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Energizing Tomorrow’s STEM Minds and Vibrant Communities

In this article, discover how Jacobs is promoting science, technology, engineering and math education and the building of strong communities for a more connected, sustainable world for future generations.

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is at the epicenter of developing the future and addressing complex issues such as urban migration, catastrophic climate threats, cybersecurity and natural-resource stresses. The National Science Foundation predicts that 80% of jobs created in the next decade will require mastery of STEM disciplines, and still, there’s a shortfall in talent to tackle rising challenges.

Part of the issue? Younger generations are losing interest in STEM often before their teen years. Take, for example, a study by Ranstad North America – where 52% of student respondents reported not knowing anyone in a STEM profession, but 90% rated creating video games as a fun career option. As the innovators behind the infrastructure, technologies and systems that touch daily lives, STEM professionals have an incredible opportunity to bring visibility to and spark more interest in our careers.

Whether we’re working on critical projects, in partnership with our clients and suppliers or taking steps as individuals to make a positive difference – at Jacobs, we’re focused on inspiring future generations to rise to the challenge and join us in the promise of delivering a more connected, sustainable world.

Here’s how, by inspiring STEM opportunities, building the next generation and sustaining strong communities, we’re doing just that:

Inspiring STEM opportunities

They say, you don’t know what you don’t know,” and one of the most impactful issues behind the STEM shortage is communicating these disciplines in a way that’s relatable. Rising to the challenge, two Jacobs employees in Belfast, U.K., represented us in the Institution of Civil Engineers Pitch 200 Belfast competition, where they had to explain an engineering concept or solution to the public in just 200 seconds. Part of the Northern Ireland Science Festival, the event helps children and adults to understand different engineering concepts and relate them to everyday life – and one of our employees is moving on to represent the region at the U.K. competition in Belfast on October 22, 2019!

Another challenge to tackle in the STEM shortage is bridging the gender gap. According to Brookings, women earn 57% of all four-year degrees, but only 35% of STEM bachelor degrees. In research from the Center for Digital Education, just 11% of teenage girls reported interest in a STEM career.

In Denver, we’re working to change these statistics as a founding sponsor, alongside the City and County of Denver and Scholars Unlimited on the Next Generation City Builder’s program. Launched in 2018, the program was designed to engage youth of diverse backgrounds in STEM-based learning opportunities as a strategy to address Denver’s workforce gaps while exposing young-leaners to STEM careers. In June, this year’s six-week summer program kicked off and on July 11, volunteers from Jacobs’ Enlace and Women’s employee network groups will participate in a day themed around “Building Community Confidence in Our Cities.”

At the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant – where we lead the deactivation and remediation contract team – more than 120 students explored hands-on activities designed to educate them on the presence of natural radiation in the world, as well as its history and practical uses at a “STEM 4 Girls” event. Participants also met women working in technical areas and learned about how personal protective equipment helps promote safety at the Paducah Site.

And in Texas, Jacobs employees from the Dallas, San Antonio and Austin offices attended the Future Chica: An Innovation Conference for Girls event as mentors, career presenters, panelists and volunteers – giving school-aged girls the opportunity to explore 21st-century technologies like 3D printing, robotics and virtual reality and learn how these technology tools and platforms work through hands-on demos and activities.

Another main driver behind the STEM shortage is the aging workforce: a Pew research study forecasts that 10,000 baby boomers will reach the age of 65 every day through 2030, translating to a significant portion of the workforce retiring in the coming decade. Inspiring and building a talent pipeline is especially important for the nuclear sector, and that’s why our team at the Hanford Site continuously works to educate and motivate the next generation workforce.

With efforts like site tours, a STEM Like Me! program that’s setting an example for other contractors and businesses across the state and a five-week Bioethics course study that acquainted 28 local high schoolers with Hanford STEM/craft opportunities and worked through challenges related to every day issues – our CHPRC (CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company) team is equipping future innovators with skills and ambition to continue Hanford’s safe cleanup.

Building the next generation

From robots and digital twins to creative structures and music festivals, introducing children and the wider community to STEM has never been cooler – just take it from our teams highlighted below.

Jacobs supported (pun intended) the 2019 Oregon Regional High School Model Bridge contest, where participants learn and observe structural behavior concepts such as tension and compression and the importance of good connections and how they affect design. The competitive atmosphere of the event inspires students to improve each year – and of the 154 bridges tested during the event’s 50th annual year, the most efficient bridge carried an impressive 1,166 times its own weight of 9.7g!

Bottling STEM ambitions in York, U.K., we worked with students to design and construct a full-size greenhouse using 1,500 plastic bottles gathered from the local community. In a three-day construction, our employee volunteers helped build the bottled greenhouse and a four-story bughouse constructed out of recycled materials. The greenhouse was immediately used by the school’s gardening club to grow their own produce, thrilling both children and adults alike with the new energized space.

Ever wondered what an assortment of spaghetti, scotch tape, marshmallows and lots of recycled soda cans have in common? Find out in this story about Family Science Saturdays, sponsored by our team leading cleanup at the East Tennessee Technology Park.

A rockin’ group of students headed to Jacobs’ Glasgow office for an immersive week-long challenge to design and plan their own music festival in Scotland. Throughout the week, Jacobs employees shared insight with students about relevant disciplines for teams to apply into their designs – and shed a light on Jacobs’ projects – including architecture for stages, transport planning, health and safety, community engagement plans and event marketing and promotion.

On Florida’s Emerald Coast, middle schoolers discovered their own knowledge gems during a STEM Education Day at the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority’s Central Water Reclamation Facility. This event – which featured interactive trivia, breakout discussions on virtual and augmented reality, water chemistry, pump assembly and even dynamic simulations and digital twins – is just one example from years of support that earned Jacobs the honor of Escambia County School District Career Academy Engineering Industry Partner of the Year in 2019.

Sustaining strong communities

Just as critical to our future as the next generation of STEM professionals, Jacobs also partners with organizations to promote lasting and life-sustaining infrastructure, working side by side with local communities to build, maintain and scale infrastructure and educational building projects such as:

  • Nine Jacobs women joined a team of 25 for a recent STEM Build expedition in Malawito empower the local community and enhance the aspirations of young people towards careers in STEM. With the new classroom block the team built at Rainbow Hope Secondary School, students now have access to resources and equipment to immerse themselves in STEM education.
  • During Jacobs’ Water For People employee giving campaign in 2018, we donated more than $250,000 to the non-profit organization, whose mission is to facilitate the development of safe water, improved sanitation and health and hygiene education in nine countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
  • Alongside Bridges to Prosperity, Jacobs employees have volunteered since 2014 to build footbridges for communities in Nicaragua, Rwanda, East Timor and other locations, providing safe passage across dangerous rivers to enable medical and economic access. This summer, Jacobs transportation engineer Erin James is participating in B2P’s first-ever Women’s Build in Uganda, volunteering to build a bridge in a community susceptible to river flooding for more than three months every year – ultimately connecting more than 1,700 individuals, including over 300 children, to a market, primary and secondary schools and medical centers.

Interested in joining Jacobs to  transform intangible ideas into intelligent solutions for a more connected, sustainable world? We’re hiring! Explore our available opportunities.

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