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The future is one that will be increasingly dependent on STEM, making it critical that we engage children and youth today.Bulat Silvia/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Let’s Talk Science and the Royal Society of Canada have partnered to provide Globe and Mail readers with relevant coverage about issues that affect us all – from education to the impact of leading-edge scientific discoveries.

Colleen Babenko is the Director of Marketing at Let’s Talk Science.

The world we live in is rapidly changing and there is a high demand for STEM skills in multiple disciplines to keep pace with it. STEM education motivates and inspires youth to generate new technologies, proactively prepare for real-world challenges, and encourages collaboration and communication among groups to establish global, sustainable solutions.

Despite popular opinion, STEM isn’t a group of subjects reserved only for students who excel at math or science, or dream of being a doctor, architect, or researcher. It doesn’t discriminate against students like I was, who in elementary school would rather be writing the next great short story or designing the title page for my science project rather than running experiments to see what makes volcanoes erupt.

In high school, I self-selected out of traditional STEM classes because I couldn’t make the connections to my interests and abilities. However, fast forward a few years working in what has traditionally been considered a non-STEM related role, and I have come to realize just how relevant STEM knowledge has been for my own success at work.

As a Marketer, I’m constantly leveraging STEM generated data. I use math to analyze information to look for patterns, find connections and make decisions. Understanding technology enables me to share stories and develop creative campaigns that resonate with the right audience, in the right way, at the right time.

STEM education encourages all students to imagine the impossible and push boundaries

I’ve learned that knowledge of STEM-based competencies is more than an acronym for four areas of study - science, technology, engineering and math. It is in fact broad and includes a diverse set of skills needed for solving problems, innovating, and communicating. STEM-based learning fosters creativity, collaboration, and out of the box thinking. And most importantly, it encourages youth to be curious learners, ask questions, and seek solutions for real-world challenges regardless of their interest.

Due to its foundation of inquiry-based learning and problem solving, STEM education encourages all students to imagine the impossible and push boundaries. It motivates and inspires youth to generate new ideas, explore, discover, and embrace mistakes in a safe environment - regardless of their passion.

STEM awareness benefits all youth as most fields have some connection to science and technology: from practical or technical skills like using a piece of machinery to digital literacy like I encounter daily, to advanced skills that enable us to take risks; invent new technologies, and create solutions for sustainable development. Simply put, it provides youth in Canada with the skills they need to grow into our future job and wealth creators who are prepared to tackle the most pressing issues facing our planet.

Investments in STEM education will pay dividends for generations

Engaging youth in STEM education from early years through high school that is accessible, diverse and inclusive will help them to develop skills needed to explore solutions and navigate the challenges of rapid change and disruptive technologies.

Thinking back to those days when I actively avoided STEM, it’s ironic that I am now part of a national team that is committed to inspiring youth with learning opportunities that unleash and develop their creative genius and critical thinking skills - in all kids.

But most importantly, daily, I’m reminded that STEM education is for everyone - math does relate to marketing as does digital literacy, experimenting, problem solving, and collaboration.

Fortunately today’s youth have access to an amazing variety of programming and resources - both in the classroom and virtually. They can connect their passions and interests with projects, activities, and role models much earlier than I was able to, and suddenly subjects become personally relevant. The student who is interested in food security and food distribution can quickly and easily research agricultural practices around the world and innovation in food production - maybe even learning how to start their own urban garden. Or the teen who is passionate about fashion but also about the impact of clothing production on the environment who can learn about climate science to understand how they can make better clothing choices through classroom projects and virtual exploration. Relevant, engaging learning opportunities such as these span different subject areas, spark curiosity and encourage collaboration while broadening the student’s awareness of the value and impact of STEM education.

Youth are facing a world that will be shaped by challenge and opportunity - and STEM skills will drive the innovation needed to thrive. For future marketers, doctors, skilled trades and in fact almost every profession, the future is one that will be increasingly dependent on STEM making it critical that we engage children and youth today.

To find out how Let’s Talk Science programs and resources can engage children and youth across Canada in and out of the classroom, visit Let’s Talk Science.