Strategies for Reducing Gender Disparity In Math Classrooms

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Strategies for Reducing Gender Disparity In Math Classrooms

Last month, the conference proceedings were released from the 2018 International Conference On Gender Research. The proceedings included a paper written by Madelyn Johnson and Lisa Kasmer, which is titled ‘Gender Disparity in Mathematics Classrooms’ (see page 227 of the proceedings PDF).

The paper studies beliefs, attitudes and the source of these ideas of females in secondary mathematics classrooms in Tanzania. Johnson and Kasmer use “personal interactions, observations, and interviews to begin to understand the harsh discrimination in the community and the classroom that makes it difficult for females to find success in mathematics.”

While their research is conducted in Tanzania, Johnson and Kasmer’s discoveries are highly relevant to those teaching math in the United States. In this blog post, I’d like to share share some of the authors’ findings and then I’ll highlight ideas we can apply in our own math teaching based on the findings.

One finding was that lack of female role models (such as female teachers) in mathematics perpetuates the notion of the inability of females to find success in math. During one of Johnson and Kasmer’s research interviews, a head of the mathematics department at a Tanzanian school remarked that, “Since you have come to our school, our female students are very happy because they do well when they see that [females] can perform mathematics”.  

The importance of female role models extends beyond the gender of the teacher to also include the gender examples highlighted in curriculum resources. For example, Johnson and Kasmer’s review of literature found that “the presentation of material in textbooks often perpetuates a belief that females have less agency relative to mathematics. A content analysis of textbooks used in Tanzanian schools showed that males and females were depicted in sexually stereotypical roles (Asimeng-Boahene, 2006). Males were four times more likely to be the subject of stories or examples, and the females that were depicted were described with sexually stereotypical characteristics (Asimeng-Boahene, 2006). For example, females were seen as caring for children, cleaning the home, or cooking.”

Secondly, the researchers found that “Low expectations for female students in math classes often elicit praise for underachievement, which diminishes motivation to work harder or excel in mathematics. Teachers also intentionally channel questions so that more difficult questions are directed at males and easier questions are directed at females, which supports the belief that females are incapable of answering challenging questions.” The authors observed that this caused female students to feel like they had to work harder in order to succeed and be taken seriously in math classes.

A third finding was that older female students often warn younger students about the challenges of upper level math classes. Johnson and Kasmer highlight that, while this is meant as a helpful gesture “it only serves to discourage female students from attempting these courses, because they already believe that they are incapable of succeeding.” 

The above information offers suggestions on evaluating our own math teaching practices in the United States.  For example…

  1. Consider how often female mathematician role models are made known to your students. In the Couragion career literacy app we strive to show diverse role models – and in the math career category, 91% of the role models are female! Think about how you can integrate mathematicians of all types into your class – perhaps by sharing the story of a different mathematician each week and ensure a good mix of gender and ethnicity in the people who you select.
  2. Review the curriculum materials you use to teach math. Are there gender stereotypes embedded in the materials? If so, how can you alter those examples? Also consider what story problems you share verbally with the class and think about ways to embed gender diversity into those stories.
  3. Pay attention to the questions you ask in class and the praise that you give. Are you inadvertently asking tougher questions of male students? For what type of problems or level of effort do you praise various students? Having more intention about how you dole out questions and praise can help to overcome the propagation of stereotypes or unconscious bias.
  4. Finally, brainstorm how you might use older students to instill math confidence in younger students. Many schools have buddy programs where upper level classes adopt younger classes to help with projects or reading. Perhaps one of the projects can be math related whereby the older students share something they like about math.

What ideas have you incorporated in your classrooms to make sure that all students are successful in math? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter - @couragion.

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STEMpath: Creating Computer Science Educator Capacity

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STEMpath: Creating Computer Science Educator Capacity

Every week there's more news about computer science (CS) education in K-12 classrooms. Some states are requiring that every district and school provide CS, others are allowing students to count CS coursework toward graduation, and still more are even tracking enrollment or making CS a graduation requirement for every student.

I am heartened by the progress but with each new piece of legislation or policy we are exacerbating a system already strained in its teaching capacity. Expansion of STEM programs across the nation are being stymied by the inability to find qualified talent. The former Executive Director of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) noted how many might be surprised to learn that most CSTA members do not identify themselves as ʻCS teachersʼ, but rather as ʻteachers of CSʼ  – as only 1 in 9 CSTA members have taken a college level course in CS and only 5 – 7% have a degree or certificate in CS. Per Couragion's own primary research, 78% of administrators shared that ʻteachers with appropriate skills and experienceʼ would help take their CS programs to the next level.

We are proud to be one of the 'powerhouse education providers' developing and delivering STEMpath - an unprecedented STEM-Computer Science educator certification program. You can read the full press release here for more details. mindSpark Learning, Couragion, Metropolitan State University and Colorado Succeeds are incredible partners in leading this groundbreaking initiative. STEMpath will provide educators with the confidence and skills to teach computer science and computational thinking (CS/CT) in a relevant, holistic manner - beyond the context of coding and robotics.

Educators can learn more and apply here.

Interested in learning more about our other educator professional learning experiences in partnership with mindSpark Learning. Check out our CS/CT Career Literacy Professional Experience!

