Playlist: Developing K-12 STEM Career Pathways for the Future of Work

This playlist is created for the November 2021 Theme of the Month.


Share your thoughts about this month's theme with the panelists and the community.
Public Discussion
  • November 15, 2021 | 11:00 a.m.

    Welcome to this discussion on Developing STEM Career Pathways For the Future of Work. Our presenters today will facilitate this discussion and respond to comments, queries, and ideas that you contribute. 

    The webinar is scheduled 11/15 at 3PM ET.  If you missed the webinar the recording will be made available on this page. We also encourage you to view the videos in the playlist. Please feel free to leave a comment or query about an individual video. The presenter will be notified that a new comment arrived. Thanks for your active participation!!!

  • Icon for: Mary Alice McMorrow

    Mary Alice McMorrow

    November 16, 2021 | 10:29 a.m.

    I am interested to hear from the Panel whether they believe there is a role in the Education Sector for ENTREPRENEURS to help innovate efforts to encourage more students to pursue a STEM pathway.  From my own research, it appears that a lot of great work is happening inside of Academia, but it is very difficult for small ventures to bring their innovations into the ecosystem - although the U.S. STEM POLICY says it is critical for business people to be more involved given the pace of tech innovation.

  • November 17, 2021 | 04:35 p.m.

    It would be great if entrepreneurs and other industry partners would bring educators into their workplaces for extended periods of time (over the summer perhaps?).  These teacher externship opportunities may provide the entrepreneurs with a new set of eyes on their issues/problems and also help educators see more of "cutting edge" work and bring examples of that work back into their classrooms.  Often it is difficult to bring students into workplaces, particularly those with inherent safety issues.  However, providing students with opportunities to visit entrepreneurial worksites would do a lot to motivate some to move along an entrepreneurial career path.

  • November 16, 2021 | 12:05 p.m.

    I sense that the term STEM clouds where pathways are an issue. Not all of STEM suffers from a lack of demand. Computer science differs from psychology, theoretical astrophysics from roboticism, etc.; not to speak of all the STEM-related trades like mechatronics and such. And then we have over- and underrepresention by gender, race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The Science and Engineering Indicators provide some insights into the stats, but does anyone have a good way to represent these important detailed distinctions?  I am curious whether there are some well-made infographics one can use. 

  • November 17, 2021 | 04:30 p.m.

    Sorry I don't have one at my fingertips, but will look out for one.

  • Icon for: Leigh Peake

    Leigh Peake

    November 16, 2021 | 08:00 p.m.

    I was sad to miss this discussion, and apologize in advance if the following point was addressed and I missed it. There is a rising sense among young career professionals in our field (marine/ecosystem science) that the notion of a pathway (or, previously, a pipeline) not only misrepresents how careers evolve over time, but in fact may deter people from STEM. This opinion piece in the AGU journal EOS is a good representation of the ideas. Maybe most important it centers the individual and their unique needs/pathways rather than any industry. Curious to hear what you think!

  • Icon for: Helen Zhang

    Helen Zhang

    November 17, 2021 | 09:49 a.m.

    Thanks for the question and sharing the AGU paper, Leigh. In the webinar, a few panelists agree that career exploration/development should center around the students’ interests or needs instead of limiting them within certain industrial fields. This is particularly critical given the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of current and future job tasks. In our AI education project, the career development focuses on supporting students to find their interests/needs (our target audience are middle schoolers who start exploring their career interests) and build their career adaptability skills that can help them thrive in the future. We have activities such as “Inventory of Me” and “Personal Roadmaps”. Students also explore a series of videos where a high school student talks with people working in different fields that use AI. The interviewees include artists, people working in social media, and lawyers. They talk about what their daily jobs look like and share their personal and professional journeys, just like role models. Through these videos and discussions, students develop a more concrete idea of what kinds of skills are critical in the fields they are interested in, how AI may impact these jobs, what resources they can leverage on, and what barriers they might encounter. Overall we found that the combined approach of career discerning and exploring AI’s impact on jobs is engaging to students. If you are interested in our curriculum, you can find it here.

