How today’s companies can encourage student engagement in STEM fields

(BPT) - Did you know at least one quarter of today's workers have occupations connected to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)? That equals approximately 35 million people, according to a National Science Foundation report from 2021. And the field keeps growing - while gradually becoming more diverse, although women and people of color are still underrepresented.

With the rapid evolution of technology in every aspect of life, from the Internet of Things and augmented reality to cloud computing, machine learning and AI, the need for more employees with STEM skills and knowledge is critical. U.S. companies face a workforce shortage crisis, especially those requiring a STEM background. Students from elementary school through higher education need encouragement to pursue these subjects to fill this dire need, and to help them ensure their own professional, personal and financial success in the future.

How companies benefit from involvement in education

Companies providing financial support, mentorships and creative approaches to engage students in STEM topics will reap the benefit of a better prepared future workforce. For example, State Farm Insurance has been a strong supporter of educational efforts for years, launching programs that bring the excitement of STEM learning to students nationwide.

The pervasiveness of technology today emphasizes how crucial STEM backgrounds are for a wide range of jobs - even those you may not think of as STEM related. Today's insurance industry, for instance, involves detailed analysis of complex data which is supported using machine learning and AI, plus understanding the science behind weather, and being able to model trends and use satellite imagery to settle claims after a disaster. Skills in research and data analytics are crucial components in this field.

What State Farm is doing to encourage STEM education

To ensure that all students can excel at rigorous, relevant STEM learning and become successful employees in the future, State Farm has been building community relationships, engaging students in technology and providing mentoring opportunities to create awareness and excitement about IT careers.

One example of their many efforts is a recent weather balloon launch by State Farm Enterprise Technology mentors to send "Jake from State Farm" (in doll form) nearly 100,000 feet into space from the company's park in Bloomington, Illinois. Participating students learned about the science behind meteorology and the tools used to predict and understand weather patterns.

The company has also initiated several programs encouraging girls and women to pursue STEM fields. Although women comprise nearly half the U.S. workforce, they only represent 27% of STEM workers, and are significantly underrepresented in STEM majors. To bridge this gap, State Farm supports groups and programs including:

Employee Resource Group (ERG) - Women and Technology provides technology and leadership-level connections, personal development and exposure for ERG members, connecting them with internal resources, role models and opportunities to build skills and develop professionally.

Educational Milestone - Girls Who Code offers an event at the State Farm Park Center in Atlanta office location, plus virtual opportunities, for girls to participate in a seven-week coding camp. Over 100 girls participated each summer over the last six years.

State Farm Tech Astra is an innovative program giving female students opportunities to explore the vast possibilities of STEM. For over a decade, State Farm has empowered more than 2,000 fifth through eighth grade girls to experience coding, robotic and engineering challenges in a safe, fun setting. Hundreds of State Farm employees volunteer time to support this program, which provides collaborative, inclusive events led by women and tailored to provide hands-on experiences in interactive small groups. The program recently expanded to include fifth through twelfth grade girls.

STEM Program in Schools - State Farm advocacy engages the community to promote IT in grades K-12 with local school districts. The company also provides charitable funds to support numerous STEM programs for young students run by colleges and universities.

Supporting STEM education can help provide a better future for students seeking high-paying, satisfying careers, and for businesses needing this talent to meet the demands of ever-evolving technology.

Learn more about how State Farm is encouraging young students in STEM fields at TechAstra.StateFarm.

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