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Amidst a pandemic, Marla Wilson, Executive Director of the STEM Careers Coalition, works to feature the different jobs of critical professionals through a series of videos motivating students to enter the field

By Ricardo Sánchez Silva, @RicardoLoDice, NAHP Media Correspondent

In the midst of the pandemic the COVID-19 Solution Seekers platform was created by STEM Careers Coalition upon learning about professionals in the field with useful skills and tools that could meet the needs of the population in a global crisis like the one the world is currently experiencing.  The STEM Careers Coalition is the first-of-its-kind national STEM initiative powered by corporate leaders and anchored in schools by Discovery Education. Discovery Education is the global leader in standards-aligned digital curriculum resources and professional learning for K-12 classrooms.

And so it happened, without wasting a moment’s time, production began in March 2020, with the goal of sharing the stories of key individuals that would motivate students and teachers on the importance of STEM careers and how they solve problems applicable to the world today.

“With the rapid spread of COVID-19 effecting nearly every aspect of life, many inspiring people, communities, companies, and governments have quickly mobilized to fight the spread of the coronavirus. COVID-19 Solutions Seekers highlights a series of diverse individuals working in a variety of industries, who are all harnessing their STEM skills (science, technology, engineering, and math) to help contribute to this urgent global effort”, reads the text that can be found on their website, featuring the contents of short videos for free. 

The Organization Behind the Effort

“We are an educational technology company that provides critical resources to students and educators around the world. The STEM educational resources element isn’t a new one, however, the coalition model was built because on our team of corporate educational partners, we’ve set up a number of partnerships with leading corporate powerhouses and have found that many of them have similar goals when it comes to supporting education,” said Marla Wilson, Executive Director of the STEM Careers Coalition.

Discovery Education decided to join forces by bringing these companies together in a “very effective” coalition, the Executive Director explained, intending to find solutions to common problems, while also offering support to incentivize a future labor force that will fill the different roles in these organizations, especially within STEM fields. A diversity of people from different backgrounds are included to change the narrative and appearance of who’s actually working in the field,” she added. 

Wilson shared that their goal is to create attractive and innovative content appealing to students and teachers alike, from all educational levels, including elementary, middle school, and high school. For this reason, their focus is on “those things that capture their attention, that truly resonate with them, and that includes content they will consider as fun, interesting, and attractive that motivates them to jump into the platform of products to find resources that meet their interests, making sure they remain sensitive to cultural backgrounds, or to the issues connecting with students of color or girls, and with students from other nations. This helps to ensure there’s cultural sensitivity in the way we create content. We are quite aware of these things and many others, it really becomes our effort to connect and drive commitment among students and educators,” she said.    

Scope of the Initiative for the COVID 19 Response

When the pandemic broke out, there were several projects on the table, and this helped the organization make a swift turn towards the virus, proactively, by following STEM professionals who were fully involved with solving the crisis that at the time, was barely starting. It is in fact, how COVID-19 Solutions Seekers was born.

“We reach out directly to educators. Approximately 4.5 million educators worldwide use our services, viewing STEM Careers Coalition content almost every day and engaging with it. We connect with them on our no-cost website and in the Discovery Education K-12 learning platform,” said Wilson.

This is how they guarantee reaching people in different realms and organizing events with the same common objective.

Motivation and Role Models

For the video series, alignment with the different represented industries in the coalition was key, from process and aviation engineers to biopharmaceutical specialists.

“Being able to show the breadth of those professions and the different industries is precisely why we work so hard, so that students understand that when it comes to STEM, there’s a very wide range,” Wilson said. 

Within the oil and gas industry, when discussing STEM professionals, the initiative outlines how they are collaborating to achieve sustainability goals. The variety within sectors is great and they may be quite different from one another, yet they are united by a common element: these science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professionals. “We just want students to see STEM within them, we don’t want them to feel intimidated or feel that they lack talent or intellect. Sometimes, it is just a matter of not having the right resources connecting them to a wider vision,” Wilson concluded.