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More STEM Programs Needed to Expose Families to Careers, Says PTA Paper

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While families play a prominent role in helping their children choose professions, many parents are unaware about opportunities in STEM careers. And few engagement programs are available to help them find out, according to a new paper by the National PTA.

The National Parent Teacher Association this week released a white paper, called Increasing Students' Access to Opportunities in STEM by Effectively Engaging Families. The paper is part of an ongoing effort by the PTA on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, outreach.

For the paper, PTA researchers analyzed research on STEM, as well as programs both in and outside the PTA. Informal interviews were conducted with STEM experts and leaders.

They found that little research is available on methods to engage families in STEM. The programs that do exist often fail to engage families "beyond 'sign-up,' 'pay for,' 'drop-off' or 'stay and watch' experiences," according to the paper.

With a lack of programs, under-represented youth and girls especially are lacking in exposure to STEM careers. PTA hopes to "demystify" STEM for families by creating fun, interactive experience, as well as informing them of opportunities for careers that include two-year degrees and certification programs.

"STEM jobs in the United States are growing twice as fast as other fields. As a result, the demand for qualified STEM professionals is high, but the supply of qualified STEM workers is low—especially among under-represented groups like minorities and women," said Laura Bay, president of National PTA, in a statement. "The gap in the STEM pipeline is not a new problem, but intentionally engaging families is an essential new solution."

The paper is part of the PTA's STEM education and family-engagement initiative that it started in 2015 with funding from the Bayer USA Foundation. Last month, the PTA announced a new partnership with Mathnasium to offer 100,000 free STEM activities in schools and homes across the country.

Contact Sarah Tully at [email protected].

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