When colleges host STEM Career Days, the high school students who attend are far more likely to pursue a career in a STEM related field, a new study shows.
The findings not only highlight the benefits of college recruiters introducing high school students to STEM-related opportunities, but they can also help increase and diversify the STEM workforce in the United States.
Michael Williams, an assistant professor in the University of Missouri College of Education and Human Development, analyzed a nation-wide survey that Harvard University conducted that asked nearly 16,000 college students if they attended a college-run STEM Career Day while in high school.
He found that the students who attended were far more likely to have STEM-related career aspirations compared to the students who did not attend.
“Now that we have found that this type of intervention works for turning that potential interest in STEM into career aspirations in STEM, we can work on designing these interventions in a way to be even more effective and accessible to develop a more diverse STEM workforce,” says Williams, who is also a faculty fellow in the division of inclusion, diversity, and equity.
“If you want someone to be good at something, you want them to develop a sense of efficacy, which is about putting them in a position where they can see themselves doing it and succeeding at it, and seeing other people that look like them doing it as well.”
When Williams was pursuing a master’s degree in computer information technology, he remembers being the only Black student in classes such as computer engineering and differential equations. He also remembers the classes being disproportionately made up of international students.
“The United States trails a lot of global competitors in the production of STEM talent, especially in areas like sophisticated technology and quantitative methodologies,” Williams says. “The National Science Foundation has pushed for broadening participation in STEM fields and increasing diversity for populations that have previously been excluded from STEM-related opportunities. So, I am passionate about reaching people earlier in the educational pipeline and seeing what interventions help turn interest into career aspiration.”
The study appears in the International Journal of Science Education.
Source: University of Missouri