Today at the statehouse, Governor Brad Little proclaimed February 19th through February 22nd to be Engineer Week in Idaho.
This is critical because engineers fuel the future of Micron Technology, one of the largest private employers in the state. And now, two large donations are focused on getting more women into STEM fields.
Only about one-fourth of STEM jobs are filled by women, and STEM opportunities seem to be growing faster than we can keep up with here in Idaho.
To help create more interest, the Micron Foundation and the STEM Action Center made donations to the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization for a STEM-specific mentorship program.
"The world is going to get changed by artificial intelligence in monumental ways that we can't even imagine today. So the jobs of the future will absolutely be more and more technology centric," said Sanjay Mehrotra, President and CEO of Micron.
Idaho holds the record for the second fastest technology sector growth in the U.S., and unfilled STEM jobs are on the rise. The Idaho Department of Labor predicts as many as 36,000 STEM jobs will go unfilled over the next 5 years.
"We know, just from our experience with mentoring that our mentors have a significant impact on their littles. So a lot of our littles want to emulate their bigs, they want to follow in their footsteps," said Emily Johnson, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho.
Which is why the Southwest Idaho Big Brothers Big Sisters program is working to implement a STEM-specific mentorship program.
"We're doing matches with young girls in the elementary and junior high programs in order to spark their interest in STEM," said Linda Somerville, Corporate Vice President of Strategy and Operations at Micron.
Through the program, Big Brothers Big Sisters will pair young women with so called “big sisters” who are already in a STEM profession.
"Then it helps spark their interest in science and my hope is that they go on to be engineers,” said Somerville.
But almost always key for a great idea, is the financial backing.
"In order to do all these matches, you need to hire somebody, they need to hire somebody," said Somerville.
The Micron Foundation and the Idaho Stem Action Center teamed up to donate over $42,000, in order to get the program started in Southwest Idaho.