Companies Must Play a Vital Role in STEM Education

Corporations' futures are in jeopardy unless the STEM crisis is solved.

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Bo Miller is global director of corporate citizenship for Dow Chemical Co. and president and executive director of its philanthropical foundation.

Less than half of high school graduates are ready for college-level math and less than a third are ready for college-level science in the United States, according to the ACT's Condition of College & Career Readiness report. The United States is clearly falling short in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education needed to produce the world-class talent that will be critical to fulfilling the requirements of the 21st-century workforce. 

Revitalizing STEM education and increasing the number of students who choose STEM majors and careers is imperative for the future of the advanced manufacturing industry in the United States. Dow, like other companies dependent on a workforce proficient in science, technology, engineering, and math, has a responsibility to use our credibility, capabilities, and resources to make students, the workforce, and the economy stronger. 

For our nation's young people, STEM education is a passport to a career full of exciting breakthroughs and solutions directly addressing global challenges current and future generations will need to address. A STEM-focused education provides students the opportunity to play a role in a variety of industries, including the chemical industry, which enables more than 96 percent of all manufactured goods. 

The Case for Being Bold report from the American Enterprise Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce notes that business leaders bring two essential perspectives to the national discussion on STEM education: that of an employer, determining what skills and knowledge are needed, and that of a leader experienced at managing organizational change, who can help educators manage STEM reform.

The time for action of STEM education is now. This year, the world celebrates the International Year of Chemistry (or IYC), designated by the United Nations to recognize the accomplishments of chemistry and generate enthusiasm for chemistry among young people. Dow is a global IYC partner, supporting events and initiatives around the world that get students--from kindergarten to college--excited about science. 

At Dow, we are embracing these opportunities to utilize our role in industry to further STEM education, and we've directly tied STEM educational initiatives to an industry growth strategy. Advancing STEM education is a key component of our Advanced Manufacturing Plan for America, a comprehensive set of practical policy solutions and business strategies to reinvigorate manufacturing in the United States, leading to the long-term health of our nation's economy. We recognize that advances in innovation and technology investments drive the economic growth of America by supporting job creation. These advancements are critical to our nation's prosperity and security in the global marketplace. 

Through the Dow Chemical Company Foundation, we have made significant funding and support commitments across the spectrum of continuous learning--from providing funding and employee volunteer support to increasing and accelerating the impact of our partners' programs. We are supporting these efforts by generating interest in STEM education among students, providing development opportunities to science teachers, and preparing candidates for advanced manufacturing jobs. 

Our most recent commitments, announced at the jobs-focused Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in June 2011, include: 

• A $3 million contribution to the National Science Teacher Association New Teacher Academy, a professional development initiative created to promote quality science teaching, will support approximately 500 early career science teachers across the United States.

• Our partnership with the Louisiana Community and Technical College Foundation and the Iberville Parish School Board to begin construction of the Capital Area Technical College, Westside Campus, a 20,000-spare-foot facility where courses in industrial maintenance, healthcare, information technology, and business studies will be taught.