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Talk About Creativity To Boost Student Interest In STEM Careers

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Talk About Creativity To Boost Student Interest In STEM Careers

Accenture recently surveyed over 4,000 students in the UK to better understand their perceptions of STEM careers. Many of their findings mimic what we see from the thousands of students that use the Couragion career literacy app.

For example, the Accenture survey found that the opportunity to be creative was the leading career aspiration among girls with 52% citing this aspiration.

In the Couragion app, we find that both boys and girls prioritize creativity when considering career options. 61% of boys and 58% of girls want a high level of creativity in their career.

While students seek job creativity, they do not feel that STEM careers provide it. For instance, in the Accenture survey only 32% of girls associate STEM career with being creative.

In our work with career role models, we find that this student perception is wrong. Time and again our STEM role models tell us how important creativity is in their jobs. When asked to rate the level of creativity required for their job (on a scale of 1 to 100), the average is 71 across all of our role models!

So how can we help to change student perceptions around STEM careers and creativity? First, we need to expand students’ definitions of what creativity is. Oftentimes creativity is only associated with art or design based careers – such as a graphic designer coming up with new patterns for this season’s ski jackets. But creativity is just as important to a cancer research that needs to design new experiments for testing a trial drug treatment or to a data scientist that needs to decide how to graphically display data in order to convince city council to build more bike paths. Using this expanded definition of creativity, industry and role models need to share specific examples of how they use creativity on a day-to-day basis so that students can see the real-world applicability of creativity in STEM jobs. And finally, educators, family members and mentors can help by actively pointing out the creative aspects of STEM jobs when completing career exploration activities with students.

 What ideas do you have for helping students see how important creativity is to STEM careers? Share your ideas with us on Twitter - @couragion #creativity #stemcareers.

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Colorado STEM + STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative

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Colorado STEM + STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative

I recently attended the STEM Funders Network STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative convening in Washington, DC on behalf of Colorado STEM. Founded in 2015 with 27 ecosystems, the initiative has grown to 56 communities dedicated to a national community of practice comprised of cross-sector collaborations. It was incredible to meet like-minded partners committed to rigorous STEM programming to maximize local results and create a shared narrative around the importance of STEM education for everyone. Our own Colorado STEM ecosystem is a coalition of highly engaged business, education, and civic leaders in support of high-quality STEM education experiences for all students and I am proud to be a part of it.

This year the STEM Learning Ecosystems National Community of Practice partnered with U.S. News & World Report STEM Solutions Conference. The focus of the event was on the ‘Workforce of Tomorrow’. In the sessions and on the main stage, the topics included STEM skills, “new collar” jobs, apprenticeships, work-based learning, career exploration, upskilling, competency-based learning, and workforce transformation.

A few of my favorite tweet memes were:

  • People used to move to where the jobs are, now companies move where the talent is
  • Design Thinking is a critical trending skill in future tech workforce @lanetweet of @Cisco
  • STEM skills are needed across the board...not just in ‘STEM careers’ @GeorgetownCEW
  • Learning from failure is the foundation of success. We must encourage trial and error.
  • Teach math in context to garner more student interest. @GeorgetownCEW

The highlight of my experience at the STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative was having the honor of thanking National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France Cordova for supporting Couragion while she was being inducted into the U.S. News STEM Leadership Hall of Fame for her work advancing STEM education.

If you want to learn more about the opportunity for new communities to join 56 other STEM Learning Ecosystems in a National Community of Practice, see the benefits and process here.

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How To Positively Impact Math Career Perceptions Among Youth

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How To Positively Impact Math Career Perceptions Among Youth

It’s April, and as a huge math fan it is time for me to honor Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month! This month-long event began in the mid-1980s with a proclamation by President Ronald Reagan in which he stated…

“Despite the increasing importance of mathematics to the progress of our economy and society, enrollment in mathematics programs has been declining at all levels of the American educational system. Yet the application of mathematics is indispensable in such diverse fields as medicine, computer sciences, space exploration, the skilled trades, business, defense, and government. To help encourage the study and utilization of mathematics, it is appropriate that all Americans be reminded of the importance of this basic branch of science to our daily lives.”

While these words are over 30 years old, they very much remain true today. We still see lackluster interest and enrollment in math courses/programs and with the increasing prominence and availability of big data, we see math and statistics being more important than ever across a wide range of careers.

I have decided that this year, I will honor #MathStatMonth by sharing math data from our Couragion application. A major component of the Couragion app is its career literacy offering which exposes youth to STEM careers via videos of diverse role models and self-reflection quizzes. As students experience STEM careers, we gather data about the interests, values, and desired work characteristics of the future workforce. Such data offers insights into math-related perceptions and career interests among our youth.

One the downside, Couragion data shows lower initial interest in math among youth. For example, when students first begin using the app, we ask which of the four areas of STEM is most interesting to them. Math gets the least votes with only 18% of students selecting it. This number is slightly higher when looking at the sub-populations of females and people of color with 20% and 19% respectively selecting math as the most interesting STEM category.

As students begin to explore math-dominate careers, their career ratings and comments provide further data insights into their perceptions about math jobs. Two themes emerge. One is that students have a strong desire for jobs that have a greater purpose (such as helping people, animals, or the environment) and they don’t perceive math careers as offering this purpose. Secondly, students feel that a master’s degree is often desired for math careers and 61% of students prefer to complete less post-secondary education.

