Viewed through a lens of work-force development and regional economic growth, the numbers are sobering: By some counts, nearly 7,700 jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math are available annually in Kansas City—yet employers are able to fill only about 2,500 of them. Why? Not enough applicants with those educational backgrounds.
Altering that equation will require concerted efforts by employers, work-force development professionals, K-12 educators and regional universities, executives in those fields say. To that end, Burns & McDonnell is conducting its fourth annual Educators Summit this week. The event, which draws hundreds of educators from around the region, was designed to provide them with resources that will inspire Generation Z students to pursue their passion in STEM-related courses.
“We’re answering a call from educators to help fill the gap between the classroom and the workplace,” says Julee Koncak, Foundation director, Burns & McDonnell. “We want to help provide more STEM resources to teachers, who have the potential to make a huge impact through their classrooms on Generation Z students — the next generation of STEM professionals.”
This year, nearly 300 Missouri and Kansas educators—from more than 200 public, private and charter schools, community colleges, universities and early-learning centers—registered for the summit. STEM professionals shared resources and interactive demonstrations that can be used in the classroom; provided insight into the future of STEM; and offered unique tips to help inspire and engage members of Generation Z.
“I truly love coming to the Educators Summit and look forward to it every summer,” says Kaleigh Bearce, third-grade teacher at Longview Farm Elementary. “It is a chance to interact with other educators, get new ideas and leave with lessons I can put into action in my classroom.
“It is so valuable to hear directly from the engineers, architects and other STEM professionals on what is needed in the industry and how it’s evolving. As someone who tries to incorporate STEM as much as possible, this is a great complement to our curriculum.”
The payoff for the region, company officials say, lies in federal statistics that show that 93 out of 100 STEM occupations have wages above the national average. According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average starting salary for an engineering graduate is $66,097.