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The Arizona STEM Brain Drain

Demand in the Science and Tech Industries has Never Been Higher, but Many Students Aren't Making the Cut

By Anna Copper | Dec. 8, 2015

“We don’t have the horsepower to meet the need."

—Cindy Pickering, Girls in STEM and Science Foundation Arizona. Arizona's demand for STEM workers vastly exceeds the number of students who leave school qualified for jobs in science and technology.

Governor Doug Ducey recently signed a spending bill that promises to pump $3.5 billion into Arizona public school districts over the next decade. But for schools that have been underfunded for years, a sudden influx of cash may not be enough to solve the now endemic issue of poor student performance in science and math.

STEM jobs—that is jobs in science, technology, math and engineering—boast some of the highest median salaries, and the number of STEM-related jobs in Arizona is expected to swell in the coming years. However, the barrier of entry into these fields is high for students coming from underperforming schools.

Passionate teachers prove to be critical in putting students onto a STEM pathway. Stephaine Frimer, an advisor with Science Foundation Arizona, helped seed nearly 200 STEM clubs across the state. She says that the clubs help break down stereotypes of the “geek alone in a room” that are often still associated with math and science.

“It’s amazing what one motivated teacher, 500 dollars, and ten kids can do,” Frimer said speaking of the success she’s seen with the clubs.

Meanwhile, STEM schools, like SySTEM Phoenix Charter School, apply critical thinking and problem solving to all areas of learning.

But until statewide priorities regarding education change, kids in Arizona will continue to lag behind in one of the fastest growing industries in the world.

You can read the full story here.

SySTEM Phoenix classroom

Students in class at the SySTEM Phoenix Charter School. All students learn coding and each have Chromebooks they use on a daily basis. (Photo by Anna Copper)

Though STEM jobs are abundant in Arizona, students are not academically prepared to enter into the field.


Copy Editor | Lindsey Wisniewski

Media Editor | Sabella Scalise

Graphic & Web Editor | Anna Copper

A collection of stories created by the 2015-2016 graduate students

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

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