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Paul Gibbins

Paul Gibbins

Guest View

As a career educator who has spent most of my occupation teaching, I’ve seen how science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) benefit students of all ages.

I’ve helped educators develop curricula that helped students prepare to be successful STEM majors when they went to college.

I’ve also seen my own children develop an interest and understanding in STEM through coaching their FIRST LEGO League team, which has qualified for state the past two years.

After these experiences and others, working with the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council is a natural fit for me.

The STEM Council began in 2011 through a leadership mandate to raise awareness and interest in STEM education across the state and help keep our students competitive with peers around the world.

To ensure students in every corner of Iowa are receiving a quality STEM education, the STEM Council created six STEM regions, each with a designated manager.

As the new regional manager for the North Central STEM Region, I serve as a connector. While I’m based at Iowa State University’s Extension and Outreach, my job is to work with community partners, business and industry leaders, economic development, higher education and K-12 education across the region to create more opportunities for all students. 

Now is an important time to talk about STEM. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, occupations in STEM fields are expected to grow 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, compared to 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM jobs.

We have an increasing need for a well-educated and STEM-literate work force. They need to be able to speak, write and interpret. They need to be able to problem-solve.

When we talk about STEM, this isn’t just a mathematics teacher talking about mathematics. We’re really talking about how we can teach students to make connections between what they learn in class and how that plays out in the workplace.

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In some ways, STEM will be part of almost every job in the future through the technology involved and problem-solving required.

In the workplace, you’re not just given a worksheet to solve. You’re given a problem to analyze and solve with the available resources. You may not have the resources or time you’d like, but that’s how it will be for many of the challenges students will face in their careers. Students need these experiences before they graduate from high school.

That’s where our 2015 lineup of STEM Scale-Up programs, STEM festivals and business and community partnerships come into play.

Scale-Up programs allow students to participate in hands-on STEM projects in classrooms and after-school programs. At STEM festivals, businesses and organizations showcase how they use STEM through fun and interactive activities geared toward elementary students and their families.

Each of these opportunities helps us reach our goal of increasing awareness and interest in STEM in the North Central region, which in turn helps Iowa produce more STEM-trained workers to fill the future workforce needs in our state.

I’m eager to learn more and boost opportunities in our region, and I invite you to join us. Please reach out, get involved and stay up-to-date with the North Central region by visiting www.extension.iastate.edu/STEM or following us on Twitter (@NC_Iowa_STEM) or Facebook (North Central Iowa STEM Region).

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Paul Gibbins is the North Central Regional STEM Manager of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and is based at Iowa State University. He can be reached at pgibbins@iastate.edu or 515-294-0645.

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