KAYENTA, Utah — The Hill Air Force Base Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Outreach Program recently teamed with Junior Achievement of Utah at the San Juan Career Fair at Monument Valley in southeastern Utah.
The annual two-day event, held at Monument Valley and Whitehorse High Schools, provides rural students an eye-opening career expo with a wide variety of options showing possibilities for their future they may never have imagined.
Lance Butler, STEM Coordinator with the Ogden Air Logistics Center, said the purpose for Hill engineers and computer scientists participating in this event was to let the students know they can achieve anything.
“We love this event because we want to bring hope and opportunity to these kids,” Butler said. “Too many of them would never see beyond their current circumstances without this type of event. We want their eyes and minds to be enlightened and opened to a world of new ideas and opportunities.”
The Hill volunteers presented a fun electricity demonstration and taught some basic coding skills, giving the students an idea of the important work they could do if they chose an Air Force career.
“We hope being at this event encourages students to focus on STEM-related subjects in school and puts them on a path to work in a STEM-related career at Hill Air Force Base,” Butler said. “This will improve our workforce and bring more diversity to those who support the warfighter.”
According to Alison Sturgeon, STEM outreach program manager, Hill needs to hire more than 300 civilian engineers and computer scientists each year, just to keep up with the immediate demand.
This can be a significant challenge, given the current trends in STEM career sectors, where more than 3 million jobs remain open in the Unites States.
One way Hill is proactively combating this trend is through Hill’s STEM Outreach Program, participating in events like the San Juan Career Fair. This has become an important tool, and is a big piece of the civilian workforce puzzle, Sturgeon said.
Studies show the need to spark interest in students at a young age, in order to develop an attraction to related fields of study and the pursuit of a STEM career path.
Sturgeon said young people need increased exposure to STEM role models in order to aspire to be like adults currently working in these career fields. Most students know doctors, nurses, mechanics and teachers, but they rarely know an engineer or computer scientist.
Having civilian Air Force scientists and engineers volunteering and mentoring students in STEM activities can go a long way to inform and inspire future STEM professionals.
“The Air Force mission can only be met if the right people, with the right skills, are available now and in the future,” Sturgeon said.