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"Kids College" Aims to Close the Skills Gap in Iowa

Summer programs are helping Iowa middle schoolers become interested in STEM to close the state's skills gap. (DMACC)
Summer programs are helping Iowa middle schoolers become interested in STEM to close the state's skills gap. (DMACC)
May 16, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - Economic change has meant more jobs requiring higher levels of skill and education and according to the Iowa Department of Education, there aren't enough people to fill those jobs.

A new summer program for kids aims to get middle schoolers excited about STEM, which could close the "skills gap" and help them find jobs later in life.

Megan Patton is project coordinator for the Kids College program offered at several Des Moines Area Community College locations.

She says in order to grab their interest, students will be doing things not typically done in a classroom.

"They're going to be doing weather balloons; they're going to be launching weather balloons," says Patton. "Another one is animation so they'll actually be able to create a character and a film that they'll get to bring home and show their friends and family."

The kids will also be working with 3-D printers, mock crime-scene investigations and video game design.

A 2011 Iowa Department of Education report found students in many other states outperformed Iowa students in science and math.

Patton says even though DMACC's program is about keeping it interesting and fun for the kids, they're also working to strengthen those numbers and prepare them for the future.

"We are getting just bombarded with companies asking for our students," Patton says. "To keep these younger middle-school students engaged and thinking about STEM and about different career fields, that's just going to help our economy, you know, in the long run."

The Kids College camps are for students from 6th through 9th grades and start in early June, with registration through the end of this month.

Bob Kessler, Public News Service - IA