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Business and Industry Groups to Launch STEM Coalition

A new business and industry coalition set to be announced tomorrow aims to "enhance and elevate" the U.S. commitment to STEM education, with participants representing diverse sectors, from the aerospace, manufacturing, and even entertainment industries to biotechnology, software engineers, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"We're really trying to align the work we're doing, and the messaging and the resources," Lydia M. Logan, who heads up the Institute for a Competitive Workforce at the U.S. Chamber, told me in an interview today.

The effort comes amid strong and growing support for efforts to advance education in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, including from President Obama and many governors.

Richard Stevens, a senior vice president at the Boeing Co., said one key goal of the coalition is to "change Americans' perspectives about engineers and scientists."

The coalition will work to break the stereotype that "they're the guys who have pocket protectors, they're kind of geeky," he said in an interview. In truth, he added, "you find all kinds of people" in these professions.

Stevens said the groups involved in the new coalition together represent some 10,000 companies. A set of "advisory members" include U.S. government entities such as the departments of Defense, Education, Labor, and Homeland Security.

"We've got to pull ourselves together so we can then focus our resources," Stevens said, "whether it's outside schools or inside schools."

An organizing document for the Business and Industry STEM Education Coalition says the coalition will support aligning efforts around several priorities:

• Bring "proven, project-based, hands-on" STEM activities for students to a national scale and ensure they are sustained;

• Recruit, train, and retain effective teachers in the STEM fields;

• Encourage employers to identify and nurture students with aptitudes for STEM and attract them to career tracks in those fields, particularly students from "underrepresented" groups in the STEM workforce; and

• Adopt metrics and assessments to evaluate the impact of STEM programs and methods to track progress "across the pipeline."

It bears mentioning that this is not the first national coalition to promote STEM education. There already is a group called, you guessed it, the STEM Education Coalition, which features many representatives from business and industry, though it also includes groups such as the National Science Teachers Association and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, as well as universities, school districts, and even the Ohio education department. That coalition's work is more specifically focused on advancing support for STEM education at the federal level.

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