A 2015 National Science Foundation report states that developing a strong Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, capable workforce will ensure continued U.S. competitiveness and prosperity. This skill set is crucial for research and development and creating and adopting innovations in ever-increasingly technologically demanding jobs.
Some estimates indicate there won‘t be enough people to fill certain STEM-related jobs in the future. That’s especially the case in health care, where there’s expected to be a shortage of physicians, nurses and other clinicians over the next decade.
A 2011 study in the Journal of Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics states that students are more likely to seek STEM-related careers if they are introduced at an early age. Jump Simulation, a part of OSF Innovation, is aiming to cultivate this talent by offering programming it hopes will ignite an early passion for STEM.
Small Beginnings, Large Potential
Jump Simulation partnered with St. Jude Catholic School in Peoria starting in 2015 to pilot introducing different fields of engineering to middle school students across a ten-week period. The idea was to expose young minds early and demonstrate how engineering can solve real-world problems.
The successful implementation of this project, along with several middle and high school camps that have taken place at Jump, prompted us to expand this programming to the entire student community.
Jump Sim launched two initiatives in 2017, STEM Saturdays and Summer STEM Camp, that aim to increase awareness and interest in health care-related careers. Both programs are designed to give 6th through 12th grade students hands-on experiences in anatomy and physiology, nursing and emergency medical services, technology and design and engineering.
The hands-on nature of our STEM programming allows participants to dissect different parts of animal anatomy, respond to emergencies using high-fidelity manikins, draw a heart and even walk away receiving CPR certification.
We have been overwhelmed by the positive response of the community. More than 180 students signed up for the STEM Saturday programming and 100 middle and high school students are attending the STEM Summer Camps.
Not only have we filled nearly all of the seats in these courses, but kids are enjoying the programming so much that they are returning for additional sessions. It is our intention for our STEM programming to evolve and allow us to offer even more opportunities for students. We hope to be able to provide scholarships in the future so that even more kids to attend.
Pipeline of New and Gifted Mission Partners
If we, at OSF HealthCare can promote all that STEM has to offer in the health care industry and address roadblocks for those interested in STEM careers, we have the potential to have a positive impact on clinician shortages in the future. Beyond that, we have an opportunity to nurture local talent in hopes of keeping them in the region, leading to improved health care access in our communities.