RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today signed Executive Order Thirty-Six, establishing the Virginia Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education Commission. The Commission will develop a State STEM plan to create a unified statewide vision and dynamic set of shared goals to strategically inform how we prepare Virginia’s students for the STEM jobs of the future. The Governor and First Lady made the announcement together in the Forge Makerspace at the Science Museum of Virginia, and then participated in a STEM-related project alongside kids from the Museum’s Lunar Lab Summer Camp.
“As a pediatric neurologist, I recognize the importance of having a strong STEM background, and have made enhancing the Commonwealth’s STEM education a top priority of mine since day one,” said Governor Northam. “Our ability to remain one of the best states for education, innovation, and business depends upon how well we prepare our next generation for 21st century jobs. With its focus on addressing the evolving workforce needs and the persistent disparities in our education system, this Commission will play a key role in ensuring we give all our students an opportunity to succeed in STEM-related fields.”
First Lady of Virginia Pamela Northam will chair the Commission. The remaining members will include a wide range of state and local stakeholders, including representatives of early childhood, K-12, post-secondary, out-of-school, informal, and environmental education programs, as well as workforce development, business, and industry partners from every region of Virginia.
“Fifty years ago this week, the United States did the impossible and sent a man to the moon,” said First Lady Northam. “This groundbreaking accomplishment was made possible by pioneering women in STEM right here in Virginia. We want to ensure the Commonwealth has a diverse and robust STEM workforce for the next 50 years and beyond.”
The Virginia STEM Education Commission will seek to address the educational inequities which often limit access to advanced courses in STEM disciplines, credentials, and work-based learning for many of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable and underrepresented students. In doing so, the Commission will support state efforts to close the achievement opportunity gaps in STEM-related fields, meet the growing economic demand for STEM-prepared employees, and help Virginia maintain its recognition as the best state for business.
“We must ensure equitable opportunities and access for every Virginian to become a vital part of a robust STEM ecosystem, no matter their race, zip code, socioeconomic status, or gender,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “With the establishment of this Commission, we are reaffirming our commitment to improve our STEM ecosystem so that it is vibrant, healthy, and representative of all people in our Commonwealth.”
The Commission will also encourage collaboration among government and non-government entities on collective goals to support efforts to track state data and outcome metrics, reshape future curriculum and course design, and inform state and local policy. Additionally, the Commission will evaluate and recommend ways to optimize and align public-private partnerships and local, state, and federal resources to enhance programs and services for Virginia’s children and their families, particularly those at higher risk.
“As the number of STEM-related jobs continues to grow, this Commission will help ensure that our students are gaining the skills they need to excel,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “By strengthening our STEM education, we are enhancing opportunities for students to enter pathways to high-demand jobs here in the Commonwealth.”
The Commission will issue a written report with its findings and recommendations no later than July 1, 2020.
The full text of Executive Order Thirty-Six can be found here.
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