John Byrne During a visit to Sparks High School on Monday, Gov. Brian Sandoval proclaimed the 2016-17 school year the “Year of STEM,” promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

John Byrne
During a visit to Sparks High School on Monday, Gov. Brian Sandoval proclaimed the 2016-17 school year the “Year of STEM,” promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

Gov. Brian Sandoval visited Sparks High School Monday to proclaim the 2016-17 school session the “Year of STEM,” promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. The statewide initiative spearheaded by the Governor’s Office of Science, Innovation and Technology (OSIT) aims to introduce ways for students, families and educators to actively participate.

The announcement featured 20 local companies and learning institutions known for their innovative technology and products. Some businesses and colleges addressing the students included: Truckee Meadows Community College, UNR, Nevada Mining Association, NOW Foods, Pathways to Aviation and Dura-Line.

“Across Nevada, we’re witnessing innovation and technology [to] improve traditional industries like mining and hospitality. Additionally, Nevada has become a testing ground for advancements in aviation, environmental and healthcare research and autonomous vehicles,” said Governor Brian Sandoval.

“The Year of STEM will provide a platform for our students to learn more about the pathways to the most exciting careers in the new Nevada economy. The jobs that will be available when our students graduate from college may not even exist right now, but a strong grasp of core STEM concepts will best prepare them today for the exciting industries of tomorrow,” he added.

The Governor and OSIT Director Brian Mitchell formally launched the “Year of STEM” through a signed proclamation delivered by TMCC’s Baxter the Robot. About 70 to 100 high school students were in attendance, along with local companies, members of state legislation, Washoe County School District Superintendent Traci Davis and other county officials.

“There are a lot of innovative new companies coming into Northern Nevada with economic development in healthcare, IT, medical, and more. We want to make sure that the local workforce has the right skills for these jobs,” Mitchell said.

“[The September 19 event is] to raise awareness and close the skills gap so these companies can hire locally,” he added. Another initiative of STEM is to increase the equity and access for minorities and women when applying for these jobs.

“When [students] think of STEM, they picture a guy in a white lab coat. There is a perception that people in STEM are scientists and researchers, but you can apply unique STEM skills in manufacturing, technology, and all sorts of other jobs, too,” he says.

Mitchell added that STEM teaches students underlying ideals that could be applied in any position, like problem solving, teamwork, and critical thinking. He said that one of the governor’s main messages is to be prepared for jobs that will be available when they graduate from college that may not have even been invented yet.

“Old-fashioned values such as determination, grit, and hard work will help make their dreams come true,” says Mitchell.

Here are three actions that students and families can take today to plan for their future:

• Visit www.stemhub.nv.gov. This comprehensive career pathways guide allows students to use their interests to explore what kinds of options are available to them in the future.

• Be Aware/Participate in the K-12 STEM Challenge. According to a press release from the Governor’s Office, the Governor has invited every Nevada student and educator to consider statewide problems with the environment, infrastructure, water conservation and more. The students will have an opportunity to present their solutions in recognition events held in May.

• Watch for more business to student mentorships. “We’re trying to make a better effort to have local businesses mentor students,” says Mitchell. “Businesses at the event today asked, ‘tell me how we can be involved’. Everyone realizes we need workforce and skills.”

Mitchell concludes, “I can’t say enough about Kevin Carroll [principal of Sparks High School]. We are very grateful to work with the high school; they were gracious hosts. We’re hoping to go back and do something more with them in the future.

“Now is a really great time to be in high school,” he adds.