Why Careers In Play?
The STEM career pipeline is not working for all students. There is a shortage of millions of qualified workers in a variety of STEM careers ranging from cybersecurity to manufacturing to data science. Unfortunately, the efforts in STEM education in U.S.A are not drawing upon the full scientific potential of all demographic groups and populations, including Hispanics, African Americans, and American Indians and/or Alaska natives. Attracting more diverse students is necessary not only to fill STEM shortages but also to bring more diverse perspectives into those fields.
Undergraduate education is a key step along the career pipeline. Students are exposed to different fields and make major life choices, such as what careers to pursue, based on their undergraduate experiences. However, students often have misperceptions about STEM fields or lack confidence in their ability to succeed. Students need to see themselves as STEM professionals and gain confidence by experiencing the contexts and range of skills needed to be successful. While in-depth experiences such as internships play an essential role, they often come too late and are challenging to scale up to large numbers of students whose skills are still developing. There is a need for authentic, scalable learning experiences to give undergraduates a taste of professional STEM practices.