On the positive side, as students learn about the wide variety of math careers available and as they see diverse role models in those jobs, perceptions begin to shift – as illustrated by this comment from a 6th grade diverse male after learning about the Financial Advisor career: “I would like to be like her but the only problem is that I need to get better in math because I sometimes have a hard time but if I get better in math I would like to be like her!” Another example is a 10th grade Hispanic female that, after exploring 6 careers, stated: “This made me think of my path, math sounds like a plan A instead of a plan B”.

So, how can you use this information to positively impact math perceptions among the youth in your life? For starters, you can help students see how math is integral to jobs with greater work purpose – such as a cancer researcher using statistics to compare the success of various medical treatments or the climate dynamics analyst that uses math to understand the impact of ocean warming on coral reefs. In addition, you can expose students to career options and math role models via such things as the Couragion app, guest speakers, or workplace tours. And finally, you can show students that while 65% of jobs in 2020 will require some level of college education, only 11% of jobs are predicted to require a Master’s degree or higher – so they can qualify for many math jobs by earning a Bachelor’s or Associate’s degree (source: Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce Analysis). Such efforts can help to increase student interest in math careers.

For additional math content, check out my blog post from last year when I honored Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month by sharing tips on how to boost math success among students.

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Education & Workforce Alignment to Address the Skills Gap

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Education & Workforce Alignment to Address the Skills Gap

Burning Glass just published a new research report entitled Different Skills, Different Gaps: Measuring and Closing the Skills Gap. For the analysis, Burning Glass used a new econometric model to map supply using federal workforce statistics and demand based on job postings and churn rates to illustrate which occupation families have ample talent supply chains and which face skill gaps.

Here are some of the findings I found most interesting:

  1. ‘Architecture and engineering’ roles, and ‘computer and mathematics’ professionals are some of the most undersupplied roles today with 15% and 17% more openings respectively than available workers in the market. From 2012 to 2016, these same two occupation families have seen the strongest improvements in the supply and demand ratio – whereby the supply has risen more sharply than demand.
  2. In 2012 there was no skills gap for computer scientists, but as of 2016 there are now 1.2 computer scientist job openings for every available worker. This represents the single largest change in the growth of any technology job and is primarily due to the growing demand for data science expertise across many industries.
  3. Operations research analysts are an excellent example of a hybrid job that requires the need for both information technology skills and business analysis skills. An increased need for multidisciplinary competencies introduces more strain into the training and education systems for an ever-growing number of hybrid jobs which ultimately contribute to larger skills gaps.

In looking at the skill deficits, there are numerous root causes. There could be a combination of too few workers in the pipeline, changing role requirements in a specific industry, or long lead times on educating and training new talent. The report provides several recommendations for managing this byzantine problem set. I especially appreciated the clarity around the treatment of workforce as ‘end-customers’ of the education and training systems and employers needing to signal changing competency and credentialing requirements. We need better alignment between education and workforce to meet the evolving demands of a changing labor economy – a cause Couragion is dedicated to addressing every day.  

Read the full report here:  https://www.burningglass.com/research-project/skills-gap-different-skills-different-gaps/

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Educators – Do You Know The Personas Of Your Learners?

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Educators – Do You Know The Personas Of Your Learners?

In the software world we create ‘user personas’ to help design websites and apps that deliver high customer satisfaction. A persona is a fictional person that represents a group of customers with similar needs, values, and abilities. Personas are based on characteristics of the group such as age, income objectives, or post-secondary education goals. Personas guide our software development process so that our Couragion application better engages and appeals to our students and educators.

Personas are not only helpful in the software world but can guide any organization in any industry – including K-12 education! When we first designed Couragion, we knew that by using our data-driven approach to create the persona of the incoming workforce we would provide insight to post-secondary and business entities on how to better attract and retain youth. But we quickly came to realize that this same information could be useful to educators too! While the persona is based on students’ workplace preferences, it gives educators a better understanding of their learners’ interests, values, and priorities so that they can better reach and engage students in the learning process.

Personas will differ based on student grade, gender, ethnicity, school, district, etc. But we would like to share the persona characteristics from the aggregate of our actual student data and highlight how educators have used this data…

  • Across the board, students who use Couragion have a strong preference to work in teams – only 17% prefer to work alone. And the majority of students prefer a team size of 2 to 3. To accommodate for this preference among her students, one of our teachers restructured the team sizes she uses for group projects – switching from teams of 5 or 6 to smaller groups.
  • Couragion students demonstrate a great desire to help people, animals and the planet with 78% stating that having a greater purpose in their job is important/extremely important. We have seen educators use this information as a driver for thinking about how to shift the focus of their project-based learning topics to include a focus on helping others in order to draw in and motivate more students.
  • 83% of students want a career/employer that provides recognition for a job well done. A partner school saw an even higher score for this among their students and used the information to support the need for restructuring and expanding merit-based student awards on their campus.
  • Across all grade levels, the most selected working environment preference for Couragion students is an office environment. However, among elementary students the most selected working environment is outdoors! Seeing this data inspired one teacher to periodically host class outside.