  • November 17, 2021 | 10:49 a.m.

    Good point Leigh. I'm often asked about how we measure the impact of our work-- can we see that the career pathways lead to more students entering STEM careers. When we recognize the dynamic nature of career trajectories and that the skills required of the workforce are also constantly evolving, this becomes a complicated question. One point that was made across our presentations and the discussion was the importance of helping students find connections to STEM, and the relevance of STEM for the careers they see across their community. For example, do students recognize that computational thinking skills or the engineering design process can be applied to a wide range of potential careers, even careers that students might not think about as STEM focused. Also, skills like collaboration and communication might be essential not only in STEM workplaces now, but across careers in the future.

  • Icon for: Leigh Peake

    Leigh Peake

    November 17, 2021 | 10:54 a.m.

    Well you know I'm empathetic to your point, Jackie!

  • Icon for: Jon Boxerman

    Jon Boxerman

    November 17, 2021 | 02:31 p.m.

    I am grateful Leigh that you raised the issue of the pipeline metaphor misrepresenting reality. Thanks for sharing the article as well. For me, a pipeline implies an extruder (like leaky pipelines) and may even drum up images of oil pipelines depending on the context. I see pipelines as a metaphor for signifying a particular industry area and that there is a way people fall off or are extruded from the pipelines. They are a way to discuss STEM career development in terms of the workforce/labor perspective. But pipelines are fixed and seemingly disregard local contours and contexts. Pathways are not individual "journeys" but structures. Although both metaphors—pathways and pipelines—entail movement, pipelines are conduits for people to move through, with no clear entry or exit points, whereas pathways to me feel more nimble and can invite more local flexibility and adaptability, and perhaps allow for more meaningful opportunities for people to be active agents directing their own learning. 

  • November 17, 2021 | 03:01 p.m.

    The issue raised with the pathway metaphor (pipeline is out and not worth talking about anymore) is, in my mind, a question of perspective. A person-centered perspective differs from an infrastructure and institutional perspective. Both are legitimate and they address different problems. When individuals look forward to their own future, "pathways" are not good metaphors (possible selves might be better). But when I look from the outside and wonder how to analyze large data sets of people's education and career behavior, then a pathway metaphor can be a good guiding framework, as could be a Markov chain or similar ideas. It matters what issue we are addressing at what grain size of the system, at least from the perspective of research

  • November 17, 2021 | 04:28 p.m.

    Good point Martin.  The career education perspective followed in the US is one that strives to support an individual's career development interests and institutionalize a system that broadens STEM career opportunities for all students.  Our system supports students' learning in any field they choose. This is different from systems in some other countries which strive to control the future workforce by limiting education and training opportunities to only those areas in need of economic growth.  An institutional perspective is needed to establish an well functioning education to workforce system. We should not be afraid of addressing our needs for a systemic solution.

  • November 17, 2021 | 06:19 p.m.

    Indeed!  And different actors play different roles. An educator on the ground supports the development of learners and is focused on the whole person when doing that... a STEM advocate wants to create more on-ramps into STEM careers and lower barriers for certain pathways... a labor economist at a state agency might simply want to ensure that there is great fit between supply and demand in any job... so long as we know that there are different and sometimes overlapping roles we can all be tolerant of the other, but also understand who else is addressing the stuff we can't from our position.

  • Icon for: Mary Alice McMorrow

    Mary Alice McMorrow

    November 16, 2021 | 09:54 p.m.

    As an industry partner, I always thought of STEM pathways as the banks guiding the direction of the flow, versus how each traverses downstream - but maybe the latter is the role of educators :)

  • November 17, 2021 | 04:36 p.m.

    That's a really nice way of looking at STEM pathways.

  • November 17, 2021 | 11:28 a.m.

    I really enjoyed the presentations form my co-panelists and the resulting discussion. I found it interesting that some of our work includes opportunities for student to think about the social implications of the work in STEM disciplines. I mentioned that in my projects students' work culminates in a presentation. Sometimes those presentations take the form of debates. For example, students discuss the implications of deep fake technology for civic engagement or whether/how facial recognition software impacts the criminal justice system. Helen's presentation also touched on ethical implications of AI. What work are others doing to engage students in thinking about and discussing the ethical and social implications of some of the work happening in STEM fields?

