Cisco has developed as a global leader, in large part, through the genius and innovation of its dedicated and skilled global workforce. In a world built on increasingly complex technologies, success is driven not only by what you know but by what you can do with that knowledge. To continue to innovate now and for our future, it is more important than ever for the next generation to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to gather and evaluate evidence, make sense of information, and solve tough problems. These are the types of skills that students learn by studying science, technology, engineering, and math—subjects collectively known as STEM.
The U.S. Department of Education estimates that the growth we’ve seen in STEM jobs in this decade will continue through 2020.
Organizations around the U.S. encourage members of the science, technology, engineering, and medical communities to foster STEM literacy and motivate K-12 students to pursue STEM careers. During the previous White House administration, former President Obama committed over $240M to increase STEM initiatives and issued a call to action to educators, professional development providers, non-profits, private industries and volunteers to participate in a nationwide effort to meet the goals of STEM programs. Yet, according to the US Department of Education, few American students pursue expertise in STEM fields—and we have an inadequate pipeline of teachers skilled in those subjects. That’s why the initiative set a priority of increasing the number of students and teachers who are proficient in these vital fields. With that, the growth of STEM programs has been exponential over the past several years and with this growth, a need for qualified staff and volunteers has quickly became a necessity to meet their goals.
As a technology industry leader, Cisco is committed to supporting STEM education and developing the next generation of talent. Cisco Networking Academy, a Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility program, is an IT skills and career building program available to learning institutions and individuals worldwide. Through such programs as the Networking Academy and the annual girls in ICT day, Cisco has nurtured those pursuing a career in technology and produced many certified professionals . Cisco certified professionals can aid in this effort and increase the number of students we can reach by volunteering their time and expertise with a local STEM program. The #CertsandLabs team is issuing its own call to action for candidates and certified professionals with the knowledge and skills to participate in a STEM program. Volunteering in K-12 classrooms, with youth development organizations, or at STEM-focused events allows you to give students first-hand experience, insight, and inspiration about what they can expect by pursuing a technology career.
While there will be a future need to fill STEM jobs with qualified talent, there is still a very great current need for qualified individuals to step up and meet the demands of STEM education, mentoring, and career initiatives. As a member of the Cisco Certifications Community, you have a unique gift that could help spark one young mind to pursue an education and career in technology. All it takes is a good class, mentor, or teacher to inspire young talent, as happened with our very own Exam Program Managers Elaine Lopes and Liz Cacic whose interest in technology was piqued in school. We encourage you to find out how and where you can volunteer your services.
For STEM mentoring programs, here are a few suggestions on how to get started on your volunteer journey:
- Visit classrooms throughout the school year, find out what it takes to volunteer, and provide assistance as determined by you and the teacher or school administration
- Reach out to local schools and teachers to see if they can identify particular needs or local resources, or ways that your efforts can be most useful to students
- Search for national and local STEM mentoring organizations specific to your region like some of the following programs:
- Find other STEM professionals who are volunteering in your area
- Search additional databases for other STEM-based organizations that may be looking for mentors. There may even be projects or organizations catered to increasing participation by underrepresented groups such as:
Many local youth organizations have or are developing STEM programs, and they may be in need of volunteers. Find out if you can bring your expertise to the table and encourage teens or young adults to pursue a Cisco certification to start their career path. If no STEM mentoring organizations exist in your community, DON’T GIVE UP! Contact university groups, local educational institutions, or youth-serving organizations to see how you can help. Many universities now have STEM programs affiliated with their student outreach programs. But, most importantly, simply share your knowledge!
The summer months are also fast approaching and these are often some of the most active times for STEM programs across the U.S. Becoming an advocate for STEM education can also be another avenue to further the cause. Visit the US Chamber of Commerce to find organizations doing STEM advocacy work that you can get involved with. You can help introduce future STEM students to Cisco certifications and spark their interest in becoming the next generation of Cisco Certified professionals.