U.S. Navy Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) employees had the opportunity to receive vital Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) outreach training at the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) this November.
The workshop—facilitated by staff at the USNA’s STEM Center for Education and Outreach and sponsored by the DoD—provided tactics, resources, and tools for Navy STEM representatives to engage children outside of the traditional classroom setting. The day included hands-on learning activities and demonstrations by USNA STEM Center staff to connect educators to curriculum as well as develop a sense of community among attendees.
“In 2017 there were 2.4 million positions in the US workforce that went unfilled because there were not enough people with STEM degrees to fill them,” USNA STEM Center Director Joseph McGettigan told workshop attendees. “It is expected that in 2027 that number will increase by ten percent.”
The USNA STEM Center is primarily geared toward addressing the urgent national need for future generations to pursue careers in STEM. USNA faculty and midshipmen provide STEM outreach to local and national communities to help engage and influence students and to bolster curriculums nationwide.
Attracting top engineering and technical talent is key to sustaining and driving SSP’s critical sea-based strategic deterrence mission. Throughout Fiscal Year 24, SSP anticipates an increase of more than 18 percent in its STEM professional community. In order to meet this growth and workforce sustainment goal, SSP’s Human Resources Division plans to bolster recruitment efforts within STEM fields.
“Investment in STEM is an investment in our children, in our workforce, and in our future,” Caren Spahr said as she reflected on the workshop. Spahr is the co-lead for STEM outreach at SSP’s field site Strategic Weapons Facility, Atlantic (SWFLANT) in Kings Bay, Georgia.
Steering STEM initiatives is a collateral duty for Spahr, the continuous process improvement coordinator for SWFLANT. Augmenting the site’s STEM program, she explains, may add to her daily work but serves as a relief to teachers in the surrounding counties who don’t have the bandwidth or resources to include STEM activities in their classrooms. Spahr has a unique opportunity to represent the Navy, SWFLANT, and its mission to future generations of STEM professionals in the local community.
SWFLANT supports 35 schools across three counties. Spahr is the STEM Coordinator for the 15 schools in Camden County and a mentor for Camden Middle School's FABLAB. Spahr ensures SWFLANT mentors are assigned to robotics teams and maintains an open dialogue with county schools to ensure educators have opportunities to request and receive STEM materials. School mentors oversee and assist approximately 20 students in their STEM learning activities monthly.
“When a command can send people with materials and an activity that helps to support and enhance teaching objectives, it helps the teachers teach and it helps the students learn,” Spahr continued, “[but] it also educates the teachers and students on careers in the military and government.”
Not only are the students doing hands-on activities that provide a real-world application to what they are learning, those providing the training also make vital connections with the community.