The above examples are just a small highlight of the type of persona insights provided in the Couragion application. Do you know the persona of your students? How could you use such information to differentiate lessons or classroom structure to account for the personas in your classroom? Share your ideas with us at info at couragion.com.

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Coding Alone Does Not Make CS for All

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Coding Alone Does Not Make CS for All

Last week I was honored to be a speaker on a diversity panel at the American Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group for Computer Science Education conference – aka the SIGCSE Symposium. The panel was hosted by Oracle Academy and featured prominent women in the STEM and computer science fields. It was incredible to be a part of and to see the growing community support for computer science nationwide. Our panel focused on how to create a more inclusive environment for #compsci students and explored why diversity is important to the health of the technology industry and what we can do to ensure its success. #SIGCSE2018 #OracleAcademy #CSforAll

One thread of our panel was the need to expand the disciplines taught in computer science and not solely focus on programming or coding. When we talk about CS for All, we need to understand that we are encompassing computer science and information management systems – including the skills required for careers in the tech industry and tech jobs across every industry. These skills encompass coding, along with data science, design thinking, and a whole set of essential skills such as problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking. All that learning belongs in the computer science classroom and Couragion’s research is showing the correlation to broadening participation and improving retention in these pathways.

Alison Derbenwick Miller, Vice President, Oracle Academy summed up our panel best with the following tweet:

Great list of what we need to address #diversity challenge: better data, visible role models, diverse experiences, investment in educators & increased understanding that #compsci is a lot more than #coding. Bravo @OracleAcademy panel!

I’d love to talk to you more about Couragion’s research and how we’re addressing the best approaches to diversify and broaden participation in the computer science fields. We look forward to hearing from you. I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from the opening keynote…

"Teaching computer science is no more about creating more software developers than teaching English is about creating more novelists." - Alfred Thompson, High School Computer Science Teacher @alfredtwo

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Middle/High School Students Are Bullish On Engineering Careers!

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Middle/High School Students Are Bullish On Engineering Careers!

As we wrap up Engineers Week, I decided to take a look at our Couragion data to get a view of how middle and high school students view engineering jobs. In our app, students experience STEM careers firsthand via videos of role models, quizzes, and self-reflection. Along the way, they share their thoughts about each career they experience. We use machine learning algorithms to analyze the sentiment of these student comments.

In looking at just our engineering careers, I was happy to see that across all genders/ethnicities, students’ sentiments are generally positive. 

  • For diverse students, 63% of students’ comments reflected positive sentiments about the engineering careers while 16% were neutral and 21% were negative.
  • In looking at just females, 60% of comments reflected positive sentiments, 17% reflected neutral sentiments, and 23% reflected negative sentiments.
  • For white males, 65% of comments were positive, 17% were neutral, and 18% were negative.

So, what aspects of engineering jobs do students view as positive? Here are some of the broader trends and student comments we saw…

  1. The highest rated engineering careers are those that help people, animals or the planet. This comment from a male high school student reflects this trend - “The Water Engineer sounds so fun and highly interactive with the community and to help out the community in a big way especially with water would be very cool and motivating.”
  2. The ability to have a flexible work schedule is also a key trend among the positive sentiments, as evidenced by this comment from a male freshman  - “Electrical engineering seems very interesting, and with things like a more flexible work week, I would love it.”
  3. The large majority of youth want to travel as part of their job and many engineering jobs offer this opportunity. This trend is reflected by this comment from a female high school student - “It looks exciting when the Biomedical Engineer is working in the lab, and growing bacteria, in addition to that how she gets to travel around the world and see new things.”
  4. The ability to build or make things was another positive feature students saw with respect to engineering jobs. This male, middle school student’s comment exemplifies this trend - “I think that Mechanical Engineering would be a very interesting job because I love designing and building and learning how it works.”
  5. Working with small teams is important to students and many cite that as a benefit for engineering careers. This comment from a female, middle school student is one example of this trend - “The Spacecraft Flight Software Engineer career sounds very interesting because I like working in a team and having different ideas and perspectives that will effect the design in a good way.”

Considering what students like about engineering is important insight for those of us hoping to inspire more students to consider engineering careers. We can use it to better craft job openings or to better design the projects we have students work on at school. How have you used student feedback to adapt your engineering projects or job roles? We’d love to hear from you (info at Couragion.com).

For additional Engineers Week content, check out my blog post from last year that covers advice our engineering role models gave to students considering engineering jobs. Happy Engineers Week to all of our blog readers!

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Scaling the Next Summit (Thoughtfully)

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Scaling the Next Summit (Thoughtfully)

For those of you with whom I have had the pleasure of knowing over the years, I’m sure you noticed that I’ve struggled with celebrating success. With each summit attained, I’m off to learn about and solve the next hairy challenge. As we cruised through the new year, Couragion celebrated its third anniversary. I remember wrapping up 2016 thinking “how can we possibly top this year?” with an NSF SBIR Phase I Grant, graduating from the AT&T Aspire accelerator, and finishing the year winning the Emerging Tech Company of the Year from the Colorado Technology Association.

Well let’s say things didn’t slow down in 2017. We won an NSF SBIR Phase II Grant, forged a partnership with CareerWise Colorado, welcomed new school districts, and won an Advanced Industries Grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

2018 is starting off with a bang. We’re welcoming two new members to the Couragion team – joining us are Lauren Eimers as our Education & Workforce Partnerships Manager and Keenan Hursh as our Digital Storyteller. We’re thrilled to have them on board – please help me welcome them to the team!

