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LABS2 is based at the STEM Action Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The STEM Action Center promotes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education through identifying and supporting best practices and the leveraging of resources across education, industry, government, and community partners to support economic prosperity. 

Currently, many fields of Career and Technical Education (CTE) align with fast growing high-tech and STEM-related industries, such as computing, cybersecurity, advanced composites and materials, and engineering. CTE also supports greater understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) content and development of STEM competencies for a broad range of students. Access to careers in high demand CTE areas is especially important for students in rural areas and in poverty. Building a strong talent pool in rural areas could increase the economic growth of these communities. Unfortunately, overall enrollments are low in many CTE programs that educate students for high demand technical career pathways (e.g., computer science and information technology). Although they are limited in scope, studies suggest that the low enrollment may result from student misperceptions that make pursuing CTE programs undesirable. 

This project will:

  1. use surveys and regional workshops to identify misperceptions and biases within a comprehensive group of stakeholders;
  2. collect and analyze information to develop a new CTE communication and outreach strategy;
  3. implement the new communication and outreach strategy; and
  4. create an analytics platform to regularly evaluate and assess the effectiveness of this implementation.

The proposed activities could increase knowledge about challenges that are common across all states, as well as issues that may be unique to Utah. The resulting implementation plan has the potential to replace misperceptions about CTE with more realistic perceptions about the high value of CTE for specific target audiences. The ability to assess whether the new communication strategy changes behavior, including decision making by stakeholders, may be relevant for developing effective communication and outreach strategies for communicating the overall value of STEM.

The National Science Foundation's Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program has been funding innovation at two-year colleges for over twenty years. With a focus on the education of technicians for the high-technology fields that drive our nation's economy, and strong partnerships between academic institutions and industry, ATE promotes improvement in the education of science and engineering technicians at the undergraduate and secondary school levels.

To learn more about ATE, please visit the NSF ATE program home page.