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As Hawai'i's economy becomes increasingly focused on high-growth technology-driven occupations, the demand for employees with high skills in science and math continues to grow. Hawai'i is not alone in its desire for more graduates from STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEM fields are growing worldwide, providing lucrative jobs and contributing to economic growth. These occupations include professionals such as computer engineers, mathematicians, software designers, and engineers and technicians in life and physical sciences. In the U.S., it is predicted that at least 8 million of the jobs available in 2018 will be in the STEM professions, of which 50 percent will be entirely new occupations. That is why U.S. President Barack Obama and many policymakers believe that the key to America's future prosperity is STEM education.

To support this national initiative to increase STEM graduates, the University has initiated a multi-prong attack to recruit and retain students majoring in STEM disciplines. At the University of Hawai'i Community Colleges, we are maximizing our assets to improve STEM programs, and to increase STEM skills in students and workers through various approaches in curriculum development and delivery.

Educational pathways in engineering, as well as life and physical sciences have been developed at the community colleges, so students can transfer easily to baccalaureate programs within our UH system. For example, Kapi'olani Community College and Maui College offer an Associate of Science degree in natural science (ASNS), which provides a clear, explicit and coherent pathway for students intending to transfer into STEM majors at baccalaureate institutions. Other campuses are in the process to also offer ASNS degree for easier transfer to engineering and life sciences programs at UH Manoa, West O'ahu and Hilo. Maui College also offers three bachelor degrees in applied business and information technology (ABIT), engineering technology (BAS ENGT) and sustainable science management (SSM).

The community colleges have also initiated summer bridge programs that introduce high school students to STEM fields, such as Kapi'olani CC's STEM Summer Bridge Program and Windward CC's Pacific Center for Environmental Studies (PaCES) summer program. Other campuses have also initiated outreach programs to introduce students to STEM fields, such as Maui College's Hawai'i STEM Conference and Kapi'olani Community College's STEM Internship Expo.