Cheers to another year of continuing to champion career literacy, informed and inspired student decision making, work-based learning and workforce credentialing, and teacher professional learning initiatives!

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Career Aspirations Limited by Stereotypes and Lack of Role Models

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Career Aspirations Limited by Stereotypes and Lack of Role Models

Education and Employers, a UK based charity, aims to provide young people with the inspiration, motivation, knowledge, and skills they need to help them achieve their potential. Couragion shares in that mission. So when their new collaborative research findings were just published, we took notice. 'Drawing the Future' explores the career aspirations of 20,000 primary school children from around the world aged seven to eleven who drew a picture of the job they want to do when they grow up. To understand the factors influencing career aspirations, kids were asked if they knew anyone personally who did the job they selected, and if not, why they had chosen the job.  

Here are a few observations from the research: 

  • Career aspirations have little in common with projected workforce needs and if unaddressed will result in severe resource deficiencies.  #workbasedlearning #careerliteracy 
  • Thirty-six percent of children from as young as seven years old, base their career aspirations on people they know.  #rolemodelsmatter 
  • STEM-related careers ranked highly as some of the top jobs that children aspired to become - however over four times the number of boys wanted to become engineers and nearly double the number of boys wanted to become scientists as compared to girls.  #STEMjobs  
  • Based on previous baselines, this research shows increased diversity (breadth) and aspiration (interest) of girls' career choices. Woohoo! 

The primary survey research was complimented by drawing on the astute insights of a collection of preeminent researchers. Below are two of the more salient contributions.  

Professor Becky Francis, Director of UCL Institute of Education, had this to say: 

"Economically it is desirable to see jobs allocated on merit, rather than based on gender. As the report points out, some sectors face staff and skills shortages, which are compounded by the lack of uptake by women or men respectively. Such trends suggest that many people are still having their ambition and potential capped by horizons that are narrowed by gender." 
 
Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills, OECD, commenting on the survey said: 

"The lack of access to role models and awareness of the different jobs is a particular concern for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. All children, regardless of their social background, where they live or the jobs their parents do, should have the same chance to meet people doing a wide range of jobs to help them understand the vast opportunities open to them." 

If young children do in fact carry forward their career aspirations into their decision-making years, we need to support career exploration at an earlier age. Couragion strongly believes that career literacy should be integrally woven into education to improve relevance and better inform student choice. Have you had your kids 'draw their futures'? 

 
 

Source:  https://www.educationandemployers.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/DrawingTheFuture.pdf   

 

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Want More Women In STEM? Show Them The… Purpose!

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Want More Women In STEM? Show Them The… Purpose!

There is extensive coverage about the limited number of women pursuing STEM jobs, especially in the areas of engineering and computer science. But often times this coverage fails to inform about what changes could be made to STEM jobs to make them more attractive to women.

A recent report from Pew Research Center offers insights into what qualities women value in a job. Such information can be invaluable to hiring organizations by helping them to craft job roles and communicate job openings in ways that better attract females.

One area that is especially important to women is having a greater purpose in their work. For example, when Pew Research asked men and women what was important to them personally when choosing a job, 31% of men cited that ‘having a job that focused on helping others’ was important. For women, the importance of this quality almost doubled with 59% of women stating that it was important to have a job that focused on helping others.

Couragion’s own data shows that having a greater purpose in a job will be even more important to the incoming workforce. Among our middle and high school students, 76% desire a great purpose in their work. And as in the Pew Research Center report, Couragion’s data also shows that this desire is strongest among females with 81% desiring greater purpose compared to 72% of males.

So what can hiring organizations do with this data? Showing how a career has purpose is easy if it naturally comes as part of the job – such as a biomedical engineer creating medical devices or a water engineer that is bringing clean drinking water to a region. But for other jobs where there may not be as much intrinsic purpose to the role, here are other suggestions for infusing purpose into the workplace…

  1. Institute an apprentice or internship program whereby employees have the opportunity to give back by training and mentoring the incoming workforce.
  2. Offer 2 or 3 extra days off per year that employees can use to volunteer at one of their favorite charitable organizations.
  3. Create a corporate giving program that enables employees to donate a portion of their income to a charity of their choice with your company matching a portion of the donation.
  4. Establish a corporate-wide ‘give back’ day in which all employees work together to do something for the local community. Ideas include cleaning a local park, visiting a local school to give career talks, serving meals to homeless people, etc.
  5. Give employees the chance to lead internal initiatives that improve the working environment – such as allowing a person to allocate a portion of their time to researching and instituting a company-wide recycling/composting program.

What does your organization do on this front? How do you infuse greater purpose into job roles and your culture? How do you communicate this in job postings or demonstrate it during the recruiting and hiring process? We’d love to hear your ideas (info at Couragion.com).

And if you are interested in reading the Pew Research Center report, you may download it here.

