The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) will grow 17 percent by 2018 – nearly double the growth for non-STEM fields. Projections show that by 2018, the U.S. will have more than 1.2 million unfilled STEM jobs because there will not be enough qualified workers to fill them. STEM is where jobs are today and where the job growth will be in the future.
Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is optimistic about helping to solve this U.S. workforce development crisis.
PLTW is the nation’s leading provider of K-12 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. As a nonprofit organization, PLTW’s mission is simple: prepare students for the global economy. To compete globally, the future U.S. workforce will require stronger skills in the STEM disciplines. It’s not about turning more students into engineers – it’s about building tomorrow’s problem solvers, critical thinkers, and innovators. This is where PLTW excels.
PLTW’s curriculum and teacher professional development, combined with an engaged network of educators and corporate partners, help students develop the skills needed to succeed in our global economy. PLTW’s five activity-, project-, and problem-based programs are collaboratively developed and consistently reviewed and improved by PLTW staff, teachers, university educators, industry experts, and school administrators.
Nationwide, PLTW programs can be found in over 6,500 elementary, middle, and high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
This school year, 71 PLTW programs are present in 65 Tennessee schools, and the programs have been well-received by students and teachers, alike.
“The students really enjoy the hands-on aspect of PLTW classes,” says Melinda Hamby, PLTW Engineering teacher at Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. “They seem to do a lot of sitting in their traditional classes, so when it is time for a PLTW course where they are up about the room and working in small groups, they seem to thrive.”
Hamby notes that in addition to getting students engaged, the programs have prepared her students well for post-secondary education and career.
“Several graduates are now telling me that what we learned in IED (Introduction to Engineering Design) is exactly what they are learning in their college freshman engineering classes,” she says.
Hamby’s experience is not unusual. Independent research studies reveal that PLTW students are better prepared for post-secondary studies and are more likely to consider careers in the STEM fields compared to their non-PLTW peers.
PLTW courses are aligned with Common Core State Standards in Math and English Language Arts, Next Generation Science Standards, and other national and state standards. Courses are designed to complement math and science courses offered by a school and in some instances are used as the core curriculum.
In addition to PLTW’s world-class curriculum, one of the most important and unique aspects of the organization’s programs is the rigorous professional development, which equips each teacher with the program content, skills, and pedagogy required to teach a PLTW course.
“PLTW’s professional development was key for me to be able to enter the world of education,” Hamby says. “I came to the classroom from the professional engineering world, and the training I received during that first summer was the single best thing to prepare me for the classroom.
“I was not only able to complete every activity for my class, but I was also able to network and ask other teachers all the questions I had about being a teacher,” she continues. “I don’t think I would have had the time or confidence to become a teacher while simultaneously developing a rigorous curriculum. I was so glad that part was already done.”
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, which joined the PLTW network and became a PLTW affiliate university in 2004, holds this robust teacher training, provides ongoing support to Tennessee PLTW schools, and more.
PLTW’s greater network stretches across the country and includes approximately 60 post-secondary and research institutions, nearly 100 leading corporations, and several significant philanthropic organizations working together to solve America’s STEM challenge.
While there is still much work to be done, this concerted effort is making a difference. Change the Equation selected PLTW as one of four high-quality STEM programs in the U.S. – and the only in-school curriculum provider – ready for significant national scale-up.
For more information on Project Lead The Way, visit pltw.org.