  • Icon for: Mary Alice McMorrow

    Mary Alice McMorrow

    November 17, 2021 | 03:29 p.m.

    From an industry perspective, it is all happening too slowly. The report shared was 5 years ago!  We need to break the paradigm - try new models - the current Ed model cannot keep pace with convergence, and teachers need more partners helping the U.S. accelerate.  IMHO.

  • November 17, 2021 | 04:46 p.m.

    I absolutely agree.  The world is changing so fast that to keep up we need to think out of the box and ahead of the curve. We can't wait for a direction to be articulated and confirmed.  By then the concrete ideas will be outdated or replaced by a new innovation that may likely change our direction/perspective.  This type of thinking requires a bit of risk taking and a level of comfort working in grey areas where things may not be completely clear.  Business and industry with quarterly goals/deliverables is more quickly able to respond to change.  Some businesses can change quickly - like maneuvering a speedboat.  Education systems are like ocean liners or air craft carriers - slow to change direction.  New models coming out of NSF STEM funding resources can help point us in positive directions.

  • November 17, 2021 | 04:19 p.m.

    Leigh -  Our view of career pathways was very similar to the article you shared - opening opportunities - with on and off ramps based on an individuals interests and needs.  Good job and thanks for sharing.


  • November 17, 2021 | 04:50 p.m.

    A question for the group:   Even with our national the emphasis on STEM (note the often forgotten T and E) are our students moving through a rigorous but strictly academic educational experience going to be the "disadvantaged" group struggling for employment in a future STEM world driven by technology?

  • November 17, 2021 | 06:23 p.m.

    Interesting question that distinguishes technological literacy needed to be a functioning citizen in a modern society, no matter what job one has, from having the foundational and advanced skills to compete in a rapidly changing labor market. Lots of people are working on this, and it is useful to consider how countries with functioning trade-based education systems are doing.  Check this out: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Building America's Skilled Technical Workforce. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    November 22, 2021 | 10:43 a.m.

    I'd like to sharpen this question a bit, Martin.  There are so many statements about the "rapidly changing workforce," but if you spend a little time with the Bureau of Labor Stats analysis of workforce opportunities and their educational requirements over the next decade or so, one sees a very large numbers of jobs that do not require advanced/post-seondary  education, but do require rather a lot of on-the-job training.  (for those who are interested, the latest report is here:

       To what extent is the emphasis on STEM Careers distracting from figuring out how to address the need for STEM for all?  To what extent has the focus on a narrow view of the "future of work" shaped the writing and interpretation of, say, NGSS? 


  • November 22, 2021 | 03:19 p.m.

    That's a nice sharpening of the question, Brian, one that resonates with me. I think it is indicative of a culture's norms and values how we frame the purpose of education. I enjoy very much my observation on how these discourses differ between, say Germany and the US (a difference I understand best), and how the role someone plays in the societal system changes their focus when discussing education. On the spectrum of individualism vs collectivism, the US is pretty far on the individualism side, Germany more on the collective one. The public discourse on education reflects it. But even in Germany there are different camps: the people who worry about effective and efficient pathways into professions worry about preparedness, the usefulness of BS and BA degrees and the role of the Dual System (apprenticeship in the company blended with bloc-based schooling in CTE-schools), and now the in-between of the education in the universities of applied sciences. All very legitimate conversations that always involve employers, and people who worry about social mobility and inclusion. The other question: what are primary and secondary education all about, and to what degree are they (also) helping prepare students for future careers, is connected but with a much broader societal framing around functioning in a pluralistic and democratic society. It is a strong discourse. We have both in the US as well, but it does seem that the job focus dominates. Given the harshness of the social system and its overall emphasis on the individual (in terms of success and failure) one should not be surprised. In a country where whether you receive medical services without going bankrupt depends on holding down a permanent job that supplies decent health insurance people's anxiety over career is a natural...