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Crisis of Confidence: Workforce Skill Gaps

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Crisis of Confidence: Workforce Skill Gaps

This week I had the chance to read the recent Strada-Gallup research entitled “Crisis of Confidence: Current College Students Do Not Feel Prepared for the Workforce”.  One data point was particularly telling. When higher education chief academic officers were asked how effective they were at preparing students for the workforce – 96% stated they were very or somewhat effective. Compare that to the impressions of business leaders (11%) and students’ (36%). It’s obvious that there is a big gap between what industry needs and how higher education is preparing the next generation workforce. It also points to a skills gap that we can’t ignore. Here are a few other highlights about the perceptions of STEM degree seekers, the role of advisors, and career services resources.

  • Of STEM majors, students were 36% confident that they will graduate with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the workplace. However, it’s interesting to note that students pursuing STEM degrees reported the most confidence about their job prospects in comparison to other degree types.
  • 46% of students found academic advisers beneficial when choosing courses and majors, but only 28% believe they are helpful in identifying or evaluating potential career options.
  • Nearly four in 10 students have never visited their school’s career services office or used online career resources.
  • Of students who have visited career services, 57% obtained advice about potential career options or jobs – but only 29% of students found the service helpful.
  • Black and Hispanic students found career services more helpful at 40% and 32% respectively than their counterparts.  

Couragion strongly believes that career literacy should be integrally woven into education to improve relevance, better inform student choice, and increase retention in real-world career paths. Career literacy for educators exposes faculty to career pathways, helps them to understand high demand careers and the skills that industry demands, and encourages faculty create links between academic studies and real-world careers.

Read the full report to discover more about students' confidence in their preparation for life after college.

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How Do Health Care Jobs Rank With Our Future Workforce?

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How Do Health Care Jobs Rank With Our Future Workforce?

On January 5, the Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS) released its Employment Situation Summary. During 2017, employment growth totaled 2.1 million jobs. One of the sectors that saw the highest growth was Health Care, which added 300,000 jobs during 2017. Such growth is anticipated to continue with the BLS projecting that from 2016 to 2026, Health Care occupations will grow 18% - a rate that is much faster than the average for all occupations.

Given that Health Care workers will be in high demand, we looked at Couragion’s application data to see how the sector fares with our middle and high school students. These students are the people we need to inspire to pursue Health Care careers if we are to fill the projected future job openings.

Couragion’s application includes careers across all sectors and students freely select which careers they want to review. In looking at the top 10 lists of the most frequently selected careers, one Health Care career makes the list for males – Physician Assistant as the 8th most selected career. For females, two Health Care careers make the list – Physician Assistant as the 2nd most selected career and Cancer Researcher as the 4th most selected career. So from an interest perspective, Health Care performs well.

Now from a fit perspective… The Couragion app enables students to see how a given career meets their own desired interests, values, and desired work characteristics. Careers with a great match are called Best Fit careers. Here, Health Care performs well when it comes to females. For example, 73% of females that complete the Physician Assistant career receive a Best Fit rating. And for the Cancer Researcher career, 68% of females receive a Best Fit rating. Males, on the other hand, do not have such a strong match. Only 38% of males receive a Best Fit rating for the Physician Assistant career.

After experiencing each career, Couragion encourages students to comment about what they liked/disliked about the career. The following verbatim remarks highlight themes we see in student comments about the Physician Assistant career:

Comments from those that would want to pursue this job…

o   ‘I really like to protect & help others.’

o   ‘I am good at listening so I would be good at this job.’

o   ‘I like that you can choose your own schedule.’

o   ‘I like interacting with people.’

o   ‘It has a great salary level.’

o   ‘I love that you can cure someone and change a person’s life.’

o   ‘There are lots of available jobs in this career.’

Comments from those that would not want to pursue this job…

o   ‘I am not very good at working with people.’

o   ‘I would like to be more involved with a patient than just seeing them for a few minutes.’

o   ‘I dislike blood and bad injuries.’

o   ‘I have a soft heart and if I can 't help the patient or something happens while they're under my care I'm not sure what I'd do.’

o    ‘I would get sick from being around sick people all day.’

o   ‘Seeing 20 patients a day would be too much pressure.’

The ability to help others, interacting with people, strong salaries, and many job openings are seen as positive to students considering Health Care careers. On the flip side, being responsible for peoples’ well-being and having limited time to spend with each patient are seen as negative to students considering Health Care careers. These are important considerations for those trying to attract students into the Health Care field – offering insights into the attributes of the job that should be emphasized when recruiting workers while also providing guidance on aspects of the job that could be changed to make the field more attractive to the incoming workforce.

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Celebrating 'I Am a Mentor Day'!

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Celebrating 'I Am a Mentor Day'!

Today is 'I Am a Mentor Day' - which is a time to celebrate and reflect on the impact and beauty of mentoring. I've always been a champion of coaching and mentoring. I remember partnering with human resources at Sun Microsystems to build a mentoring platform that 'automagically' paired 'mentors' with 'mentees' based on skills they wanted to develop. With Couragion, I love spending time in the classroom mentoring our students. I took the pic above at STEM Launch K-8 on the last day of school before the holiday break while mentoring the 6th grade about the importance of STEM career exploration and literacy. 

January is National Mentoring Month (NMM). As we celebrate NMM, I wanted to share some cool facts about mentoring at-risk youths from the National Mentoring Month Toolkit:

  • 90% who had mentors were interested in becoming mentor themselves.
  • 78% were more likely to volunteer in their communities regularly. 
  • 52% less likely than peers without mentors to skip a day of school. 

