U of Michigan after-school program delivers STEM skills to Detroit students
- The Michigan Engineering Zone, located at the University of Michigan, allows faculty and students to offer tech training and education to Detroit middle and high school students, according to Ed Tech: Focus on K-12 — and the program is also building a new makerspace and robotics lab with the help of a $250,000 grant from Google.
- The students benefit because they get to learn from people with significant expertise, including college and graduate students who are not much older than they are, while U-Mich and employers benefit because they are creating future students and employees that will have the necessary skills and experience to succeed.
- After-school programs like the ones the Michigan Engineer Zone offers are beneficial for students, according to research, with 70% of students who participated in a STEM-focused after-school program making gains in those subject areas, according to a study by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and STEM Next.
Higher ed institutions and universities are increasingly considering K-12 career and technical education, particularly in STEM fields, a worthy investment to try and create experienced students engaged in career tracks that will likely see a growing gap between open positions and qualified applicants. Earlier this year, the University of Texas at San Antonio announced a partnership with the local school district, as well as local tech companies, to build a new high school focused on coding, cybersecurity and business skills.
School and district leaders concerned about the paucity of funding could consider such partnerships, and should also keep in mind that there is bipartisan support for career and technical education, apprenticeships and workforce development, which may make it easier for schools to procure the needed funding. President Donald Trump and members of Congress from both parties have expressed their interest in boosting CTE, while Republican and Democratic governors lobbied Congress earlier this year to continue funding such programs.
Schools and districts may find more opportunity to develop CTE programs in K-12 schools in the years to come with the rollout of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which stands to put more emphasis on CTE and encourages educators to treat it as part of a "well-rounded curriculum," according to Sean Lynch, the legislative and public affairs manager for the Association for Career and Technical Education.
Some higher ed officials have spoken out against the negative perception that some students have about such programs, thinking they are the "last option" for students who wouldn't fit in a traditional college environment. Such assumptions about CTE may be mitigated if programs like the Michigan Engineering Zone, which are dedicated to practical tech skills and education, can flourish.
- Ed Tech: Focus on K-12 University of Michigan Empowers Detroit Students via After-School Program