Congressman Joe Kennedy III today urged the Administration to include middle-skill job training and curricula in their plans to revamp Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. In a letter to Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director John Holdren, Kennedy voiced concern over the Administration's failure to include vocational schools, community colleges, and associate's degree programs in their newly-released Federal STEM Education 5-Year Strategic Plan.
"In an education system that too often prices out middle and working class families, our vocational schools and community colleges bring much-needed affordability and accessibility into the picture. They are absolutely critical vehicles for delivering STEM education to students who might not have contact with these programs otherwise," wrote Kennedy.
"If our country truly wishes to lead the way in a global economy, then it is essential that we equitably distribute the opportunities a STEM education can provide. Limiting ourselves to the traditional education pathways of the upper middle class cuts out an enormous segment of our workforce; a segment which, by any account, plays an integral role in supporting the innovation industries that will power our future," Kennedy stated today.
Kennedy cited a recently released Brookings Institute report titled "The Hidden STEM Economy" which highlights the fact that half of all available STEM jobs are available to workers without a four-year college degree. Those jobs, according to the report, come with good wages and are prevalent in every major metropolitan area, while high-skill STEM jobs remain clustered around certain geographic centers.
Congressman Kennedy is a member of the House Committee on Science and Technology, which held a hearing last week on the Administration's 5-year STEM plan. An engineer by training, he is a member of the Congressional STEM Caucus and serves as honorary chair of Governor Deval Patrick's STEM Council in Massachusetts.