K-State Olathe Using K-12 Outreach as a Pipeline for Future Industry Talent, Workforce Development

The Mid-America Regional Council reports that the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with bachelor's degrees in either science, technology, engineering or mathematics — the STEM fields — has grown by 20 percent in Kansas City since 2000. Nevertheless, the region still trails Oklahoma City, Denver, St. Louis and other peers in having a robust STEM workforce.

Meanwhile, Greater Kansas City is entering a talent shortage as more baby boomers retire and too few highly skilled employees enter the workforce to replace that exiting talent. Kansas and Missouri middle and high school students also score roughly 50 percent below the national averages in biology and calculus on standardized tests, which indicate college preparedness.

In keeping with the Johnson County Education Research Triangle’s mission, K-State Olathe is reaching out to the tens of thousands of K-12 students living in the area to address the region’s long-term workforce development needs.

In 2016, K-State Olathe interacted with more than 8,000 K-12 students through STEM-related events and programs that featured hands-on activities that introduced kids to skills and activities required in STEM professions.

This summer, the campus will again offer the One Health Summer Online Course to high school juniors and seniors. In 2016, the course introduced 33 students to the One Health Initiative, which explores how humans, animals and the environment affect each other.

For the past three years, K-State Olathe has hosted Microsoft DigiGirlz High. The event addresses the gender gap in engineering and computer science that begins to form with girls in middle and high school. Each year, nearly 200 local girls participate in hands-on activities and meet women in STEM professions.

All of these efforts at K-State Olathe are getting the area’s young minds interested in and excited about STEM careers at an early age to lay the groundwork for a robust workforce pipeline.

More about K-State Olathe's K-12 programs is available at olathe.k-state.edu/community/k-12/.