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Editorial: Community STEM focus efforts still encouraging

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The science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields are creating jobs much faster than colleges and universities are producing graduates to fill industry needs. That is what’s being called the STEM crisis.

The good news for local manufacturers is that Bartholomew County high schools and Purdue College of Technology are succeeding in engineering a solution.

Companies such as Cummins and Faurecia have strong need for prospective employees with these skills, which command excellent pay and career-track advancement. Fortunately, more help is on the way — at least locally.

The most recent College Readiness Reports, with information on the Class of 2012 for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. high schools and Hauser High School, show that more county high school graduates are pursuing degrees in STEM and health programs.

Of all the 2012 high school graduates who enrolled in college, 22 percent of Columbus students were enrolled in a STEM program, up from 18 percent in 2011. The percentage for Hauser High School students increased from 23 to 28 percent in the same time period. Notably, the local percentages exceed statewide interest in STEM programs.

Results of college-entrance exams also show that the local results aren’t a one-year spike but a shift over the past four or five years.

The increasing talent pool is the result of priorities in both school districts to make STEM preparation a high priority. For example:

Freshman courses in BCSC emphasize career exploration and stress areas where jobs are available, what positions are in demand and what they pay.

Columbus Signature Academy campuses are focused on hands-on STEM curriculum.

Courses at the C4 Columbus Area Career Connection expose students to STEM careers and use a Project Lead the Way engineering program. The option for Hauser students to enroll in C4 classes also is driving interest.

High school guidance departments are stressing the demand for STEM jobs.

Purdue College of Technology is doing its part — and illustrating how it is a valuable local asset — by churning out engineering graduates into awaiting jobs.

The Columbus-based program provides engineering degrees — plus computer and information technology, and industrial technology degrees, for example — and the soft skills necessary for graduates to succeed, through its leadership and supervision degree program. Eight of the 21 students in the Class of 2014 participated in school-to-work internship programs. Six received jobs upon graduation.

Between the local high schools and Purdue College of Technology, the local STEM push is hitting on all cylinders and manufacturing a success story.

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