Washington STEM launches to prepare students for tomorrow’s jobs

Posted by Brad Smith
Microsoft General Counsel and Senior Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs

This morning marked an important milestone in our work to improve the quality of education in Washington State.  A number of us came together for the official launch of Washington STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) a new privately funded program to improve teaching and learning in the critical disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math.

As a state we need to strengthen performance in these disciplines in order to prepare  young people to compete in the fastest growing fields in a knowledge-based economy and to understand and make informed judgments about many of the most challenging issues facing society.  

With global leaders in information technology, biotech, global health, clean energy, trade, agribusiness, and precision manufacturing, Washington’s economy is already driven by innovation.  That trend will only continue, and projections are that by 2018, two-thirds of the jobs in our state will require college education.  And while Washington ranks fourth in the nation in technology-based corporations, we are close to the bottom in student participation in science and engineering graduate programs.

As a state, we must redouble our efforts to prepare students to take advantages of these career opportunities, starting while students are in elementary and middle school.  We need to interest more students in the STEM disciplines by providing them with engaging, inquiry-based instruction that provides a foundation of basic STEM concepts. 

That is why Microsoft is proud to join Boeing,  McKinstry, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and others as a founding partner of Washington STEM.  Our company’s $6 million commitment over three years will  help Washington STEM make focused investments in programs to improve student learning in these crucial areas.

Washington STEM announced today an initial class of 15 grant recipients, including such well-known and well-respected programs as MESA, a leader in STEM education programs for students from traditionally under-represented populations; Teach for America, which recruits outstanding recent college graduates to teach for at least two years in urban or rural schools; and the Technology Access Foundation Academy, which serves students in Federal Way and is looking to expand to serve Renton as well.  Schools from around the state, from Bellevue to Neah Bay and from Chimicum to Tacoma, will receive grants to support and expand programs that are already effectively improving student achievement in the STEM disciplines.

We believe that Washington STEM can become a shining example of what can happen when businesses, non-profit groups, and educators join forces to improve the education we provide to the students of our state.  And it is another example of Microsoft’s commitment to ensuring that kids in our state are better prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that await them in the coming years.


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