3 Ways to Prepare Our Students for a Future STEAM-powered Workforce
The world around us is increasingly becoming powered by science and technology. There’s so much data showing the growth of STEM-related careers and the need for competent workers to fill these jobs. But, what about STEAM? As we mentioned in our previous blog post, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) are very similar except for one key difference — STEAM thoughtfully applies the arts, including design, visual arts, language arts and performing arts into STEM.
With the rise of STEM, teachers should be prepared to educate students on STEAM and how the arts interface with technology, engineering and mathematics, as it’s only logical that our youth will need to be ready to work, communicate and lead confidently in a future STEAM-career dominated society.
In this week’s blog, we highlighted three critical ways educators can ensure students are prepared for a future career that is influenced by STEAM.
As educators, our first thought for preparing our students for success beyond the classroom may be to focus on core curriculum content competency. While having your students understand the subjects you teach is incredibly important, there’s a special byproduct of classrooms infused by STEAM that educators should harness for students’ future in the workforce: soft skills.
These soft skills include:
- Computational Thinking Skills
- Critical Thinking
- Collaboration on tasks or projects
- Communication on tasks or projects
- Technology Literacy
- Social Skills
Out of all these, one skill reigned supreme according to a recent study conducted in 2018 by UC Berkeley management professor and former Harvard Business School professor, Morten Hansen. In the study, Hansen analyzed 5,000 business professionals across a variety of roles (such as sales, marketing, manufacturing, accounting) over five years to understand what made them top performers and successful in their roles.
The result? The top performers were able to “do less, and then obsess”. By breaking down their roles, projects and responsibilities by priority and then focusing on the most important things pertaining to their position, workers ranked much higher and successful in the study.
“Greatness in work, art, and science requires obsession over quality and an extraordinary attention to detail,” Hansen said.
If this sounds familiar, it should — for students and educators in a STEAM classroom, this very method can be practiced through the use of computational thinking skills.
What is computational thinking? Computational thinking refers to the process used to formulate a problem and express the solution in a way a computer can understand and implement. It’s comprised of four parts:
- Breaking down a complex problem into manageable parts (decomposition)
- Identifying similarities among problems (pattern recognition)
- Focusing on the important part of a problem (abstraction)
- Developing step-by-step instructions to solve the problem (algorithms)
Computational-thinking allows students and by extension, future professionals, the ability to embrace simplicity to their work. By giving students the skills to approach their classwork with this STEAM-powered methodology, they’ll be much more likely to be successful in the workplace.
Your students can probably name dozens of science careers off the top of their heads, but they may not be able to easily connect the dots between STEAM and future career opportunities. As an educator, you have the opportunity to educate students on how STEAM brings together science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics and just how many doors it can open for future jobs.
Because STEAM doesn’t exclude the artistic design element required when interacting with scientific, technological, engineering or mathematical work that needs to be completed in the workforce, a world of opportunities can open up for students to consider for their future jobs.
This is great news for students who may not be as passionate about core STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) coursework because it offers them another avenue of interest in those fields.
Example STEAM-related job titles include:
Each of these roles use a combination of art, science, math and/or technology in their everyday work to accomplish their work. These career ideas are just an idea to get started with for educators to present to students to help them consider their future. STEAM impacts so much of the world around us, and as a teacher, listening to your students’ interests and finding a connection that relates back to STEAM can be one of the most valuable things you can offer to your learners during their time in the school system.
One of the best things about STEAM is that it gives students the ability to experience real-world complexities and attempt to solve real-world problems. As an educator, there are three great ways you can amplify this for students to help their future career aspirations.
1) Having students learn about content is great, but giving students projects is what truly unlocks the power of STEAM. With projects, students can hypothesize, experiment and make connections from the content you teach to the world around them in a demonstrated form. Even better, students can walk away from school with tangible portfolio pieces of completed work they can take to a future employer to showcase their qualifications, skills and expertise.
2) Bringing in guest speakers to your classroom from STEAM fields can be an invaluable experience for your learners. Have your students prepare a list of questions to ask your speaker before they visit that align with their interests while letting your speaker know about your work with STEAM. Many of today’s working professionals have STEAM-related roles and don’t even know it! By giving your students exposure to opportunities while they are young, you’re helping educate them on how the working world applies STEAM practices and just how important STEAM is for their future.
3) For students who are nearing middle or high school, internships or apprenticeships in STEAM-related fields can take their projects to the next level. Many educators in K-12 may think that internships are reserved for higher education, but with the growing number of charter schools and personalized learning initiatives, it’s possible to tie together a student’s STEAM learning with experience out in the field. It may require you to work with your student’s other teachers to tell them about the work you’re doing with STEAM and your emphasis on education on STEAM careers, but if you can line up the right opportunity, you could help influence your student’s future.
More Resources for STEAM Education
Educating your students on STEAM is a process, but it’s a valuable one that goes beyond the classroom and will follow them for the rest of their lives. With the right STEAM-powered skills, projects and experiences, your students can set themselves apart in the future workplace.
Tell us: what other ideas have you used to introduce your students to STEAM to help prepare them for the future workforce? I’d love to hear from you!
Looking for more resources on all things STEAM? Check out our: