An issue that nearly all parents, students, and professionals contend with is trying to determine what kinds of jobs are going to be available in the future, and of those jobs which are going to promise a rewarding career. Regardless of how that notion of reward is determined by different groups of people, it is one of the most frequently researched and appraised topics in the Unites States. It governs policy decisions, market trends, private and governmental spending, and education. For most students, it also has a hand in determining where they go to college, and what sorts of interests take precedent when it comes time to make decisions about extracurriculars. Without a doubt, the younger generation also has a hand in swaying those trends in the direction of their collective interests as they, as new entrepreneurs and business developers, enter the professional world. But what if, as a student, you don't know enough about the job market of the future to make a well informed decision? How would a little knowledge impact those choices?
If it were as simple as looking at the trends in the job market to determine a future career, then it would seem obvious to anyone that students should focus on sciences, technology, engineering, and healthcare. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the fields that will see increases of 10% or more over the course of the next 7 years, some with increases as high as 20% . But then the questions for students still remain: "What job within those categories is going to ensure a rewarding career?" "Am I interested in a job in those fields?" "What sort of education and training will I need?"
How will the professional world and the education system answer those questions? Hopefully, with this answer: Get hands on and find out for yourself!
WCTD recently partnered with the New York Institute of Technology to deliver a series of programs that offered students the kinds of hands-on, experiential learning discussed above. Titled CreatingSTEAM and CreatingIDEAS, each program provided a project-based environment, in which students worked collaboratively to solve problems, answer questions, and, most importantly, discover their passions and talents across the STEAM disciplines.
Though both programs offered the same type of learning environment, a brain-based, experiential learning approach, the focus of each varied a bit. CreatingSTEAM was a program that introduced a broad spectrum of ideas and subjects, and was designed to give students an overview of emerging technologies and future careers. Students were grouped into teams, and tasked with developing a robotics company that provided a service for humanity, incorporating projects like website development, mobile app development, 3D printing, software tools, leadership skills, device management, robotics and engineering, coding, and more.
CreatingIDEAS, on the other hand, narrowed the focus specifically to an overview of the gaming industry. In this program, students worked as a team to build a high power gaming computer from parts, loaded it with programs for game development, such as Unity3D and Audacity, and developed a functioning game, along with a concept for further development.
In both programs students were asked to rely on one another to solve problems. Dependent upon teamwork, creative and critical thinking, and research, the intention of each program was twofold: while teaching students about the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and math, students were also learning valuable career and life skills, such as how to collaborate in a project setting, and how to deliver results on a deadline, while also learning about the opportunities that would be available in the future and how to go after them. By leveraging the tools provided by WCTD, and the outstanding learning environment provided by NYIT, each student found his or her own path to success.
The projects that each team delivered were amazing in and of themselves, but one of the most rewarding parts of the program for its creators was the impact the programs had on the students who attended. The impact was measured using a survey designed in partnership with the National Science Foundation, in which students were asked to evaluate the importance of education and training in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math with regard to future careers. The results from the post-program surveys were very telling, to say the least. Substantial increases were noted in almost all categories of student engagement, meaning that when students left the programs they had a much greater understanding of the importance of STEAM on their future than before attending.
For example, when presented with the statement "Science is an important field of study" before the conference, 59% of students said that it was "Very Important," while in the post-conference sample that number rose to 67%. Impressive also was the increase in the value students put on creative thinking, with an increase from 56.5% before the programs to 75% after their conclusion.
The end result of the assessment was that the program not only allowed students to access a wide variety of different technologies and fields of study, but that the environment in which the students worked and the challenges with which they were faced gave them a different view of the world than they had before participating in the programs.
At the conclusion of both programs it was clear that the students had not only learned quite a bit, but had enjoyed doing it. One volunteer in particular spoke to the immersion in the project as a fun learning experience, stating: "it doesn't really feel like volunteering because I am getting so much out of it. I'm helping the students but we're all learning together." A web development student herself, she also claimed that because of what she had learned during the programs she felt that she might pursue more diverse areas in programming now that she had learned so much more.
WCTD will be offering more programs this fall that offer similar kinds of instruction and experiential learning opportunities, including a 48hr hack-a-thon to teach HTML5 to high school students. If you would like more information regarding our programs or our organization, please join our Yammer community by visiting www.yammer.com/weconnectthedots and requesting an invite.