ORANGE CITY, Iowa | Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday urged businesses to rally behind MOC-Floyd Valley School District’s push to include more science, technology, engineering and math in the classroom – a move she said benefits the entire community.
With the state struggling to get more students involved in STEM fields, Reynolds told a room full of nearly 50 educators and business leaders in Orange City that they need to join forces to get more children interested in potential careers at a younger age.
Iowa is currently enduring a shortage of qualified workers in science, technology, engineering and math. That problem is compounded with Iowa tied for the fourth lowest four-year college attainment rate in the Midwest.
“We must educate our children in a manner that prepares them for the jobs of today, the jobs of tomorrow and the jobs to be developed,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds' stop – the 20th town hall meeting she has held in the past year to promote STEM initiatives across the state – comes as the MOC-Floyd Valley School District prepares to open its STEM academy for juniors and seniors next fall. The school is looking to get local business professionals involved with the academy and younger students to show what careers are available after graduation.
Superintendent Gary Richardson said the emphasis is on providing hands-on experiences, whether through internships or classroom projects.
“Businesses are important for keeping kids in our communities, and we need to do a better job of teaching kids about the jobs available here,” Richardson said.
Kari Webb, the northwest regional STEM manager for the governor’s council, said hands-on projects are more important than lecturing students about the daily job duties. The hands-on experience gets students actively involved and learning, she added.
Webb highlighted the need to teach students about potential jobs by pointing out that the average third-grader thinks engineers only drive trains. Few recognized that other engineers also design things and solve problems.
“Maybe the thing that doesn’t need to change is the kids,” Webb said. “Maybe the thing that needs to change is the way we deliver education.”
James Vanden Brink, a plant controller at Agropur in Hull, Iowa, said Sioux County’s 2.9 percent unemployment rate makes it hard to recruit candidates. The plant, which makes cheese and whey, employs about 128 people.
Vanden Brink said he was unaware before Friday’s meeting of the school district’s push to develop STEM programs.
“I’m not entirely sure how this will help us yet; I’m here to learn more,” he said. “I still need some time to digest everything.”
If the district does entice local businesses into the classroom, Reynolds said it would set an example for other parts of the state.
“I look forward to showing Orange City as an example,” she said.