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Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-17) marked Pi Day by calling for stronger STEM education initiatives, which would prepare 21st century students for the workforce and attract leading technology businesses to the state.
Chivukula, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Congress in the 12th District primary race, said better science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs are vital for New Jersey to remain competitive in a rapidly shifting global economy. Like Congressman Rush Holt has been an advocate for science on the federal level, Chivukula has been outspoken on STEM issues here in New Jersey.
“The landscape of our workforce is changing,” said the professional engineer and chair of the General Assembly’s Telecommunications and Utilities Committee. “Our students must be prepared for the careers that await them, whether it be a molecular biologist researching the cure for a disease or a computer scientist developing the latest software.”
One in five jobs in the U.S. requires in-depth knowledge of at least one of the four STEM disciplines, according to data from 2011, Chivukula said.
Meanwhile, only one-tenth of New Jersey high schools teach computer science. “This number of public schools that have computer science curriculums has to increase in order for New Jersey to compete,” Chivukula said. “Additionally, we need to tear down the barriers to entry for under-represented groups into STEM.” the Assemblyman added. Women and minorities are underrepresented and often underpaid in the STEM fields.
Chivukula also stressed that New Jersey must also be an attractive location for the manufacturing industry, which would create much-needed jobs for its residents as well as attract new investment to the State. “Not all STEM jobs openings will be for traditional scientists, engineers and computer scientists either.” the Assemblyman stressed, “We have to recognize that advanced manufacturing jobs are going to require knowledge of the sciences and math. We can build educational programs that will help folks get the training they need to get into these jobs at a lower cost through two-year programs in conjunction with community colleges.”
Chivukula has been a strong voice for STEM education policy in the Assembly, and remains optimistic about achieving increased funding and implementation of STEM programs.
“The United States will maintain its global leadership so long as we make sure our students are not left behind,” he said. “The future of our children and our economy depend on the actions we take today.”
Chivukula seeks to fill the seat of U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12) who announced last month he would step down when his current term expires early next year. The Twelfth Congressional District includes parts of Middlesex, Mercer, Somerset and Union counties."
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