It’s the time of year when prospective college students graduating high school in 2020 are considering their options and choices for their next level of education.

College-shopping and the application process is an important and a life-defining time for these students, and so is their decision-making process on what career fields to consider.

That’s why Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s recent call for improvement and greater interest in the so-called STEM fields is timely.

Ivey was presented with a plan to improve STEM education across the state and create a workforce pipeline critical to filling the more than 850,000 STEM-related occupations that will be needed in the state by 2026, according to a statement from her office.

Alabama seeks to become a national leader in STEM fields such as aerospace, biotechnology, biomedicine, cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing. But companies struggle to fill those jobs with qualified candidates.

“Academically, Alabama’s students have fallen behind in math and science proficiency and significant educator shortages make it difficult to recruit, train and retain well qualified educators equipped in the methods of a modern STEM classroom,” Ivey said.

“This is why I am encouraged by the recommendations included in Alabama’s Roadmap to STEM Success, developed the Governor’s Advisory Council for Excellence in STEM (ACES),” she said.

The roadmap plan was developed by ACES, a group of 78 leaders from across the state representing a wide swath of STEM-related fields including science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Next steps for the roadmap involve sharing the recommendations with educational leaders and policy makers, with an eye toward implementation.

Ivey is correct in saying that the good job opportunities requiring STEM-related talent are available for the taking in Alabama, and state officials are correct in saying that to bring or create more of these jobs, we must have a qualified workforce.

It’s something worth a much closer look for these students about to make their big decisions about a college education.

Pursuing a STEM-related degree could be good for them, and good for the economy of Alabama.

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