As we emerge from the global pandemic, most industries will require time, skilled workers, and innovation to rebuild from COVID-19’s global disruption. To move forward, we will need an influx of creative, highly trained, and innovative talent to reshape, realign, and reimagine a future where all people and industries can thrive.
Even before the pandemic, gaps in innovation affected our economy’s potential for future growth. According to the Department of Labor, more than 65% of today’s students will have careers that do not yet exist. We must introduce today’s young people to careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to address these gaps and emerging challenges that threaten our aging infrastructure.
The industries that build and maintain our infrastructure are most primed for this talent. Speedy, reliable transit of everything from essential products to communications has never been more critical.
Addressing these challenges requires immediate investment in building the next generation’s critical thinking, collaboration, and hands-on learning skills to further innovate in STEM fields – which the US education system cannot solve on its own.
That’s why industry leaders, including Amazon, Boeing, FedEx, Qualcomm, and The Walt Disney Company, are committing to providing workforce development opportunities from an early age through a global nonprofit robotics community, FIRST®, which inspires today’s students to become tomorrow’s problem-solvers.
Founded by inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST has fostered a love of science and technology in young people for over three decades. Through exciting mentor-based robotics programs, students in grades pre-K through 12 learn about teamwork and resiliency. Still, during the pandemic, students found new ways to put their smarts to work to support their families, friends, and communities.
After so much disruption, FIRST and its supporters challenge students to reimagine how our economy functions and what it will take to build an equitable and resilient future. This year, hundreds of thousands of students in more than 100 countries will work together to solve for opportunities in the transportation sector – a critical focus for interconnected global economies. Students will compete in transportation-themed, game-like robotics challenges that hone the skills they’ll need to be successful, no matter what career path they pursue.
As policymakers focus on solutions for aging infrastructure and businesses innovate to make transportation faster, more reliable, and sustainable, FIRST is stepping up to empower today’s young people. By focusing on timely real-world themes like transportation tied to United Nations Sustainable Development goals, FIRST shows students how everyone can be part of the solutions to complex, global problems.
“The future of work looks very different than it did 18 months ago, and our needs have only grown for workers with resilience, teamwork, critical thinking, and lifelong learning capabilities, not to mention flexible technology skills,” says Chris Rake, the interim president of FIRST.
“As students’ future employers, it is businesses’ collective responsibility to prepare all students for this new world of work,” he says. “We must proactively encourage those who were disproportionately impacted by remote learning yet have so much to offer our society. Whether in the classroom or after school, these programs can help meet students where they are and fulfill their needs in a fun, inclusive, hands-on environment.”
Innovation potential will also be unlocked by empowering young people to advance technology. For example, wireless functionality is critical for everything from how our technologies connect, compute, and communicate to how goods and people travel. The next generation of 5G technology will do everything from supercharging your phone to disrupting the driving experience as we know it, making cars as updatable as your smartphone.
FIRST teaches students from all backgrounds that they are never too young to start innovating, like this FIRST® LEGO® League team whose school pickup app, is now in use across three countries.
“Our transportation and infrastructure systems are being reimagined as the deployment of 5G advances at a rate in which we’ve never seen,” says Susie Armstrong, senior vice president of engineering at Qualcomm Incorporated.
“Future innovations in this next generation of technology will rely heavily on the need for students with real-world STEM skills, and our investments in programs like FIRST are just one of the ways we are committed to ensuring a competitive pipeline of engineering talent.”
With the right workforce preparedness from industry leaders, today’s students have the potential to invent the future across transportation and countless other industries worldwide. The demand for skilled talent has never been so urgent, and the resources exist to fuel the next generation’s love of STEM. With steady support and guidance, we can equip today’s students to be the inventors, leaders, and creators of tomorrow.
This post was created by FIRST with Insider Studios.
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