Preparing Students for the Digital Future through STEM Education

By: Guest Blogger: Ravi Pakala, senior director enterprise architecture, Northwestern Mutual

Technology is an integral part of the way we live. Almost everyone has the need to apply technology to some aspect of their lives, whether it’s for work, education or entertainment. While we know how to use technology and need it in our day-to-day lives, we must also be able to leverage technology and use it in new ways to find solutions to different problems and challenges.

Think about the number of students in grades K-12, even new graduates, who have been or are being exposed to technology. For many, the focus is on how to use technology, but very few know how it works. Understanding what technology can do is key to creating and developing the next-generation solutions that will drive success in the digital future. That’s where STEM education comes in.

There is a strong desire for technology careers across all industries. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be 1 million open computing jobs in the U.S. by 2024.[1]  At Northwestern Mutual, we’re focused on the “T” in STEM – technology. Technology affects our business in many ways, and there is a growing need for technology talent in the workforce, especially when it comes to computing.

Academic preferences and interests begin at an early age. By providing STEM programs for students in elementary and high schools, we can help fuel their interests early on, which will influence the class choices they make and prepare them for more advanced work in the future.

code.JPG

Our STEM Outreach Program offers a variety of opportunities for students grades K-12 to learn about technology. We provide experiential learning opportunities through a number of events throughout the year. Key events include our high school tech minicamp, a summer immersion and internship program focused on front-end development; CyberGirlz, a day-camp for middle school girls to spark interest in computer science careers; TEALS, a program designed to support and build up computer science teachers’ skill sets; and NM Xperience, a three-day event featuring hands-on activities and community building.

Additionally, next week we’re proud to participate in National Hour of Code, which aims to expose students to coding learning opportunities. National Hour of Code, which is held Dec. 4-10, encourages people to work with young students by engaging with them in creative ways to expose them to coding lessons. We will be participating in National Hour of Code in our Wisconsin, Arizona and New York offices. We’re challenging our employees and field representatives to do an hour of code with their children or kids in the community.

Creating a Lasting Impact Through Volunteerism

We’ve made great strides in the community in recent years to expose more students to STEM education. None of our STEM programming would be possible without our dedicated Northwestern Mutual volunteers, who are passionate about giving back, with many often devoting personal time and energy after hours and on weekends.

Volunteerism is a core part of our culture at Northwestern Mutual. I encourage my team and support their involvement in STEM volunteerism because it offers tremendous growth opportunities and is a creative venue for our employees. For many on my team, volunteerism has sparked a new fire. It allows them to bring that part of themselves to work, or better stated, to bring their whole selves to work and be recognized for it. At the same time, STEM volunteerism has long-term benefits because we’re educating our future workforce and showing young students that Northwestern Mutual is a great place to work.

We’re grateful to have many partners in the Milwaukee region who share our same goal of advancing STEM learning. By working together and providing STEM education, we can have a greater impact in our community today and in the future.
----------
[1]  Conference Board, Bureau of Labor Statistics