Opportunity Cost

Opportunity-Cost-humor

In order to write your new chapter in STEM, you cannot not let doubt paralyze you.

There is a shift occurring in the United States to that of a majority-minority population and it is occurring faster than expected and faster than those investing in STEM education programs and initiatives can feel and see the outputs.  The anticipated return on investment overtime is with Millennial’s and Minorities— completing certificate and degree programs in significant numbers prepared and ready to fill skilled labor jobs in STEM workforce areas.

There is an ongoing conversation regarding the STEM Skills Gap. Should closing the STEM Skills Gap be the responsibility of Millennial’s and minorities?  Many would think so, seeing that the “Baby Boomers” are retiring in larger numbers in the next 5 years.

Millennial’s and Minorities are all considered to be the next generation of workers; however, this group all have increasingly demonstrated an interest in seeking non-labor types of jobs, unrelated to labor intensive jobs.

Today, 62% of STEM firms struggle to fill important skilled labor positions and 74% predict a shortfall of qualified skilled trade workers. These struggles and predictions have an estimated lost for businesses of over $50 million over the next 5 years.

In life there is this thing I have experienced that is called “Opportunity Cost“. Put simply, nothing in life is free, you have to give up something to gain something.  The “Opportunity Cost” to excel and take advantage of STEM opportunities could be sacrifice of sleep, giving up extra time with friends and family, or time away from hobbies/favorite entertainment.

There are many who believe that people who do well in math and science were born with some great ability gene that they do not have and that is why those individuals have excelled and achieved in STEM areas.  In reality, that is not the case.  Achievement in STEM comes with discipline, putting in the work that is necessary to reap the rewards you sew to experience greater things in life.  But this can only happen by your investment of time—Opportunity Cost. Success in STEM comes with sacrifice.  The point is that in anything you do, there is going to be some type of inherent sacrifice that may or may not be obvious to you at the time, but I guarantee there will be. So, why not choose STEM? Why not choose the path that is resisted most? You have to choose the life you deserve and dream about, I happen to know that in choosing STEM, you are choosing to have what you want in life.  The choice is yours to make.

Pointing the Finger

Over the weekend, I found myself engaging in several conversations regarding the unfortunate loss of life. It was extremely sad news to hear that a child lost his life as a result of playing with an airsoft-type pellet gun by a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio. There were many errors at play that led to this unfortunate incident. The obvious is poor communication. The “C” in C-STEM. Poor communication on part of the pellet gun manufacturer, 911 dispatcher, police officer, and parents of the 12 year old boy.

It is seemingly unreasonable to not hold manufacturers of pellet guns that look like real guns accountable for the lives that are unknowingly placed in danger. A news channel covering the story has shared that the type of pellet gun the child had in his possession generally has an orange tip at the end of the barrel indicating that it is not a real gun. I would have to argue that such a minimal indicator is not good enough. Why not an orange safety tip and orange handle? Why not regulate so that pellet guns cannot be manufactured in black or chrome?

The news reported that the orange indicator was not present on the pellet gun and according to experts made it look no different than a real gun. There must be some sort of liability on part of the manufactures designing, building, and selling pellet guns in stores for children. Many of us have purchased toys that have hazardous warning labels on them. I am curious to know if there was a hazardous label on the pellet gun that provided a warning regarding the dangers of removing the orange tip as it could easily be mistaken as a real gun by law enforcement; pointing or aiming the pellet gun at another person or living thing may alarm people around you and place your life at risk; and/or carrying the pellet gun as a weapon may cause someone to feel threatened.

Many of our public servants work hard at developing policy to regulate gun control with NRA. I think it is time for our public servants to work just as hard to regulate pellet gun control with manufacturers. There is an organization called “Mothers Against Drunk Drivers,” and I think this is a fine time to start “Mothers Against Pellet Gun Manufacturers”. It is time that the manufacturers effectively communicate the proper message with the use of pellet guns and design them such that there is no question that it is not a real gun.

I cannot stress the importance of developing the communication skills of children. Because if we fail to do so, they grow-up to be adults that lack effective communication skills. As part of this unfortunate situation, there was a dispatcher that failed to effectively communicate the alleged situation to the officer as it was reported by the 911 phone caller. The individual that made the 911 call obviously wanted the police to know that there was a possibility that the gun could be a fake. However, the dispatcher failed to convey that information to the police officer which heightened the severity of the situation. The dispatcher did not ask any clarifying questions of the 911 phone caller as to why it was believed that the gun could possibly be a fake or if the child was pointing the gun directly at people or if there were other people in the area that were obviously at risk. In the police officers response, it seemed completely evident from viewing the video that the officer did not communicate effectively with the child to gain control of what was perceived to be a threatening situation by the officer. Not to mentioned that the officer perceived a 12 year old boy to be a 20 year old man. As it relates to the parent(s) that purchased the pellet gun for the child, I am curious as to how they communicated with the child the proper way and place to use the pellet gun. As it relates to the school the child attended, I wonder what type of social emotional and character building activities/courses/programs/learning was offered to instill the level of discernment, character, thoughtfulness, and consideration that was needed to help him regulate his behaviors, be conscious of his environment, and aware of how people might perceive his actions.

In closing, I sincerely believe that it takes A Village to raise a child, I am equally curious as to what prevented the person who made the 911 phone call from making an attempt to speak with the boy about his public actions and handling of the gun, after all the 911 caller did not sound frightened, panicked, and even indicated that the gun was probably fake. Further, what prevented the caller from sizing up the situation and exploring options to intervene? I am not saying that anyone should put their life in danger, I am just wondering if the 911 caller ever considered becoming The Village for the child. It is obvious that he needed one.

