We have set the following three issues as our mandate:
- 1. Increase the number of individuals pursuing STEM-centric careers
- 2. Improve the relevancy, value, and accessibility of the education available to those that desire it, both from the perspective of the individual and from the perspective of their future employers
- 3. Increase STEM literacy in the general public. We want the public to have a better grasp of some key concepts, including
- Scientific method
- Relationship between cause and effect in complex systems
- Feedback loops
Note that these three issues are not confined to any nation or by age group. We can support efforts by others at any level within these three key areas.
The biggest asset we have is a great group of key players with a common mandate.
COFES is the central key to our effort, but it cannot be our sole touch point. While many of you will be able to join us at COFES, those of you that are not going to be able to be there are also critical to our efforts to make a difference.
COFES is the Congress for Future of Engineering Software. We are in a unique position to form an effective group for the ADVOCACY of engineering-software related STEM initiatives. Bill Boswell, of Siemens PLM, proposed that we form this COFES-related advocacy group to identify, explore, and communicate potential STEM solutions and projects. Whether at the national or global level, this group’s vendor-neutral mandate is to complement other current (and future) STEM programs. The real potential power this group has is to provide a chorus of voices made up of industry analysts, educators, and industry to be an agent of change.
If we are to take up this call, then we should foster broad participation on targeted working groups, with the groups reporting back to a guiding board with the responsibility to maintain the big picture. Specific problems, technologies, age groups, or nationalities can be the domain of these targeted working groups. We have already had several suggestions for working groups ranging from early-childhood educational approaches to creating public/private partnership opportunities to support STEM internships to help with the current workforce skills gap.
Macro vs Micro
Many of you I’ve talked with have noted specific programs, mentoring, and other activities that should be on our radar. I had been struggling to deal with the preponderance of opportunities to make a difference. These activities are absolutely necessary to our cause. BUT – as a group, our focus is on making change at the macro, or big-picture arena. We will actively support and encourage local and individual activities, but our focus must be on making a difference at a much larger scale.
Action at COFES
We need your help. We will need leaders for the targeted working groups and we will need active participants for the board to maintain the big picture. At COFES, we will be taking the first steps. The briefing discussions set for Friday are designed to set the stage for the roundtable working groups on Saturday. Friday’s briefings:
In the morning, Phares Noel will lead a briefing on:
STEM focus, education, and literacy have a direct impact on the vitality of our economy. By 2020, how will the tools of education change? How will our needs change? What STEM skills will employers of 2020 value? How do we shift our existing education systems to deliver future employees with those skills? What mechanisms might we need beyond our current education systems? How might we best leverage our influence to achieve these goals?
In the afternoon, Martin Fischer will lead a briefing on:
STEM, Jobs, and Education
The nature of jobs and what we do at work has drastically changed since 1980. Our education system and what it teaches has not. This second part of two STEM-focused briefings focuses on the connection between the domain of STEM and the domain of the industries we care about: Manufacturing and AEC. If much of what is currently taught as STEM education may be available online by 2020 as some expect, what should universities teach so that the products and buildings made in 2020 perform dramatically better?
The following day, we will have two 90-minute working groups as part of the COFES Roundtables. The morning working group will focus on building an action plan to take our advocacy group beyond COFES. We’ll try to address questions like these:
- What needs to be done to turn this into a project?
- What resources and commitments would be required?
- What other players should we draw into the conversation?
- Who has vested interests in the success of this?
- Who has vested interests that would be negatively affected if this succeeds?
- What are the low hanging fruit that we might accomplish quickly to show results?
- What are the assets that we can draw upon?
- What other efforts can we coordinate with?
The afternoon working group will focus on immediate planning for the next tangible steps, and perhaps breaking out into multiple working groups for more targeted discussion.