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Five Nonprofits Driving A Revolution In STEM Education

Tigran Sloyan, CommunityVoice

The internet has changed more than just the way we interact with each other. It has started a revolution in education, especially when it comes to STEM. STEM stands for the four disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and before the rise of the internet, one of the few paths to success in these fields was to go to a good (and usually expensive) school.

Today, the internet provides unlimited access to high-quality, free and educational resources for almost any age or skill group. And yet, these critical career paths lack awareness and excitement. Many nonprofit organizations are making it their mission to change that, upsetting outdated models in education and, subsequently, recruiting. Let’s examine five of these organizations and unpack not only what they do — but why it matters and how your company can learn from their initiatives.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is an online resource with a mission to offer a world-class education that students need to succeed. Their resources are free — all of them. This means students who don’t have access to elite schools or private tutors can bridge the gap and show progress in subjects that may otherwise have been a struggle. Along with an extensive library of educational videos for students, Khan Academy aligns with the public school curriculum and provides resources to assist teachers, principals and districts that may also be underfunded. Khan Academy relies solely on donations to support its mission.

Given the breadth of knowledge available on Khan Academy, it’s a great resource not only for the younger generation but also for companies looking to upskill or reskill their employees.

Code.org

Code.org is an organization focused on computer science access in schools, with a mission that focuses on inclusion for women and underrepresented minorities. Of the students in Code.org courses, 46% are women and 48% are underrepresented minorities. This high level of inclusion is a consistent pattern for Code.org, confirming their ability to reach a group of students that have been left out of traditional STEM education in the past. 

There are numerous ways your business can support this same mission, including hosting a coding event for the community, becoming an advocate in your local school system or even nominating a teacher for a computer science scholarship. As coding transforms itself from a specialized subject to the future of literacy, organizations with this outlook will be crucial in bridging the educational gap between those who have access to high-quality education and those who don’t.

Scratch Foundation

The Scratch Foundation originally came out of MIT. This organization created Scratch, a block-based programming language that allows kids around the world to learn about and express themselves and their ideas through coding. Scratch is operating in 196 countries in over 70 languages. The unique block-based programming language and online community mean that students around the globe are creating and collaborating with their peers daily.

Traditionally, the first time students got introduced to programming was in middle or high-school since it required a certain level of math and computer navigation skills. However, the concept of block-based programming has created a unique opportunity where people, newcomers and employees in need of upskilling alike, can start exploring algorithms and systems without this background knowledge.

Revolution Robotics

Revolution Robotics is developing an open-source platform that is designed to make the robotics field more accessible around the world. They are focused on creating opportunities for all gender, race and financial classes today that will have a direct benefit for the future. According to the National Math and Science Initiative, “60% of the new jobs that will open in the 21st century will require skills possessed by only 20% of the current workforce.” These jobs are centered in the STEM field. By creating access to the robotics arena in a way that excites young students, Revolution Robotics aims to open the door of opportunity for children today, directly impacting their tomorrow.

If, one day, robotics competitions become as popular as high-school basketball, you could have thousands of high-school graduates with crucial STEM skills that are going to help them everywhere — from college admissions to their professional careers. When reviewing applicants, it’s important to look out for qualifications like these and post educational organizations like this one.

Girls Who Code

Girls Who Code has their mission in the name — include more women in technology. They want to close the gender gap in the STEM field and train a swath of career-ready female engineers. Despite what may be a natural assumption — that more women are entering STEM fields now than in prior decades — the percentage of women with computer science degrees is actually declining, from 37% in 1995 to 24% in 2017. Girls Who Code aims to create opportunities where girls can join a club, take a summer course or even attend a summer immersion program, introducing the young women to a supportive community.

These days, there are a lot of conversations about increasing gender diversity at tech companies, and most companies try to tackle this problem by launching diversity recruiting programs aimed at recruiting female engineers. However, the most effective long-term gender diversity initiative for most companies would be to support programs like these or develop their own local workshops to pass on STEM skills to community members early in life.

Learning From These Nonprofits

This is just the beginning of a revolution that’s going to be transformational — for both the educational services industry and, most importantly, the tech recruiting industry. Will your business be a part of this change?

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