Kern County to boost STEM education
March 7, 2017
• Former NASA Astronaut to headline event to help build a bigger STEM workforce
• “Science fair meets job fair”
Students, local business leaders, and inspiring speakers like former NASA Astronaut Jose Hernandez are to take part at the inaugural Kern County “STEMposium,” set for the morning of May 19, at the Bakersfield College gymnasium.
The purpose of the event is to help prepare today’s youth for tomorrow’s STEM jobs in Kern County.
STEM stands for “science, technology, engineering, and math,” and growing a workforce that’s well-qualified in those areas is of critical importance for Kern County employers, says the Kern Economic Development Foundation.
Kern County is ranked fourth in the nation for STEM jobs, due to the prevalence of energy, food processing, aerospace/defense, healthcare, and logistics industries in the region.
The “STEMposium” -- think “science fair meets job fair” -- will expose middle school and high school students to STEM-related career opportunities in Kern County. At the same time, business representatives will get a glimpse of the relevant skills students are learning in the classroom today.
The Kern Economic Development Foundation says the Bakersfield College gymnasium will be filled with a STEM expo where high school students will demonstrate their innovative projects from the classroom, giving business representatives a look at the creative efforts taking place in local schools.
Meanwhile, local businesses will host their own booths where they’ll spotlight equipment used in their respective industries and will demonstrate the skills needed to be successful in the current workplace.
The keynote speaker will be NASA engineer Jose Hernandez, who grew up in a migrant farming family, working the fields in what he called “the California circuit.” Mr. Hernandez didn’t learn English until he was 12 years old, but he knew by the time he was a high school senior that he was interested in science and engineering. After earning undergraduate and graduate degrees, he pursued his dream of becoming an astronaut, traveling to the International Space Station where he served as mission specialist.
Mr. Hernandez is author of the book Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farm Worker Turned Astronaut.
The average earnings for a STEM worker in Kern County is more than $72,000, compared to approximately $37,000 per year for non-STEM jobs. Additionally, more than half (56 percent) of local STEM jobs are “sub-bachelor’s STEM,” meaning the jobs can be filled with a two-year degree or a special certification, the Foundation says.