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STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) has become the edge the U.S. needs to compete in the global workforce of the 21st century. How to get that education is now a source of discussion for business and education leaders. The shift from four-year schools to a two-year degree is a pronounced one, and while it may not be right for everyone, it is a key component in the economic health of this country. Are community colleges becoming the new leader in STEM education?
 
The Rise of STEM
 
Community College Week reported on 2012 data released by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology that suggested that if the U.S. is to remain a STEM leader, the country must produce one million more STEM graduates than current rates project. The Atlantic reports that according to a 2011 STEM report from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, 92 percent of STEM workers will need post-secondary education by 2018. Around 35 percent of that number will require training at the community college level, while another 65 percent will need baccalaureate degrees.
 
STEM fields are extensive today, including a wide range of engineering and science industries. Some of the fields currently being transformed by innovations in science and technology include construction, advanced manufacturing, healthcare, biotechnology, transportation and energy. STEM might include work with computers, electricity, biochemistry, statistics, engineering and geography. There will also be a demand for teachers who can instruct up . . . read more

With so much talk about the value of a STEM education today, many students have the misconception that a four-year degree is necessary to gain good employment in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. However, community colleges are also answering the call for STEM training, through associate degree and certificate programs that prepare students for in-demand jobs in these industries. Check out these 10 exciting STEM degrees you can earn right at your local community college.

A.S. Natural Science – Kapi’olani Community College
 
The ASNS degree program offered through Kapi’olani Community College in Hawaii is specifically designed to deepen STEM learning at the community college level. This program provides a basic overview of natural science, with a two-year degree that can be transferred to a four-year school after graduation. The program offers students the option of specialization in either Life or Physical Science, with a broad curriculum that spans the science field no matter which specialty path is chosen.
 
A.S. General Physics – Waubonsee Community College
 
Waubonsee Community College in Illinois offers an Associate of Science with a specialization in a variety of fields of study, including physics. Students that choose this academic path will complete coursework in general physics and mathematics, as well as classes in chemistry, life sciences and physical sciences. The school also provides a list of STEM classes that have been approved by the National Science Foundation, which can be taken towards completion of this degree program.
 
Associate of Technical Arts – Edmonds Community College   . . . read more

Although STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is touted as the wave of the future for practical fields of study that can launch lucrative careers, it appears that women are not taking full advantage of the STEM opportunities presented at community colleges today. The growing gap is a concern for employers who wonder if there will be enough skilled workers to fill their positions in the future. Why are women appearing to shy away from STEM degree programs? There could be many reasons for the drop, but the primary focus of educators and employers is to help women overcome the challenges of STEM studies in order to produce a qualified, competitive workforce for the 21st century.

A Downward Trend
 
Recent data suggests that the number of women pursuing fields of study in STEM subjects appears to be waning rather than gaining speed. According to a report at the Community College Times, women earned 34 percent of two-year STEM degrees in 1997. By 2007, that number had dropped to just 28 percent. In addition, even though women make up at least half of the total workforce today, only one in four STEM jobs are currently held by a woman.
 
“There has been a 25-percent drop in the proportion of STEM degrees awarded to women at the community college level in this period,” Cynthia Costello, author of a new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told the Community College Times.
 
According to a report at the Association of . . . read more

A number of community college students from around the country are headed to NASA to help design robotic rovers for Mars exploration. The 92 students chosen for the project were carefully selected after participating in interactive online assignments throughout the school year and will be headed to a NASA center this spring to complete their tasks. The National Community College Aerospace Scholar program designed the project, with sponsorship from NASA, and will include students from 24 different states across the country.

The Purpose of the Program
 
According to a press release at the NASA website, the program is based on the Texas Aerospace Scholars program, which was originally created as a partnership between the state’s education community and NASA. The purpose was to get more students excited about STEM areas of study, particularly science and engineering. This particular project, through the National Community College Aerospace Scholar program and NASA, is designed to offer hands-on opportunities in STEM fields that will inspire more students to enter those fields after they finish college.
 
“I am so proud of the Community College Aerospace Scholars program,” Leland Melvin, NASA’s associate administrator for education, stated in the press release. “Community colleges offer NASA a great pool of STEM talent critical to our scientific and exploration initiatives. They also serve a large portion of our nation’s minority students. Engaging these underserved and underrepresented learners in STEM initiatives helps NASA build a more inclusive and diverse workforce for the future.”
 
The Selection Process
 
Community colleges across . . . read more

Aerospace is big business in the state of Washington, with more than 600 aerospace-related businesses currently residing there. To ensure a sufficient influx of quality, trained workers, new grants are coming to community and technical colleges in order to provide necessary training as quickly as possible. Funding will come from both state and federal sources, with millions of dollars coming to colleges across the state. The additional money will be a boon to the aerospace industry in Washington, as well as institutes of higher education supplying the training.

Federal Funding Distributed to Washington Technical College
 
The Obama Administration offers the first grant for aerospace training to Renton Technical College in Renton, Washington. According to a report in the Renton Reporter, the $2.1 million grant was a portion of the funds awarded to the Spokane Community College system through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grants program, or TAACCCT grants. These grants are part of the workforce development plan created by the White House to help displaced workers get the training they need to find new lines of work. Community Colleges of Spokane was given $20 million for this purpose, according to the U.S. Department of Education website.
 
The Air Washington Consortium
 
The portion of the Spokane funds were given to Renton as a part of the Air Washington consortium that includes 12 community and technical colleges and focuses on training for aerospace jobs in the state based on current and verified local industry needs . . . read more
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