Nancy Mwirotsi: Rethinking STEM education & distance learning

Guest post by Nancy Mwirotsi.

We must prepare for foundational shifts to virtually all industries, including a necessarily altered workforce profile. All jobs are quickly changing but we are not adapting to change as quickly as we should. While automation and the Internet of things (IoT) are making many processes easier for each one of us, these fast-evolving technologies also present hurdles to overcome, particularly in terms of how we prepare our youth. As a community, we need not wait for an outside force to coddle or coerce us to adapt, rather, we can look to local resources to collectively prepare for and consciously choose the future we want.

This COVID-19 lockdown confirms to us that our outlook on tech and future job trends is correct: we will become increasingly reliant on the capabilities of geographically remote, tech-savvy workers. I, as the founder of PI 515, frequently ask myself many questions such as, ‘What does the future hold?’ and ‘What do I do to create more impact?’ and ‘How do I use this opportunity to help others migrate to and prepare for the future workplace?’ I have been calling for companies to help equip young people with Tech Access – that is the starting place to answer my questions.

While the future of work will be shaped by many forces, the primary driver is technological advancement; closing the tech access gap now requires free wifi access, free equipment and great STEM remote learning tools. 

According to Business Roundtable, technological know-how is crucial for young people preparing to enter the job market. Yet the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that underserved youth are unprepared for jobs of the future. Approximately 1.4 million jobs over the next decade will require tech skills, while only 400,000 people will be trained for them. When given access to appropriate technology used in thoughtful ways, all students; regardless of their respective backgrounds, can make substantial gains in learning and technological readiness. 

To close the technology gap requires organizations like ours to step up and be the space for young people to further their understanding of technology. A lot of summer camps and activities that students had planned have been canceled, so we are filling that void with a virtual summer experience. We have been developing a 6-8 week virtual summer global challenge. This program will have weekly virtual lessons and tasks for students to do research, develop professional and technical skills to enhance their understanding of the future of technology. 

Our challenge now as a community is to rethink education in this new world, and recognize that distance learning is crucial for kids. It allows them to get caught up with school work but also helps them build curiosity and skills. Our economy also depends on us grooming all young people for future work and that work is highly tech-skill dependent. We all must take intentional steps to groom not only those who will become tech producers but also kids who will be ready for a workforce that requires them to be problem solvers and critical thinkers. 

By supporting PI515 today, you help us close the homework gap, digital gap, and skills gap and groom future leaders who will be equipped with the skills to solve future work problems.

Nancy Mwirotsi is the founder of PI515, a nonprofit organization that empowers refugee and disadvantaged youth to success by teaching them technology skills.