Ohio schools are deploying innovative extracurricular STEM programs to help students develop workplace skills for the 21st century — and beyond.

Like clockwork, it seems as though every week there’s a new article published by an economist, a researcher, or a business magnate declaring that robots are coming for our jobs. Sometimes with apocalyptic undertones, others with a glimmer of hope stapled to the footnotes, the most optimistic voices tend to focus on how automation can bring improvements and benefits to human workforces — albeit small ones.

But while much attention is being paid to the jobs that robots will do, relatively little is spent on the human beings who will create and program these robots. In the state of Ohio, career and technical centers are preparing their students for a more automated economy with classes in robotics. Moreover, STEM programs at public, career, and technical high schools across the state of Ohio are helping students develop the skills required to succeed in workplaces of the future.

The New Industrial Economy

While the impact of automation has been felt across all sectors of the economy, its most significant consequences have been felt in the automotive, electronics, and metal/machinery industry segments, where a disproportionately large 70% of the world’s robots are deployed.

Manufacturing is the single-largest sector of Ohio’s economy, accounting for nearly 20% of its economic output, so it’s no surprise that the state’s labor force has been hit particularly hard by automation. Since 1994, Ohio has endured a net loss of one out of every three manufacturing jobs — over 300,000 in total.

And this impact is certain to grow. Annual shipments of industrial robots to North America increased over 16% to 48,000 units in 2017. By 2020, shipments are projected to exceed 73,000 units — a 92% increase over the five-year period between 2015 and 2020.

A New Curriculum

But rather than accepting job loss as inevitable, schools across Ohio are helping students navigate this economic sea change. The state is funding programs geared toward giving students the experience and the skills needed to thrive in a job market transformed by robotics.

Girard High School is one such school. With courses covering everything from 3D printing to drones to engineering principles, Girard has made STEM a priority in recent years, and they’ve used robotics to get kids interested. Girard City Schools Superintendent Joe Jeswald brought robotics to Girard years ago as a teacher, and the program has blossomed ever since. Educator Ashraf Hadi contends that “Before robotics, there was no real STEM program” at Girard.

Girard’s first foray into robotics education involved the FIRST Robotics Competition. A 501(c)(3), FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) aims “to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators,” with regional and national robotics competitions as the vehicle. Competing against teams from other high schools across the state, the RoboCats placed second and qualified for the world championship, later held in Detroit.

The results of the program speak for themselves: students who participate in FIRST are more than twice as likely to enroll in an engineering course as freshman in college, and over 75% go on to work in STEM as professionals or as students.

Every Penny to Which Your Robots Are Entitled

Whether students are attending curricular courses or extracurricular programs like those affiliated with the FIRST Robotics Competition, districts are required to track the hours a student spends in all facilities, monitor attendance, and report academic performance. It’s important that districts report data correctly in order to support programs like the ones currently preparing Ohio kids for a rapidly changing job market.

Government funding is determined in part by the percentage of time that students spend in extracurricular and intracurricular programs. If districts report fewer hours than they should, they get less funding than they really need. If they report more hours than they should, they could be audited by the state Department of Education, and administrators could face serious professional consequences.

So how can districts make sure they’re accurately reporting how much time their students are spending on extracurricular programs vs. their normal curriculum?

That’s where the Percent of Time Module for Vinson’s CheckPoint EMIS platform comes in. Districts can use it to track where students spend time throughout the day, check the data for any mistakes, and find the person responsible for correcting them.

CheckPoint delivers more precise reporting to stakeholders throughout the EMIS process, and lets Treasurers and Superintendents rest easy knowing the record sets they submit will be both accurate and compliant with Ohio law.

Invest in CheckPoint and put your EMIS worries to rest and get the funding you need to prepare students for the new industrial economy.