitated the town hall meeting. She said another challenge is creating public awareness of the opportunities that can come from a STEM-based education.

"Sometimes we need to talk with the parents," she said. "To encourage them, to say these are great opportunities for your kids."

According to ACT, 51 percent of Iowa’s 2012 graduating high school seniors tested college ready in math; 38 percent in science. Just 11 percent of all 2011 ACT-takers were likely to pursue a STEM career.

The STEM efforts aim to change those numbers. This year, UNI was named the STEM-hub for Northeast Iowa, meant to be a center for ramping up STEM efforts across the region.

Through Sept. 14, educators can apply to particiapte in STEM Scale-Up Programs. Learn more at the Iowa Stem website.

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