  • November 22, 2021 | 03:20 p.m.

    Apologies for the rant  ;o)

  • Icon for: Jaymee Nanasi Davis

    Jaymee Nanasi Davis

    November 22, 2021 | 03:44 p.m.

    I like to take a strengths-based approach to answering this question... the uniqueness of our youth is in their diversity and creativity.  For youth in Hawaii, their gift is aloha... and how that can transform STEM and possibility give them a leg up in the STEM future.  STEM needs the moral compass of aloha... we can teach youth the tangible skills of T and E, but how do we uplift their internal gifts to transform not only STEM but also the world.  And maybe thatʻs that youʻre getting to @Joyce... that we canʻt solely rely on the rigorous and academic educational experiences or even trade-based education systems and that there needs to be a little something "extra".  

  • Icon for: Jaymee Nanasi Davis

    Jaymee Nanasi Davis

    November 17, 2021 | 06:33 p.m.

    @Mary Alice. You bring up some good points.  We’re undoing an educational system that’s been hundreds of years in the making. Unfortunately it’s gonna take us some time… we might not see it in our lifetime.  The question remains how done we prepare the next generation to take on this work… to have the mindset of diversity and innovation. I think that’s where entrepreneurs come in. This past summer we overlaid the Problem-based Learning approach with the Design Thinking process to emphasize growth mindset and empathy mapping. The other thing we added was the culturally responsive perspective to add a cultural and ‘āina (land) based purpose. We worked with a local incubator to accomplish this.

  • Icon for: Mary Alice McMorrow

    Mary Alice McMorrow

    November 22, 2021 | 11:06 a.m.

    @Jaymee - I don't disagree with you assessment all this will take time, and I applaud all the great work to-date and going forth.  However, I do believe there is a way to speed things up -- in support of Teachers and to the benefit of Students -- to have more impact sooner.  So, I think we need to let go of business-as-usual and invite more people from industry to help knock down the walls and build the future.  If you look at the numbers, I don't think the U.S. can wait, if we want to stay competitive on the global stage.  Just my humble opinion...  

  • Icon for: Jaymee Nanasi Davis

    Jaymee Nanasi Davis

    November 22, 2021 | 02:22 p.m.

    I can totally see that @MaryAlice. On a small scale... It makes me think of the work weʻve been doing on our project to connect teachers, students, and industry partners through problem-based learning.  The problem-based learning curriculum gives teachers an excuse to invite industry partners into the classroom and work along side students.  What I like about problem-based is that youʻre not just inviting guest speakers to talk about things, but content area experts are brought into the classroom to work along side students towards solutions.  In our teacher training, it really was setting time aside in the schedule to talk teachers through how they can connect with industry or community partners to accomplish this. I think thereʻs also a need to support the industry partners that come into the classroom as they work with students... but thatʻs the next project.  

  • Icon for: Mary Alice McMorrow

    Mary Alice McMorrow

    November 24, 2021 | 09:45 a.m.

    Happy Thanksgiving!  Nice to meet everyone.

    Mary Alice

    M.B.A., Marketer, Entrepreneur, Lecturer (Boston University), and most important job - Mom of STEM girl

  • Icon for: Jaymee Nanasi Davis

    Jaymee Nanasi Davis

    November 29, 2021 | 07:45 p.m.

    Aloha! Just wanted to say mahalo for this opportunity to be a part of this panel discussion.  I appreciate all of you, your thoughts, and efforts in cultivating this space to share the various thoughts and perspectives that shapes the STEM career pathways currently and in the future.  Some key take aways for me is: 1) STEM career "pathway" is multifaceted and complex. There isnʻt just one way to talk about or describe STEM workforce development.; 2) Shifting the way we view STEM and STEM workforce development is a critical urgency needed to shape the future workforce. The conversations have been enlightening as I continually reflect my own practice striving to build new "pathways" leading to an inclusively defined future and not perpetuating the oppressive systems of the past.  Have a beautiful Holiday Season! - nasi 

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