Why Washington lawmakers need to invest in STEM education

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Washington’s many technology employers are hungry for qualified workers, from the folks who install and maintain the systems that keep buildings running in downtown Spokane, to nuclear physicists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, to agricultural workers in Yakima Valley, to software engineers at Microsoft’s campus in Redmond.

The entrepreneurial spirit and drive to innovate that built those employers and thousands of others in Washington produce hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs that support families around our state.

But although we rank first in the nation for creating jobs that require science, technology, engineering and math skills, we’re not doing a good job of preparing and inspiring the next generation to compete for them. Those good-paying jobs often require a strong high school education, a technical certificate or a wide range of postsecondary degrees. That forces our companies to recruit from elsewhere and leaves our own kids on the outside looking in.

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