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Teachers focus on cience, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum

Teachers from across Minnesota gathered last week to discuss, support and improve upon the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum being taught in the state's middle and high schools.

The First Annual Minnesota Project Lead the Way Professional Development Conference was April 9-10 at the Breezy Point Resort. PLTW is a not-for-profit education program that aims to address an engineering workforce shortage by creating interest in STEM subjects at an early age and reducing the attrition rate in college engineering programs.

Teachers and presenters identified and discussed issues facing STEM education and how to promote its growth. PLTW Minnesota has curriculum implemented in almost 90 middle and high schools statewide, with courses available to nearly 30 percent of high school students and more than 15 percent of middle school students.

"This is an opportunity for educators to converge and talk about subjects that will play a critical role in shaping the engineering base in Minnesota and the United States," said Richard Blais, vice president for state and corporate relations, Project Lead the Way. "Increasing the availability of STEM subjects now will provide a larger pool of future talent for the manufacturing industry in Minnesota and across the nation."

Teachers took part in information sessions on PLTW courses as well as reviewed how to become certified in the curriculum, a requirement for all PLTW teachers. School administrators and counselors also took part in seminars intended to continue the growth of STEM education in Minnesota classrooms.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected the demand for engineers in America will increase by 11 percent from 2006 to 2016. The lack of skilled workers to fill those jobs threatens to stunt development of new technologies and could weaken economic growth in Minnesota, the United States and around the world.