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Actua’s Response to the Council of Canadian Academies Report on STEM Skills

April 30, 2015

The Council of Canadian Academies today launched their most recent report Some Assembly Required: STEM Skills and Canada’s Economic Productivity outlining Canada’s preparedness in meeting the future skill requirements for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Actua is featured in the report as an example of a “Promising STEM Education Initiatives”.  Actua Board member, Susan Holt, was one of the 11 experts on the panel and Actua CEO, Jennifer Flanagan, was one of the expert reviewers of the report. 

Fundamentally, the report underscored clearly what Actua and our network of 33 university and college based members have experienced over our 20 year history - that engaging youth early and often with transformational STEM experiences will position them with the resilience and flexibility they will need to succeed in a quickly evolving and hard-to-predict future labour market. Actua’s mission is to engage youth in transformational STEM experiences. By providing youth with experiences that expose them to current innovations in STEM while connecting them with inspiring role models, and giving them the opportunity to learn how to fail smart and adapt - they are learning how to solve real-world problems and they are transforming into the innovators of tomorrow. See below: How Actua Programs Build Essential Skills for ALL youth.

The panel concluded that early educational interventions are one of the best ways to ensure youth acquire fundamental STEM skills, which are essential for their active participation as citizens and for them to pursue future study, or careers in these fields. This provides strong evidence of the need to invest in national strategies, both within the formal school system and in informal learning environments, that engage youth in the transformational STEM experiences I described above that go beyond traditional hands-on science activities.

The report's findings also highlight the ever-mounting challenge that we still face in building the fundamental STEM skills of all Canadian youth, specifically those who remain under-represented in STEM fields. The report provides a clear call for investing in evidence-based models, like Actua’s, that engage underserved youth in building these fundamental STEM skills. With women still making up less than 25% of the STEM workforce in Canada and graduation rates of Aboriginal people still significantly below national average, this investment needs to be significant and timely.

We wish to congratulate David Dodge, all members of the panel, and the Council of Canadian Academies on convening a deeply thoughtful and comprehensive report on a topic that is essential to Canada’s future economic prosperity.  Actua looks forward to collaborating with our university and college based network of members, partners and stakeholders to set immediate priorities for action. 

How Actua Programs Build Essential Skills for ALL youth

Actua annually engages 225,000 youth in 500 communities nationwide in over 1,000,000 face-to-face hours of transformational STEM outreach programming. The key elements of our model include:

Network Members at Universities and Colleges - Actua’s network members annually engage 850 undergraduate students in STEM studies as instructors. These dynamic young people are the front line of delivery for our programs and serve as effective role models who leverage the post-secondary institute capacity to connect youth to current research and current innovations in STEM.

Influencing the Influencers - Actua provides resources, programs and support to equip parents, teachers, and other community leaders to support them in ensuring youth are encouraged to achieve their potential and build essential STEM skills for their future career path.

Industry Partnerships - Actua’s strong positive relations with our industry partners help shape the innovative content youth are exposed to and provide youth with exposure to real-life STEM professionals who engage youth as mentors. Leading companies like GE, Google and Suncor enable us to showcase current innovations to youth.

Codemakers - a groundbreaking new initiative that will instill among 100,000 young Canadians the essential computer science and digital literacy skills they will need for success in ANY career.

Actua in the North - celebrating over ten years of strong positive community relationships with 30+ northern communities across all three territories, Actua annually engages over 5,000 Aboriginal and Inuit youth in locally and culturally relevant STEM experiences that connect them with northern research and development activities and related career opportunities.

Barrier-Breaking STEM education Programs - Actua has three national programs aimed at meeting the unique needs and interests of three target youth populations. These models have been developed over the past 20 years and have demonstrated significant success.

Evidence-Based Models of Success - All of Actua’s program models stem from evidence- based research and past independent evaluations clearly indicate we are achieving our intended objectives and outcomes.