Shared from the 2018-04-17 American Press eEdition

Guest Columnist

Foundation in STEM will empower workforce

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As the Class of 2018 prepares to graduate from high school and engage the world as young adults, some of the most lucrative opportunities that exist in postsecondary education and the workforce require a foundation in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).

Those graduates who successfully took classes in these subjects in high school will stand a better than average chance of finding a career pathway that is rewarding from a sense of personal achievement and financial benefit.

STEM careers encompass a broad range of occupational fields with high skills, high demand, and high-paying jobs. Health care, aerospace, agriculture, construction, communications, manufacturing, information technology, and transportation careers all rely heavily on workers with STEM skills.

The widespread and constantly growing use of computer-based technology in our daily lives is creating new industries with new opportunities for careers. Two common skill sets needed by workers in these industries are coding and robotics.

Coding is assembling the commands in a logical sequence so that the technology will perform one or more functions for the user. Coding is the basis for all information technology applications. Workers that can write code are in high demand to develop products for the cyber world from security systems to computer games.

As development of computer coding has advanced, it has made the use of robots more practical. Advanced computer coding is designed to drive servo motors, thus robots can be programmed to do repetitive assembly line jobs once performed by humans. With sophisticated coding, robots now can deliver room service in hotels, operate floor cleaning equipment in large retail establishments, and even drive automobiles on highways.

Recognizing the increasing opportunities for workers with coding and robotics skills, Phillips 66 recently donated $30,000 to add coding and robotics to the information technology programs at the College Street and Westlake High Career and Technical Education Centers. This grant will serve up to 72 high school students the first year.

This program was developed by the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute, where the teachers will receive training on delivery methods and laboratory exercises to maximize the use and impact of the curriculum and robots.

The SWLA Economic Development Alliance applauds Phillips 66 for their vision and investment in STEM. We welcome and encourage more businesses to invest in STEM programs for schools that are educating our students today to be our workers of tomorrow.

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R.B. Smith is vice president of workforce development at the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. Contact him at 433-3632.

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