Valley Works: "STEM" careers expected to increase

FRESNO, Calif.

They've been labeled "STEM careers" and the concern is that too few American students are taking the courses to prepare them for tomorrow's jobs.

The challenge is, how do you get more of our students to major in these fields?

Many will tell you the work is just too hard, the people at Reedley College are working to change their minds.

Statements from some of the top minds in industry, government and academia voiced at a recent national stem conference host by U.S. News and World Report discussed what many believe is a huge problem threatening our economy.

"The current trend shows that we don't have enough people going into the medical and science field," Reedley College professor Rose Elizondo said.

Elizondo teaches micro-biology at Reedley College. Community college officials are betting instructors like her can help turn the tide, convincing more students that careers in science and technology aren't out of their reach.

"They were afraid of the technology the chemistry the long years of study," Elizondo said.

With the help of a $4.5 million STEM grant from the government Reedley College is hoping to change the mind set of so many students by first giving them the tools they need to succeed.

"We support our students by make sure all of our equipment and labs are up to date here on campus this allows the students to have the hands on experience they would have at a four year institution," STEM grant coordinator Marie Byrd-Harris said.

Just look around you can see it - outdated labs replaced with new ones, stocked with the best equipment and the added support like a math study center where students can get help from tutors.

"And also great benefit is that our math faculty offices are located around the center," Byrd-Harris said.

The college is also using student like 19-year-old Nichole Gallegos as STEM ambassadors students who reach out to elementary and high school students telling them math and science are not out of their reach. Nichole's uncle told her that early on.

"He is an electrical engineer so he always talked to me about looking into engineering so that's what I did," Gallegos said.

The college is also hoping its instructors can make a difference too.

"I started out as a business major and I was taking a bio 5 class with Dr. Marquez and he told me in the middle of the semester I was going into the wrong field," nursing student Janell Berry said.

The next semester Janell changed her major to nursing.

"I love biology classes and I really like the instructors. They really seem to really care about their students and want them to succeed," Berry said.

Providing students with good support and good teachers can make a difference studies have found that 40 percent of students starting out in STEM majors switch to other majors in college.

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