Problem-Solvers are in High Demand

Engineers are in high demand throughout the world. From biomedical engineers to nuclear engineers. These careers require innovative creative thinkers to solve problems that we have throughout the world. They require higher levels of knowledge in math and science. We need to motivate our students to seek careers that are in high demand by encouraging them early on and doing so as they matriculate through the Pre K-12th grade trajectory to higher education. Their experiences in school need to be relevant, fun, innovative, balanced, exploratory, and interactive. Mostly, they must understand the importance of what they learn and how the information they have can be applied in the world. Children are naturally curious, so why not provide them the tools they need to expound on their natural curiosity. Everything starts from a single idea that you build on with intended outcomes. In many cases, a single idea yields dividends that would not have otherwise availed themselves, had you not taken action. Children are our future and they depend on us to prepare them to answer questions of the unknown and unforeseeable future.

Unable to Serve

I recently received an email that caused me to look at the education system from a different perspective. As a country we are failing to give our students the education that they need and deserve to stay competitive in the world.

There are three main expectations that the military has for someone to join. To be educated, physically fit, and have no criminal history. The first is one of the biggest reasons as to why people are unable to serve in the military. One out of four Americans do not have a high school diploma and even with a high school diploma some still lack the academic skills needed to join the military. The solution is for students to start receiving quality education as early as possible. They must be empowered with good information and have access to opportunities that provides them with competitive skills. Prekindergarten is a very important place to begin strengthening children’s cognitive skills. Studies show that students that start with a quality Pre K education have higher rates of high school graduation and lower rates of crime. I understand that children need hands on experiences early on in their education to engage them and keep them on track. C-STEM provides programs and activities that are hands-on, require critical thinking, problem-solving, and application of knowledge and skills as early as Pre K. We need to focus on what is best for our children as early as possible to prepare them to successfully navigate the maze of life’s journey. To be quite honest, we cannot start to early with educating our children, which means neonatal education is the best place to begin with ensuring that a child’s future is bright and full of promise.

Kids Growing-up In Poverty in the Most Powerful Country

Recent reports from a study published by JAMA Pediatrics show that the number of children in the United States living in poverty is at its highest in 20 years. The amount of federal money spent on children has declined since 2010 by billions of dollars. Children should not have to live in poverty in America. It becomes a chain reaction when children live in poverty.  With 1 in 4 kids not having enough access to food, the resulting outcome lends itself to health problems because they either go hungry or the food they consume is unhealthy.  Taking it even further, these kids have lower test scores and lower desires for education, which should be the focus of all children.  It is impossible for a kid to focus on learning when they are hungry and in some cases starving.  Heck, I cannot focus on learning when I am hungry.  The startling data published by JAMA clearly brings this issue to the forefront detailing why something must be done to eradicate hunger to make our future even brighter as we would not be leaving kids behind educationally as a result of hunger.  It is estimated that 20 percent of American children don’t have adequate access to healthy food. Resulting in their emotional, physical, and intellectual development becoming at risk.  This puts more of America’s children at a disadvantage. Let’s do our part and not let a single child go hungry, let’s feed their minds and bodies—let’s prepare them for a future they have not dreamed for themselves.

The Reach for Higher Education

The great equalizer is ‘higher education’. It is well known that not everyone will obtain a college degree. Today, higher education whether a degree or certificate program, is required to take advantage of the tremendous work opportunities that currently exist or that are projected to be available in the not so distant future. C-STEM emphasizes the importance of education because it helps students develop critical thinking skills, unleash their creativity, and figure out what they are passionate about in life. It is important for educators to encourage students to embrace the journey of knowledge expansion. More than ever before, I am witnessing low skills jobs requiring increased technology, communication, and literacy skills which in some cases are not cultivated sufficiently during high school thus requiring post high school training. Studies show that the median income of a recent college graduate is $17,000 more than the median income of a high school graduate. Unfortunately, the gap continues to grow larger and is the reason First Lady Michelle Obama is pushing her new campaign “Reach Higher.” Her new movement emphasizes on getting more people to pursue an education past high school, whether it be professional training, community college, or a four-year university degree. The First Lady’s initiative combined with many others such as the work UNCF and C-STEM is doing, will increase the number of students considering and seizing opportunities that are available post high school through higher education.

Flipped Instruction 3.0

For many years C-STEM teachers have been utilizing online courses and resources to enrich STEM learning in their classrooms. Many have adopted this format to maximize classroom time with students and have provided students the framework and platform to maximize their out of class time to remain on track with school work and to get ahead with course work. I have found as well as many of the teachers I work with, that online courses supports the integration of relevant material to connect classroom learning to the real world. A relatively new find for me are the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) list that are free through different websites. Colleges and universities share their classes with these websites, and that is how the information of the courses are shared. An example of a course that is provided through the MOOC list is a Calculus course offered by the University of Michigan that is offered at no charge through Coursera (one of the websites that offer this courses). The online course allows teachers to have their students establish accounts and follow the curriculum throughout the semester. This is a great opportunity for educators to become more creative in the classroom because of the extra time they can build into the instructional day to reinforce concepts, engage students in project based learning to support application of their knowledge and skills as well as assess student proficiency beyond paper tests and quizzes. I have also found that MOOC lists are great for parents and mentors who are working on improving their child/children skill-sets in literacy and STEM content areas.

In the UK, the Department of Education published a report in June on how they could implement this type of medium into their classrooms. The study suggests that in the future, MOOC’s will not replace classroom teachers; however, they will become a staple used in classrooms around the world.