Gov. Ige announces statewide initiative to strengthen STEM education

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Gov. David Ige announced Friday a state-wide initiative to strengthen Hawaii’s innovation economy and workforce, and expand education and employment opportunities for state residents.

Funded with grants totaling $6.8 million from nonprofit USA Funds, the project aims to enhance and diversify Hawaii’s economy, prepare residents for high-paying jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, strengthen teaching and learning of STEM subjects, and address Hawaii’s “brain drain” of talent to the mainland.

USA Funds, which has worked with state government and higher education institutions in Hawaii since 1979, awarded the funds in keeping with its focus on promoting student success in college and career.

With nearly $2.2 million in funding from USA Funds, Project Lead The Way, a nonprofit that provides transformative learning experiences for K-12 students and teachers across all 50 states, will help at least 48 Hawaii high schools implement programs in computer science, engineering or biomedical science.

The initial group of high schools, which are being selected to participate in the project through a competitive process, will be announced later this month.

As part of the initiative, Project Lead The Way also will provide professional development support to teachers and work with local partners to ensure the materials and programs are culturally relevant.

An initial two-year grant of $4.6 million from USA Funds to the University of Hawaii will support a multi-faceted economic and workforce development initiative, including the following components:

  • Promoting government, industry and education collaboration to determine current and future STEM workforce needs.
  • Creating a continuous academic pathway in STEM fields through college.
  • Supporting economic development and high-quality job creation through just-in-time workforce development.
  • Improving information available to help students select the best path through education to STEM careers and help policymakers and educators better assess the outcomes of education and training programs.

In addition, the University of Hawaii will establish a STEM Center of Excellence, which will coordinate STEM-related activities across the state.

The program advances the Hawaii Innovation Initiative, a public-private partnership to build a thriving innovation economy in the state and create living-wage jobs, and the Hawaii Graduation Initiative, which aims to increase higher education opportunities and college completion, especially among Native Hawaiians and students from low-income households.

By 2017, Hawaii is projected to need 16,000 more workers with STEM skills each year, but the state currently ranks 47th among the states in the number of STEM-related degrees awarded per 100,000 residents.

For additional information about the initiative, visit

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