I am STEM: The Northeast Ohio STEM Ecosystem introduces local students to leaders and careers in STEM fields

A group of young girls in a science lab sit in front of a beaker doing an experiment

Technology and science are changing the way we work, and the rising demand for people with STEM skills – science, technology, engineering and math – is only expected to continue. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has referred to STEM careers as “tomorrow’s jobs,” projecting that employment in STEM fields will grow nearly twice as fast as other occupations over the next decade. STEM careers also pay better than other sectors – median earnings in science and engineering occupations are more than double the median earnings of the total U.S. workforce. In order for our country to compete globally, we need more students today pursuing skills and knowledge in STEM fields for the jobs of tomorrow. While this is a national concern, the work to engage students must happen locally.

Launched in 2014, the Northeast Ohio STEM Ecosystem (NeoSTEM) seeks to improve meaningful STEM learning opportunities for all students in the Northeast Ohio region. Part of the national STEM Learning Ecosystem Community of Practice, The NeoSTEM Ecosystem is a collaborative network comprised of many Northeast Ohio organizations that hold regular meetings to learn and share information about community needs and develop solutions to meet those needs. Learn more about their work and how you can get involved here.

Earlier this year, NeoSTEM launched the “I am STEM” poster campaign to introduce local students to STEM careers. Through interviews with a number of local STEM professionals across industries and sectors, the poster campaign is showing students the wide range of STEM career options available to them and helping them see real people who are working in those fields.

For female, Black, and Hispanic or Latinx students, it can be harder to find role models in STEM careers who look like them because, according to the NSF, the STEM workforce is 89% white and 72% male. The “I am STEM” poster campaign, which is now on display in schools across the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, where more than 64% of students are Black and nearly 17% are Hispanic/Latinx, focuses on STEM professionals who are women and people of color. As the saying goes, “to be it, you must see it.”

Cleveland Foundation Chief of Digital Innovation and Chief Information Officer Leon Wilson is among the local leaders featured in the “I am STEM” poster campaign. In his interview, he reflects on his experience as a student pursuing a career in STEM and talks about what STEM means to him personally. Leon’s advice to students today? Think about what you’re interested in, don’t be afraid to pivot, and be sure to seek out a support network. “As a person of color, you’re going to struggle with sometimes being the only person in the room in those particular fields. Seek a social network, seek a support network.” You can listen to Leon’s full interview below. Learn more about the “I Am STEM” poster campaign and meet the other local leaders who were interviewed here.