Careers in science and technology are some of the fastest growing. But many of these industries are facing serious shortages of qualified workers. Thankfully for Arizona businesses, SciTech Institute is pioneering ways to get more youth interested in these fields.

Created as a way to get more kids engaged, the Chief Science Officers Program has been around for five years. Youth are invited to a summer leadership institute, where they create a customized action plan aimed at impacting STEM learning. Some form school clubs or engage guest speakers, while others find ways to teach peers or build a maker lab. It’s all up to them.

Throughout the course of the year, the CSOs work on their project with the help of a campus advisor. They also participate in cabinet meetings, where CSOs come together to share successes, troubleshoot solutions and expand their network.

It’s a truly unique leadership opportunity for students who want to make a difference. And it was so popular in Arizona, that there are now CSOs as far away as Oregon, Texas, and even Kenya. And participants have responded so well that the SciTech Institute created a leadership council. This is a student-led opportunity to teach their peers and prepare the next group of CSOs.

In Arizona alone, there were 373 CSOs in the most recent school year, across 160 schools. With each of these CSOs touching an average 150 people each, their impact is hard to overstate. And each of the participants is gaining so many critical life skills; from how to fail to how to set goals. They’re exploring how to lead and how to talk to new people, while being empowered to make a difference in their community. These soft skills are so vital to future employment opportunities, and even as students pursue academic success. With 13 percent of Arizona youth currently not enrolled in school, or working, the Arizona Education Progress Meter has set a goal to drive this down to 7 percent by 2030 and programs like this one are playing a big role.

Funded through a National Science Foundation grant, the CSO Program is gaining national recognition for its success. Since its 2015 inception, the number of CSOs has increased by 422%, and from one state to five. Of those attending STEM events previously, 64% said the event was better than and 31% said it was the same as other events they had attended. STEM professionals who have interacted with CSOs have also commented on the program’s transformative potential. And the program is engaging with a wide range of audiences: half are female, and minorities are well-represented.

Retrieved From: Greene, K. (n.d.). Chief Science Officers Program encourages youth to pursue STEM fields. Retrieved September 30, 2019, from

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