Newark’s reputation as a technology hub seems to be growing by the day as more and more startups are choosing the location as home and the city waits to find out if Amazon will select it for HQ2. But what about producing the talent here to fill jobs in science, technology, engineering and math?
“Women make up half the labor force, but there are only 1 in 10 scientists right now,” Sen. Cory Booker said of the national workforce. “We know that African Americans, and Latinos and Native Americans make up more than half the workforce for the future, but only one tenth of the workforce in STEM fields. We cannot afford to leave our genius uncultivated.”
Newark’s mayor Ras Baraka added residents in his city aren’t going into as many careers in STEM because the area hasn’t had the resources.
“But today represents a day where we can begin to destroy and mitigate that problem,” Baraka said.
Eighth graders at Abington Avenue School tested out Students 2 Science’s new STEM education laboratories in Newark. It’s run in partnership with Newark Public Schools and the City of Newark as a way to give kids an opportunity to get hands-on experience.
“They’re professional laboratories and they’re staffed by professional scientists. So we are here to show them what a career in STEM looks like, what it feels like, and we want them to envision themselves working in those areas,” explained the director of the virtual labs, Fran Nelson.
U.S. Innovation and Change Equation says there are more than 6 million high school students in New Jersey but only 1.6 million are interested in pursuing a STEM career.
“We are the jewels deep in the ground waiting to be cultivated,” said Maurice Minott, a sophomore at Eagle Academy for Young Men in Newark.
Minott told the room his internship at the STEM center will help him to attain his dream of becoming a nano-technician.
“And that’s what I’m looking for,” explained Minott, “a path that will lead to success so my mom and dad won’t have to worry if I’m doing alright. So my grandmother will be able to see her grandchild become a person of worth. And for myself, getting a step closer to my goal after so many years of hard work and diligence.”
One could tell speaking to these eighth graders that jobs in STEM are now on their radar, even just after this first encounter with a professional lab.
“There are many different fields of science that people don’t really consider, and those are good paying jobs, but there are few people interested and there’s multiple jobs open. So I think I would consider being a scientist,” said eighth graders Essence Williams.
Williams says she likes chemistry and being here has her thinking about her future. Her science teacher at Abington Avenue School, Henie Parillon says that’s what he’s hoping will happen with more and more students.
“When we go back to the building I can now refer back to some of the things they did and show them how it applies to real life,” Parillon said.
U.S. Innovation and Change Equation says there are 269,000 STEM or STEM-related jobs available in the state. This next generation is getting ready to fill the demand.