Here are a three ways you can participate: 

  1. Become a mentor for at-risk youth - 1 in 3 kids are growing up without a mentor in their lives!
  2. You are never too old to be a 'mentee' - so engage in a little 'reverse mentoring' and find yourself a younger 'mentor' to learn about the hottest technologies and cultivate new ways of thinking. 
  3. Thank a mentor that you've had in the past. January 25, 2018 is #ThankYourMentor Day! Mark your calendar!

 

Source: National Mentoring Month Toolkit

 

     

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    Kid Tested And Approved STEM Gifts - V2

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    Kid Tested And Approved STEM Gifts - V2

    Two years ago, I published a list of ‘Kid Tested And Approved STEM Gifts’. I’ve had several folks ask me for my STEM ideas this holiday season, so I decided to publish a new list – just in time for those last-minute Christmas shoppers! Each of these gifts have been ‘tested’ by my daughters (ages 7 and 8). The items have stood the test of time in that my daughters not only enjoy the items but have played with each one multiple times.

    1. A personal URL & Squarespace Subscription – My 8 year old showed a keen interest in building a website. So we decided to let her do so for one of her school projects. We bought her a URL and then a subscription to Squarespace. I got her started by teaching her how to make one page and she took it from there – spending over 10 hours creating a site that teaches people about arrays. This is the perfect last minute gift as there is no shipping! If you want to check out my daughter’s site and try your hand at completing some arrays, visit it here.
    2. Snap Circuits – both daughters have enjoyed learning the basics of electronics with these kits (kit 1 & kit 2). I like that they can build their own circuits or create experiments outlined in the instruction books. Their favorite components are the LED lights and speaker whereby they can make things light up in response to sounds.
    3. Museum Tickets – my daughters have always loved museums – especially kid/hands-on museums. Museum tickets or annual passes are great gift ideas for families that want to avoid an influx of toys. This directory provides an expansive listing of museums in the United States to help you find the perfect location in your gift recipients’ area.
    4. Magic School Bus Chemistry Lab – this cool kit comes in a bus shaped package and includes 51 experiments that have helped my daughters to learn about pH, chromatography, density and more. They especially enjoyed the colorful experiment cards and writing in the lab notebook.
    5. Couragion App – our app is another great gift that requires no shipping! You purchase it online and kids can login to build self-awareness and career literacy. Via the app they undertake virtual career field trips from seeing how a Food Scientist creates the next big drink flavor to hearing firsthand how a Climate Change Scientist is working to save endangered ocean coral.

    Let me know if you have ideas to add to this list and happy holidays to all of our readers!

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    Computer Science Skills Increasingly More Important in Wider Range of Jobs

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    Computer Science Skills Increasingly More Important in Wider Range of Jobs

    As we kick off the start of Computer Science Education Week, I wanted to share some recent research published by Oracle Academy and Burning Glass. The data is foundational in explaining why Computer Science for All (#CSforAll) is compelling – and it also helps to paint a clearer picture of a personal passion point. The impetus of the research is grounded in how jobs are classified since “computer science” careers are often narrowly defined as computer programmers and software engineers. Not all people in tech are developers, engineers, and computer scientists. Many technologists (myself included) specialize in design, user experience, data science, or marketing.  

    Alison Derbenwick Miller, Vice President of the Oracle Academy, contributed to the research forward and aptly states, "By a wide margin, the fastest growing and highest paying jobs require computer science skills, and the ability to work with and analyze data—any kind of data, in any industry—is increasingly linked with computer science skills. Interestingly, by an even wider margin, the same jobs that value computer science skills do not require a degree in computer science."  

    Here are a few other interesting highlights from the research:  

    • Hybrid roles where candidates are expected to have a combination of programming skills, data analysis skills and domain-specific skills such as marketing or business strategy are becoming more the norm (read my previous blog about hybrid jobs here
    • Specific skills, more than a particular college major or prior experience, are key to landing jobs 
    • Data management and analysis skills are at least as important as teaching coding 
    • Computer science skills are a key differentiator which can have a significantly impact earning potential  

    The bottom line:  computer science skills are increasingly more important in a wider range of jobs. Read the full Rebooting Jobs report to learn more about the fastest-growing and highest-paying computer science skills in each job category – and the implications for students learning computer science.   

    Happy Computer Science Education Week!  

    #CSforAll #CSEdWeek @CSforAllTchrs

    Source:  http://burning-glass.com/wp-content/uploads/rebooting_jobs_2017.pdf 

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    Advice For Apprentices From The Companies That Hire Them!

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    Advice For Apprentices From The Companies That Hire Them!

    Every November, The United States Department of Labor celebrates National Apprentice Week (NAW). NAW gives employers a chance to highlight the benefits of their apprentice programs. The week’s events also help to educate the public about the role of apprenticeships in preparing a highly-skilled workforce.

    As the November apprenticeship celebrations draw to a close, I wanted to reflect on lessons that I have learned in working with CareerWise and its partner employers over the last couple of months. CareerWise Colorado is building a statewide system of youth apprenticeships that create pathways for students to access high-demand, high-paying careers. Student apprentices work toward high school graduation and earn postsecondary credit, industry credentials or both in their chosen career path.

