Sharing the importance of a STEM-based education

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin - Guest Columnist

In the midst of holiday school programs, teachers and staff across West Virginia are working to ensure our state’s students remain focused on preparing for opportunities beyond high school.

That starts with providing access to the skills and real-world experience they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Over the years, West Virginia’s business climate has expanded and diversified to include a number of new career fields and job opportunities for our young people, especially in areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The reality for our students is the days when a high school diploma alone could open doors to a stable, well-paying job are over. In fact, recent studies show nearly 60 percent of the jobs we’re creating in West Virginia will require at least a two-year degree.

Based on these workforce projections, we must continue to engage and encourage our students to stay in school, attend class and make plans to complete some form of post-secondary education — and that conversation must start at the earliest of ages. Opportunities are available to our students no matter which path they choose, and there are plenty available to them.

In West Virginia, we’re committed to making sure our students succeed whether in the form of a technical training through our Advanced Careers Program, an apprenticeship, a two-year degree at one of our community and technical colleges or through a four-year degree at an in-state college or university.

As your governor and state superintendent, we are pleased this message has reached so many West Virginia students, but in 2016, we know there is more work to be done.

While West Virginia continues to experience growth in current sectors like natural gas and manufacturing, math and computer sciences are quickly emerging as fast-growing STEM fields in West Virginia — with thousands of new jobs projected by 2018.

Contrary to popular belief, computer science jobs are found in a number of fields outside of information technology including manufacturing, healthcare, finance, public health and social science research. Moving forward, we must focus on the development and enhancement of our students’ STEM-related skill sets.

To help with this effort, we were proud to support Computer Science Education Week in West Virginia which ended Dec. 13. This week was designed to increase awareness among West Virginia students about job opportunities available in the computer science sector and advance STEM initiatives and programs in our schools. Throughout the week, a number of students participated in an Hour of Code, a global movement that included an introduction to basic computer science information, skills and practical activities designed for students to explore computer and math science from a fun and engaging perspective.

West Virginia has more opportunities for our young people than ever before. It is our hope that Computer Science Education Week will help us communicate this message and encourage our students to get excited about developing the skills that can lead to a bright future here in the Mountain State. We know our young people are the future of our state, and we cannot wait to see what is in store for West Virginia now and for generations to come.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin

Guest Columnist

Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, is the governor of West Virginia and writes a weekly column.

Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, is the governor of West Virginia and writes a weekly column.