STEM Ready America: Career and College Exploration in Afterschool Programs in STEM

Project Exploration and the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative (STEM Co-op) are featured in a recent article by STEM Ready America, a compendium that highlights best practices and success stories from across the country demonstrating the critical role of out-of-school time STEM programs in fostering work readiness skills for today’s jobs.

The article describes how high-quality OST programs can prepare youth for careers by supporting the development of STEM skills that students may not be honing during their classroom hours. Skills such as critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaboration, imagination, and entrepreneurism are of paramount importance in today’s economy. As a critical part of the learning ecosystem that youth access, OST programs can provide meaningful opportunities for youth to develop these skills in interest-driven and community-based ways. This is particularly important in Chicago, where the STEM Co-op aims to bring diverse stakeholders together through partnerships, convenings, and collaboration with the goal of addressing gaps and inequities in STEM learning.

The article outlines three recommendations for designing and developing high-quality programs to nurture STEM readiness skills.

  1. An intentional and explicit focus on STEM knowledge, skills, and identity. Quality OST STEM programs that engage youth are built upon best practices and evidence-based research on STEM learning.
  2. Preparing youth for post secondary success, such as including college visits and guidance on how to apply and prepare for STEM in college.
  3. Including career awareness and readiness. This broad recommendation includes opportunities for youth to develop experience at a work site, build work readiness skills, engage with and work alongside STEM professionals doing real science, and build connections between their experience and employers.

As the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative develops a STEM learning ecosystem at the neighborhood level, such as in Austin, these recommendations provide a framework for identifying programs and experiences for youth.


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