Moving STEM Forward in Career, Technical, and Adult Education Symposium: Reflections

by Joel R. Malin / Oct 9, 2014

On September 29-30, Pathways Resource Center (PRC) Director Dr. Don Hackmann and I had the good fortune to attend the Moving STEM Forward in Career, Technical, and Adult Education Symposium, which was hosted by the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) in Washington, DC. This symposium was focused upon discussing key issues in STEM, education, employment, and the economy, with a particular emphasis on the improvement and advancement of teaching and learning strategies in career, technical, and adult education. About 70 invited guests, representing a variety of key stakeholder groups from across the United States, were in attendance.

The symposium ended with small group brainstorming around three key questions:

  • What can be done to make STEM education more accessible to traditionally underserved populations?
  • What are the most significant barriers preventing alignment of STEM curriculum from cradle to career?
  • In what ways can employees take a more significant role in ensuring STEM education meets the needs of industry?

OCTAE officials have pledged to produce a summary document or framework in the near future, and also plan to bring this group together next year for a follow-up meeting. In the meantime, the highlights and most salient points can be quickly gleaned by searching on #octeastem from Twitter. Some of the most prolific posters were @prcIllinois (PRC), @STEMldr (Dr. Lazaro Lopez, Asst. Supt., D214), and @camsiemcadams (Camsie McAdams, Deputy Director of STEM, U.S. Dept. of Education).

Dr. Hackmann and I left feeling validated for the work that PRC does, and that Illinois Race to the Top educators are doing, to address each of the above questions in our own ways within our state. We stressed to other participants the importance of intermediary organizations like PRC and the STEM Learning Exchanges to provide technical assistance and support to educators and to forge cross-entity partnerships. Meanwhile, we were heartened by the intense and sustained focus on equity. We are keenly aware of the importance of ensuring access and success for ALL students. We have found the Office of Community College Research and Leadership’s Pathways to Results process to be unparalleled as a resource to equity-minded educators.

Joel R. Malin is a curriculum specialist at the Pathways Resource Center. He is passionate about creating pathways to future college and career success for all students.