DES MOINES — The three R’s remain the educational foundation for young people, but Gov. Terry Branstad and others said Monday that STEM learning is the gateway to high-paying, high-skills jobs of the future.
STEM areas include science, technology, engineering and math, and Branstad used the Science Center of Iowa on Monday as a backdrop to highlight the selection of six regional network hubs that will promote STEM education and economic development across Iowa.
He was joined by Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Ben Allen, president of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls and the co-chairman of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. The council selected a review panel that recommended six of 13 Iowa institutions and organizations that applied to serve as regional STEM network hubs.
The six hubs that will house the coordinating centers and their network hub managers are Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville, the northwest Iowa hub; Iowa State University in Ames, the north-central Iowa hub; the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, the northeast hub; Southwestern Community College in Creston, the southwest hub; Drake University in Des Moines, the south-central hub; and the University of Iowa/Kirkwood Community College, the southeastern hub.
“These six regional STEM network hubs will be the driving force offering Iowa youngsters more opportunities to learn about STEM, which will better prepare them to someday consider STEM careers,” Branstad told attendees at Monday’s announcement. “STEM fields are among the fastest-growing, with many jobs that pay well.”
The governor said he hoped the new focus would improve interest and achievement in areas that are critical to the state’s future success both economically and academically. He said Iowa students must show greater proficiency in STEM education areas to ensure that top employers providing high-paying jobs will continue to look to locate in the state.
Monday’s announcement was the first initiative of the 40-member Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, a public-private partnership that Branstad formed last September. The council’s over-arching goal is creating greater student achievement in STEM subjects and a stronger STEM work force, the governor said. Each STEM network hub will work with business, education institutions, nonprofit groups and others in its region in a way that best fits local needs, interests and resources.
“Iowa is fortunate to have some outstanding STEM education programs, but whether students have access right now depends largely on where they live,” said Reynolds, co-leader of the council. “The hubs will provide these opportunities more equitably around the state. STEM occupations are critical to Iowa’s economic competitiveness because of the direct ties to innovation, productivity and economic growth.”
Nelson said the hubs will be instrumental in efforts to “scale up” exemplary STEM programs and establish the infrastructure required to deliver them “to every corner of the state” by facilitating partnerships and leveraging assets to reclaim local excellence.
“Regional needs in STEM can best be met through local and regional programming that takes advantage of local assets such as partner businesses, county extension, formal and informal education organizations, nonprofits and more,” Allen said. “Great hope and expectation rides on these regional hubs and their managers to unite those assets for the betterment of STEM education across Iowa.”
Branstad said he was pleased it appeared that House-Senate budget negotiators would provide money for the STEM initiative at his proposed level, which is needed to meet the goals of bolstering education in all the STEM areas.
The next step will occur May 15 at Drake University where action plans will be detailed for comment from the public. All 13 regional hub applications may be viewed at www.iowamathscience.org/regional-stem-hub-applications.