PricewaterhouseCoopers (pwc), Ernst & Young (E&Y), and Deloitte have joined 100 corporations and foundations as participants in Change the Equation (CTEq), a new CEO-led effort to cultivate widespread literacy in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Change the Equation, a non-profit organization, was formed not only to achieve President Obama's Educate to Innovate campaign mission of increasing private and philanthropic involvement in STEM education, but also to meet a critical need for a workforce and a citizenry fluent in science and math.
Eight million jobs in STEM-related fields will be available by 2018, according to a recent survey by the Center on Education and the Workforce, but there is widespread concern that the next generation of employees in America will be unprepared for these jobs.
Attracting young people to these fields is a growing problem in the U.S., not only because they might lack necessary academic preparation, but also because of their perceptions about careers in STEM fields and their own competencies, especially in math. A survey, commissioned by CTEq, revealed that more than half of young Americans ages 18 to 36 admit that they often find themselves saying they can't do math, which is the starting point for studies in science, technology, and engineering.
“We focus on four areas in corporate responsibility,” Shannon Schulyer, pwc’s U.S. corporate responsibility leader, told AccountingWEB. “They are Marketplace, where we emphasize significant partnerships, our supply chain; People, developing an inclusive culture of learning and education, and providing leadership in education; Community, our volunteering and contributions; and finally, the Environment, our commitment to internal sustainability, to reduction in our carbon footprint. Change the Equation relates to all four of these.
“The question of STEM education is a complex area in and of itself. Internally, we are developing our courses and programs for financial literacy, and other commitments. But beyond our internal focus, nationwide, we have seen a decrease in the numbers of students pursuing accounting. Studies have shown that by third grade students have either decided that they like math or they don’t think they are good at it and walk away. As a country we are going to lose out on a lot of disciplines and we are going to lose out on careers in this whole green economy. For us as an organization, this a pipeline issue, but it also is broader issue, in that we want our clients to be skilled as well", Schulyer said.
“STEM education is a core issue for companies to rally behind. Change the Equation is a CEO-run initiative – the multi-lateral approach, forming the partnerships is incredibly important if we want to be successful. Corporations really have to take a lead in this and work in tandem with nonprofits and the government to be able to realize a sustainable impact on our educational system,” Schulyer said.
“We want to put programming, resources, and dollars into getting students inspired and excited about these opportunities. Finding skilled teachers to replace retirees is the highest priority in STEM education – finding really good teachers who are equipped to inspire their students – but we also want to try to ensure that the representation of teachers truly reflects the students they are teaching", Schulyer said.
pwc partners with MIND Research Institute in its innovative approach to math education, which engages learners’ visual reasoning abilities in order to understand and solve multi-step problems. pwc is engaged in this partnership, Schulyer said, because “studies have found that there can be a language component to learning math. pwc will provide both financial contributions and employee volunteers to improve students’ math comprehension and enhance their financial literacy. We are interested in getting students who would not have English proficiency to be successful.
“Operation HOPE is another of pwc’s programs that supports STEM education, where we focus on the financial literacy curriculum in the junior high and high school levels. We work with schools to create curriculum based on an understanding of the needs of different age groups – from saving, to allowances to understanding credit. We work with organizations, and we also go into classrooms to walk through some of the problems young people face in a down to earth way.
“We want to help hone in and focus on programs that are working, and really share those programs with companies, school districts, and teachers, to be advocates for the best practices out there, and make sure they are scalable nationwide.”
Ernst & Young will collaborate with CTEq by building upon its flagship education initiatives. These initiatives include: the Ernst & Young/Cyberchase Volunteer Program – an employee volunteer program conducted with PBS in 20 cities, based on the Emmy award-winning PBSKIDSGO children's series, Cyberchase. The goal of the program is to improve math literacy among children ages 8 to 11 – particularly minorities and girls. To date, more than 650 Ernst & Young volunteers have reached more than 1,700 elementary school students.
"As an organization of professionals that base our business on sharp analytical and, in many cases, mathematical skills, we have a long-standing and steadfast commitment to furthering STEM education in the US.", Deborah Holmes, E&Y’s global director of corporate responsibility, said about E&Y’s participation in STEM/CTEq. “We are thrilled to join Change the Equation to further this mission and collaborate with groups throughout the public and private sectors to advance the STEM literacy."
E&Y’s College MAP (Mentoring for Access and Persistence) program, which allows teams of employee mentors to help disadvantaged high school juniors and seniors apply to and prepare to succeed in college, is another initiative that can support STEM education.
E&Y has supported recruiting diverse faculty in business education. In a January 2010 report on a Campus Diversity and Inclusiveness Roundtable conducted by E&Y’s Inclusiveness Recruiting team, roundtable participants recommended, among four action steps, that business schools “be creative in your recruiting and development efforts to reach under-served student populations and continue to attract diverse faculty to serve as role models.”
“CTEq has an ambitious agenda for its first year, including creating a snapshot of existing STEM investments by its 100 member companies to establish a baseline of STEM programs,” said Linda Rosen, CEO of CTEq, according to MarketWatch.com.
"If we don't encourage our children and students to get excited about math as well as science, technology, and engineering, we are denying them the chance to reach their potential and be prepared for a future filled with opportunity", Rosen said.
CTEq’s goals are to:
- Improve STEM teaching at all grade levels, with a larger and more racially, ethnically, and gender-diverse pool of highly capable STEM teachers.
- Deepen student appreciation and excitement for STEM programs and careers to increase enrollment and success, especially among females and students of color.
- Achieve a sustained commitment to the STEM movement from business leaders, government officials, STEM teachers, and other stakeholders through communication, collaboration, and data-based decision making.
Founding members of CTEq include Time Warner Cable, Sally Ride Science, Kodak, Intel, and Xerox. Founding nonprofit sponsors are the Gates Corporation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.