From the Governor's Desk: A weekly column by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin
COLUMN: STEM Success in the Mountain State

Across West Virginia, our young people are aiming for greatness. Whether choosing a career path requiring a two-year degree from one of our state's community and technical colleges or a four year degree at one of our colleges and universities, many are considering futures in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields-and helping to lay a strong foundation for West Virginia's economic future.

Workforce projections indicate 44 percent of job openings in the next 10 years will require more than a high school education but less than a four-year degree. And in just four years, workplace demands will require an additional 20,000 college graduates in West Virginia to maintain the state's economy.

With the continued growth in the oil and natural gas and manufacturing sectors, we're taking the necessary steps to strategically expand West Virginia's workforce over the next five years with a focus on developing and enhancing STEM-related skill sets.

 

As we position ourselves to compete in today's global economy, we must start with our students-West Virginia's future workforce-by providing them with the tools and resources they need to succeed. By encouraging students to explore technology and innovation from an early age, we can help companies investing in West Virginia grow by supporting their future workforce employers in those fields need.

 

This week, I joined fourth-grade students at Piedmont Elementary School for Computer Science Education Week, a STEM-related initiative that teaches the importance of computer, math and science skills. When I spoke to these students and asked how many of them liked their math and/or science classes, I was thrilled to see hands quickly shoot up across the classroom. In speaking to them, I explained that West Virginia is doing the best we to help them prepare for their futures, and that the jobs awaiting them will require both math and science skills. And as I sat with them-solving math problems and practicing multiplication tables-I realized the work we're doing to prepare our future workforce will not only affect our state's future, but will position each of these students to succeed for years to come.

 

West Virginia's entire education system is stepping up to the task of providing business and industry with a solid, skilled workforce by adapting curriculum to meet the needs of businesses investing and growing in the Mountain State. From our local school systems to our community and technical colleges and universities, we're partnering with industry and spreading the word about initiatives, like Computer Science Education Week, to help our students understand the earning potential of the highly skilled, hands-on career opportunities available to them.

 

I'm proud our state has unprecedented opportunities for our young people today and for decades ahead. Through STEM-related activities, we are preparing our children for tomorrow's jobs and for a brighter future. Our young people are future leaders who will help drive our state's competitiveness by generating new ideas, new jobs and new investment.  I can't wait to see what students-like those at Piedmont Elementary-have in store for the future of the Mountain State.