When you consider the statistics, it’s easy to see why. Out of 3.8 million ninth graders, only 233 thousand pursue a major in a STEM field in college. That means only six in every 100 ninth graders chooses a degree in the sciences. Experts predict that over the next five years, STEM jobs will grows twice as much as jobs in other fields. Weigh these two facts against each other, and it’s clear that we’re missing a key opportunity to prepare students for the workforce.

This problem is even more apparent in Western Pennsylvania, where WTAE reports, “industries will require more than 150,000 new STEM employees” over the next decade. The station sites these statistics as the driving force behind the new program called “Math + Science = Success”  which it will run with the help of the Carnegie Science Center, the Math & Science Collaborative and FedEx Ground.

No single solution exists for our country’s STEM dilemma, but the minds behind the new campaign believe they’ve targeted a major area for improvement. The initiative will focus on encouraging high school students to enroll in advanced science classes — and to retain their interest once they do. The hope is that these classes will inspire more students to explore STEM learning and to continue studying a related field in college.

“All students must learn math and science for their future and our country’s future,” Nancy Bunt, Program Director of the Math & Science Collaborative, told WTAE. “For too long, we’ve acted like only a select few are capable of attaining those skills and knowledge. Now we know, in fact, there is no math gene.”

In addition to hosting workshops at the Carnegie Science Center, WTAE will broadcast public service announcements with messages like, “All kids can, and need to, learn math and science” and “There is no math gene.” The goal is to not just change the minds of students, but to help their parents get more involved as well. WTAE 4 President & General Manager Michael J. Hayes said, “If we can reach out to parents and show them the statistics, we can get them on board and ultimately make a difference in our children’s lives and further improve our region’s economy in the global marketplace. The whole world revolves around problem solving. You need to know math and science to succeed.”

It’s not hard to understand why the Spark team stands behind this initiative 100%. If you’re familiar with the Spark network, you know it’s full of projects aimed at making STEM learning fun — projects like Click! Spy School that uses STEM skills to help girls solve mysteries, the Computer Science Student Network – a STEM-based gaming site that rewards you for learning, and the world-famous Quasi robot that gives children a fun and educational peek into the world of robotics. These are just a few of the many local Pittsburgh programs in the Spark network working to make understanding science and math fun. To discover more of these exciting initiatives, head over to our projects page to learn more.