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Philadelphia’s success in the global economy will be influenced by our ability to compete in STEM-based industries in the global economy. This is not just what we think of has “high tech” jobs since technology and math are in practically everything we do. STEM is in everything from accounting to advanced manufacturing to banking to pharma’s to healthcare. Nationwide, by 2018 there will be 1.2 million STEM jobs available without qualified applicants to fill them. This creates an opportunity for Philadelphia if we can build a pipeline of people who can fill these positions. Currently, minorities, people from low income households and women are a significant part of our population yet are particularly under-represented in these careers.

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How can we change this? The American Journal of Community Psychology recently published research that indicates that many of minority and low income youth and girls do not know that a career in a STEM position is possible for them because they do not know anyone in these fields. It goes on to report that hands-on mentoring from STEM professionals leads to youth knowing about these options but also significantly increasing their grades and school attendance and self-worth. STEM mentorship helps show adolescents they can have fulfilling, loving relationships with adults and themselves, something that isn’t always evident. In response, a new national nonprofit developed by the Clinton Global Initiative project called US2020 has established  a competition to award winning cities grants and resources aimed to match mentors with students at youth-serving nonprofits.  Philadelphia is now a finalist in this first-ever competition. We made the first cut from 52 entrants down to around 12, so our chances are good. Selected cities will receive grant funds, staffing and technical support to build a mentoring program that can complement other STEM initiatives.

Fairmount Ventures is proud to have helped facilitate a complex process in designing and preparing Philadelphia’s application.  Led by the Mayor’s Office of Education and the Office of Grants, participating organizations included Philadelphia Youth Network, the School District of Philadelphia the Philadelphia Education Fund, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Center for Schools & Communities, Drexel University, Dow Chemical Company, The Franklin Institute, the Free Library of Philadelphia, GSK, iPraxis, the Out of School Time Resource Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the Out-of-School Time Systems of Systems, Penn State Abington,and Spark Philadelphia.

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