    In working with our partner, CareerWise, we have had the pleasure of interviewing several employees at the organizations that hire apprentices. These employees offered sage advice to youth who are considering or are actively employed in an apprenticeship. Below is a summarization of thoughts they shared with us…

    • You don’t know where you want to go in the end at the start – so, if the company allows it, move throughout various roles/departments (operations, food & beverage, engineering, etc.) to find where your passion is! – Training Specialist at a Hotel Management Company
    • Apprenticeships often lead to fulltime employment; therefore during your time as an apprentice assess how the company treats employees and how teams interact with one another to make sure the culture is a great fit for you. – Logistics Specialist at a Bike Component Manufacturer
    • Use your time as an apprentice to network with other employees at the organization and to learn about their jobs. - Loan Officer at a Community Bank
    • Companies make huge investments in you buy helping you to ‘start from nothing’ and build relevant industry skills – be sure to thank your co-workers for the things they teach you during your apprenticeships. – Paint Technician at Aircraft Maintenance Company
    • There are a lot of things that companies do and use in a workplace environment that you are not going to get trained on at school – consider an apprenticeship in order to get real-life experience that makes you more employable after school. - Quality Assurance Manager at a Home Improvement Digital Marketplace Company

    If you have additional thoughts/advice, please share with us (info at couragion.com). And if you (or students in your life) are looking to learn more about apprenticeships, here are some recently published articles to help…

    1. Room To Grow: Identifying New Frontiers For Apprenticeships – Burning Glass Technologies & Harvard Business School
    2. Jobs Now! Learning From The Swiss Apprenticeship Model – Forbes
    3. Apprenticeships, Long Common In Blue-Collar Industries, Are Coming To White-Collar Office Work – The Washington Post
    4. Betsy DeVos: Stop 'Forcing' Four-Year Degrees As Only Pathway To Success – Education Week

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    Industry Certifications as a Means to Workforce Readiness

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    Industry Certifications as a Means to Workforce Readiness

    Career pathways are messy – and are no longer the carefully documented corporate tracks of the past. Research shows Generations Y and Z will have far more careers than past generations. So how will the workers reinvent themselves to stay relevant? A new report from Burning Glass entitled "The Narrow Ladder" may have an answer as they use job posting data to examine the market value of industry certifications. 

    Here are some fast facts and interesting observations from the report:  

    • Certifications which outline career ladders and give employers and job seekers guidance about the skills necessary to advance are the exception.  
    • Industry certifications signal a validated proficiency of job skills and help new labor market entrants break into a field.  
    • Career fields that value certifications carry a significant salary premium especially as a career accelerator for workers seeking upward mobility.  
    • Fields like IT Networking are completely shaped by "stackable" certifications which outline the career paths from beginner to expert.  
    • Other fields are ripe for certification pathways when they validate hard to find skills and struggle to find qualified talent. 

    Industry certifications provide an economical alternative pathway for workforce readiness and career advancement with a promise to reduce labor skill gaps. In the Burning Glass research, there is however a call for a more clear, transparent information about the market value of certifications across the board.  

    As a parent or educator, would your support your student's pursuit of industry certifications as an alternative postsecondary pathway?  

    As an employer, would you hire someone who has industry certifications but not a degree? Do you have a model for career advancement that involves credentialing via certifications?  

    Let's keep this conversation going.  

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    Career Literacy:  Celebrating Career Development Month

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    Career Literacy: Celebrating Career Development Month

    November is National Career Development Month - so naturally Couragion is excited to celebrate! Did you know that career development and school counseling dates back to the 1800's and began as a means to provide vocational guidance to assist in the shift from an agrarian to an industrial society? In the 1960's, counseling shifted from being focused exclusively on career development to include personal/social issues. This was a sign of the times as social justice and civil rights were paramount. In the 1990's, the three core domains of counseling were established as academic, career, and personal/social.  

    All told, that's a seriously demanding charter for school counseling. Now add on top of that globalization and technological innovation – and the colossal impact it's having on our evolving workforce. It's no wonder education struggles to understand the needs of the labor market and emerging careers available to our students. With all these competing agendas, we just don't have enough focus on career development and readiness. Career literacy is an imperative! Our students need to understand the opportunities available to them. Families and educators need to support that decision making as students select career pathways. Couragion was created in part to provide solutions to these challenges.  

    In the spirit of making National Career Development Month actionable and productive, here are a few activities that we can all benefit from:  

    • Reach out to someone who has supported you in your job or career and THANK them! Be specific about how they inspired or backed you. A few weeks ago, I participated in a 'STEM Women from Egypt' event and recently received this message from Rana (pictured above with me), one of the amazing teachers I worked with.  

    "It was an honor to meet you. It was an amazing time and I had great benefit from our conversation. I introduced my ideas about STEM schools and fusing it with an American system and now have an appointment to speak with the owner of our school."  

    • Continue to build your network of mentors. Mentors are not singular – you'll find that you need many in order to ask for and receive the support you need. In the AT&T #WomenInTech Talk that I participated in last week, my advice in 140 characters was as follows. 

    "Map your mentor goals, seek wisdom + experience not celebrities, date before asking to go steady" 

    November is National Career Development Month. November 13th - 17th is National Career Development Week. November 15th is National Career Development Day.  

    Do you have any other advice on how to celebrate? We'd love to hear your stories and ideas.   

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