ExxonMobil Got It Right
ExxonMobil got it right - and you have no idea how it pains me to say that.
This is a company that has been less than stellar in the discussion of climate change and has a checkered past on environmental issues, as Steve Coll recounts in a recent issue of The New Yorker.
But where the company got it right was starting a campaign five years ago, calling for deeper investment in science education through The National Math and Science Initiative.
ExxonMobil put up $125 million to be the founding sponsor of an effort to expand and improve the teaching of science, match, technology and engineering through the United States.
The goal of the program is to provide high-quality professional development for middle school and high school math and science teachers and to recruit more of them. Since its inception, the campaign has attracted contributions from several dozen other major foundations and companies, leading to the training of more than 8,000 advanced placement and pre-advanced placement teachers around the country, according to the program’s website.
These are important advances for the country. Despite the nation’s slow economic recovery, high-tech job vacancies often go wanting – or filled by applicants from other countries – because the U.S. is not producing enough qualified college graduates to keep America on the scientific cutting edge of the global economy.
Say what you will about ExxonMobil as a steward of the environment. But as the founder of a plan to improve science and math education, it is sending the right message: As a country, we need to do more to push the envelop of research, education and innovation, and America’s businesses can play a crucial role, supporting young people who will become their employees.
ExxonMobil and its partners in this effort, including such companies as AT&T, Boeing and IBM, have recognized the value of a well-schooled population, even in subjects beyond math and science.
Educated young people become the scientists, entrepreneurs and thought leaders of the future, many of them as corporate executives.
But the need for strong math, science, and engineering skills is much broader and deeper than that. In an increasingly advanced economy, workers across a spectrum of industries and occupations, including skilled workers in advanced manufacturing and construction industries, must have a strong background in math and science.
In the utility industry, for instance, over 40 percent of all workers are expected to retire within the next ten years, leaving a need for a new generation of skilled operating engineers, computer technicians, and linemen. These workers will need academic grounding in science and math as well as hands-on education that turns those academic skills into critical job skills.
As a country, we’re always calling on parents, teachers, clergy and community leaders to do more to help the Next Generation gain the skills they need to become successful citizens. We rarely ask business leaders to join the team
So thanks, ExxonMobil - here’s hoping that the young people who benefit from this program lead the way toward weaning us off our heavy reliance on energy developed from oil, coal and other fossil fuels that have contributed to climate change.