Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Atlantic County is helping to build the workforce of the future with a new emphasis on STEM education in its high schools and middle schools.
STEM job growth in the U.S. over the past decade was three times greater than that of any other field. As of 2015 there were nearly 8.6 million STEM jobs and growing, but as of last year, as many as 2.4 million were expected to remain unfilled.
“Clearly, it is time to teach to the need,” stated County Executive Dennis Levinson. “I am happy to report that need is now being addressed in Atlantic County.”
County officials recently coordinated a meeting between Atlantic County school superintendents and representatives of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Gaetz Aerospace Institute who outlined a proposal to establish aviation STEM programs in area high schools. The goal is to ensure high school curricula align with the Atlantic County economic development strategy.
The countywide strategy identified aviation as the sector of the county’s economy that offered the most immediate opportunity for growth and development. The Atlantic County Economic Alliance was formed to implement the strategy and help diversify the economy. The ACEA is currently partnering with Embry-Riddle to develop an operational plan for an aviation and technical academy. Additional partners such as the FAA Technical Center, the South Jersey Transportation Authority, the National Aviation Research and Technology Park, and New Jersey Innovation Institute are contributing to the creation of an aviation innovation hub surrounding the Atlantic City International Airport and adjacent properties.
Embry-Riddle started the high school STEM initiative in Florida nearly 12 years ago. It now includes 125 high schools in 37 counties. Students obtain college experience, earn up to 12 college credits and multiple industry certifications before graduating high school. Classes include private pilot ground school, unmanned aircraft systems, aviation algebra and physics, manned and unmanned technologies, UAS applications in aerial photography, principles of management, among others.
“Our school superintendents were extremely impressed with the Embry-Riddle proposal and recognize the many opportunities it can provide. The hope is that students may no longer have to leave New Jersey to find sustainable jobs and lucrative careers,” added Levinson.