How Can Hawaii Get Students Interested In Local STEM Jobs? Start Them Early

How Can Hawaii Get Students Interested In Local STEM Jobs? Start Them Early

Hawaii is hardly known for its science and technology sectors, but business and educational leaders are trying to change that with a program meant to keep local talent at home by getting students thinking early about how to prepare for jobs in those industries.

The idea is to go deeper than standard workforce training that matches college and technical school classes to job descriptions for in-demand fields. That means working closely with industry to understand the range of skills workers will need.

“I think some of it is just opening people’s eyes that these opportunities exist,” said Keala Peters, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii’s “Sector Partnerships,” as the program is known.

Brennon Morioka, dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Hawaii Manoa, is helping to lead an initiative to show pathways for students seeking careers in fields using science, technology, engineering and math skills. Stewart Yerton/Civil Beat/2021

A case in point is what the Chamber of Commerce calls the Engineering K-Career Pathway. Since starting in February, Peters said, the initiative has signed up more than 70 companies that can provide insights for educators and be available to talk to young students.

“This is pretty unprecedented where we have an industry-wide effort to build a talent pipeline,” she said.

One of the project’s biggest champions is Brennon Morioka, dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Hawaii Manoa. Unlike some academics, in addition to a doctorate in engineering, Morioka has real-world experience: as general manager for electrification of transportation at Hawaiian Electric, deputy executive director for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and director the state Department of Transportation.

There are generally more engineering jobs — as many as 600 — than graduates to fill them, he said. About 300 students graduate from the engineering college per year, leaving a significant gap that is made worse because many graduates leave the state.

While about 80% of civil engineering graduates stay to work in Hawaii’s vibrant construction sector, he said that only 60% of mechanical engineers stay and the percentage is even smaller when it comes to electrical engineers: just 40% to 50%.

The college has plenty of career programs, Morioka said. But the Chamber’s program provides a more in-depth understanding of what firms need and helps students see the spectrum of STEM jobs available. For instance, construction firms are now using artificial intelligence for things like project management and to assemble bids, he said.

“I would have never thought that construction would be looking at machine learning,” he said.

Linda Kawamura, human resources manager for Oceanit, said it’s important for kids, especially girls, to start thinking of STEM careers when they are young. “By the time they reach high school, it’s too late,” she said. Stewart Yerton/Civil Beat2021

That illustrates one of Peters’ points: “80% of jobs that will exist five years from now don’t exist today,” she said, adding that makes STEM skills vitally important.

And that’s why the K-Career Pathway program starts with K, as in kindergarten, said Linda Kawamura, human resources manager for Oceanit.

The goal is to get students, especially girls, thinking about careers in engineering from the time they are very young, Kawamura said.

“From a very young age, women are taught they are better at more of the nurturing, the soft skills, and not the hard skills,” she said. “By the time they reach high school, it’s too late.”

Kawamura jokes that part of her motivation is selfish: Oceanit has 140 employees engaged in a variety of high-tech projects and constantly needs new workers with strong STEM skills. The company typically has 10 positions open at a given time, including eight engineering jobs. Many young people leave the state unaware that such jobs exist here, she said.

The Chamber is starting with two fields that have a gap between available jobs and skilled workers: engineering and health care, Peters said. But it soon will add ship repair and information technology.

Ultimately, it’s about informing young people that Hawaii’s economy has plenty of high-tech jobs.

“A lot of it is perception,” Oceanit’s Kawamura said. “Or misperception.”

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Published at Sun, 27 Jun 2021 09:56:15 +0000

Insight Edge: What has COVID-19 done to education and technology?

COVID-19 has been able to accomplish something that several previous efforts could not do — bring innovation in education. We are in the midst of a worldwide experiment; while digital technologies, with their promise, have been in place for many decades, change has been slow to come. COVID-19 converted this completely physical delivery system to online. This transformation received further fillip through the National Education Policy 2020 which necessitates the inclusion of training in artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and programming in existing school curriculum to help children develop crucial 21st-century skills like logical reasoning, analytical thinking, scientific outlook, computational logic and evidencebased thinking.

With the ongoing pace of the changes, it is clear that by the time the crisis sees its dawn, our education system globally would be affected in deep enough ways that it will be impossible to revert to the earlier ways of education. As per a recent research, not more than 10% of Indian teachers had ever used technology in their teaching before COVID-19. Although students have been demonstrating their affinity towards tech platforms, the pandemic moved large masses of teachers and schools to using technology. This technology-enabled education shall also give flipped learning a chance.

This new pedagogical approach moves education to a blended learner-centric model in which the learner is introduced to new concepts outside the classroom through videobased lessons (or other means) and the classroom is used to engage deeper with the topics. Most Indian schools have already started the move and this is a trend that is here to stay. The behavioural shift of the young minds towards the ever growing gig economy is making a case for EdTech platforms that can provide on-demand, just-in-time learning and skill upgrade to this class of workers; several EdTech platforms have reported an exponential jump of their subscriber base in recent times.

The emergence of the ‘gig’ economy thrives on the temporary, job-based and shortterm nature of the employment contract between the employer and the employee. Hence, the future shall see an increasing partnership between the EdTech players and the gig economy aspirants to fill up the skills gap. Education, in the future, will be a new life form that is always on, online, onsite, on-the-job, modular, flexible, multimodal, gamified, crowd-sourced, affordable and accessible.

Technology-enabled education was always the solution that could break the difficult trinity between cost, quality and scale — we shall witness a positive momentum in faster tech adoption in education. Institutions will need to lean on technology for support while they invest in providing the best-in-class learning experience to their students — we shall finally have an education system that will allow equal and excellent to not only co-exist but thrive.

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Published at Sun, 27 Jun 2021 09:44:44 +0000